This past weekend, my family stayed with some of our closest friends and the topic of training our covenant children in scripture came up. They, like us, were raised Baptist and were taught the Bible as a loosely held together collection of stories that provided moral lessons. And unfortunately, this scenario still takes place today. When the Bible is taught as a loose collection of stories, children don’t learn the big picture of what God is doing with history and in history to provide salvation for his people, of which covenant children are a part. They are hindered in understanding their place in the covenant and understanding the rich promises they have inherited.
Secondly, it leads children to miss God and his redemptive acts and instead focus on the people in the accounts–their character (or lack thereof) and their behavior. Most often in children’s books,Sunday-school lessons and other teaching materials, the Bible is taught from the perspective of “Be like David,” or “Don’t be like Saul,” or “Do things like Mary; don’t do things like Martha.” This approach to the Bible inevitably leads to a moralistic and legalistic understanding of the Christian life. It is important to remember that although the Bible does teach ethics and does give commands that are to be obeyed–these things are contingent upon the redemptive work of God in Christ. The biblical order is Christ’s work on behalf of the church, and then the church’s response because of that work.
For Reformed parents, then, as we seek to train up our children in the scripture, we should keep the covenantal continuity of the Bible in mind in order to rightly utilize the biblical pattern of understanding God’s redemptive acts in Christ and then how to live by faith in response to those acts. So we need to teach the Bible; we need to teach the stories of the Bible,; we need to teach about the people in the Bible; but we need to include in this how the stories teach God’s redemptive acts in Christ, how those stories fit together to show the over arching plan of God in Christ and then how to properly respond by faith in Christ.
To this end, I want to provide some helpful resources for teaching the Bible from this perspective to children.
For smaller children:
First,Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Story Book Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name. To see the front and back covers and two sample stories, click here. There is a deluxe edition that also includes the stories narrated in audio on CD. You can listen to samples here. There is also a sample video that can be seen here.
Next, there is Mighty Acts of God: A Family Bible Story Book by Starr Meade. You can see the “Table of Contents,” “Note for Parents from the Author,” and two sample stories here.
A third option is The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm. You can see the “Table of Contents” here, as well as several sample chapters.
For older children:
The gold standard for older children is Catherine Vos’s, The Child’s Story Bible. Catherine Vos was the wife of the father of Reformed biblical theology, Geerhardus Vos. This story Bible is rich and is even a great resource for the parents to read for themselves.
Another good one for older children is Starr Meade’s, Grandpa’s Box. This book takes the unique angle of communicating the history of redemption through devotional stories told by a grandfather to his grandchildren.
I hope these suggestions help you in teaching children the Bible the way God communicated it and meant for it to be understood!