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As always, may God bless you as you share His Word with children!
As a Scripture was being publicly read in the church of my childhood I would sometimes watch my grandmother’s finger slide across the page of her Bible. As a small child I would light up when I could occasionally read a word or two.
There is no other book like the Bible in its importance for people of all ages. It has always amazed me how God’s Word can seem so simple and yet so complex. Even when I am reading Scripture as I prepare lessons for infants and toddlers I am often astounded at a new concept that I had never noticed before.
I think Gregory the Great said it best many many years ago when he wrote the following (emphasis is mine),
“Divine speech sometimes stirs up the clever with mysteries, but more often provides consolation for the simple with the obvious. It has out in the open food for children but keeps hidden away the things that fill the minds of the eminent with awe. Scripture is like a river again, broad and deep, shallow enough here for the lamb to go wading, but deep enough there for the elephant to swim”.
What a blessing to help lambs wade in God’s Word! As I teach children I want to be attentive to their stage of development and help them experience God fully. I usually have my own Bible open on the table when I am teaching so that children can see that I refer to it and respect what God says.
In addition to my own Bible I want children to be very familiar with handling a Bible on their own. If at all possible I try to have bibles available for the children. Over the years I’ve developed a few measures for what children of various ages are able to do so I’m sharing them with you here in case you might find them useful in your teaching and at home.
Allow the infants and toddlers to hold small Bibles. These should be inexpensive because they will inevitably, at one time or another, be chewed and pulled apart and the pages torn.
Show them how to hold the Bible carefully and how to turn pages.
Place a sticker of Jesus inside the front cover so the children can “find Jesus” when they hold their bibles.
Hold the Bible in front of each child, in turn, and slide your finger along as you “read” from it. I usually read, “God Loves Suzy.” (inserting the child’s name) Or “God loves Mummy.” “God loves Daddy.”
Pre-Schoolers can look at pictures in a children’s Bible. If you do not have picture Bibles then tuck pictures between the pages of a Bible before class.
Guide the children in pretending to read along with you as you tell a story or read a verse.
Children of this age can learn to spell and write a few basic Bible words. I use magnetic letters or puzzles to do this. And of course they are learning to write letters at this age so they really enjoy just writing the letters. We practice one word over a few weeks until the children have it down. They are so proud of themselves!
Depending on reading level children of this age might be able to read a few verses in a row or even a very short Bible story. You will have to plan this carefully if children are reading out loud in class. This can be embarassing for some children and it does take time.
Children in this age group can copy verses onto paper. These can be used in the classroom or taken home as reminders.
Children aged 8-10 years are often able to confidently find a verse from a book, chapter, verse reference. A fun game is for the teacher to call out a reference (like Ephesians 6:1). The children then “race” to find the verse in their Bible and begin reading.
What bothers Jesus? His earliest disciples thought they knew.
“Some people brought their children to Jesus so that he could bless them by placing his hands on them. But his disciples told the people to stop bothering him.
When Jesus saw this, he became angry and said, “Let the children come to me! Don’t try to stop them. People who are like these little children belong to the kingdom of God. I promise you that you cannot get into God’s kingdom, unless you accept it the way a child does.”
Then Jesus took the children in his arms and blessed them by placing his hands on them.”
Mark 10:13-16 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
The disciples thought that these children would bother Jesus but it seems very clear that the disciples themselves, the adults in this situation, were the real bother. In fact, their judgement on children led to one of the few times in Scripture when Jesus was recorded as being angry. The New International Version uses the word “indignant”.
So why is Jesus not bothered by children? After all, children are wiggly and curious and lacking in inhibition. If we are honest, we have to say they are often inconvenient to have around. They slow us down, exhaust us and generally cause havoc in what we like to call our “perfectly organised lives”.
Children force us to reorganise our priorities. Schedules are worked around nap times and curfews. Holidays are planned based on how “child friendly” the activities and accommodations are. Having a couple of children enrolled in sporting activities or music lessons means a couple’s once-spontaneous social life becomes a series of intricately planned and often postponed events.
And if that was not enough, they don’t seem to really care when we are doing the “important stuff” at church. They are obviously not impressed by long sermons or deep discussions about spiritual matters. They don’t seem to worry about the things we worry about. They choose action over contemplation almost every time.
If children are such a bother then why was Jesus indignant that the disciples would turn them away? Jesus points out that the disciples were turning away the very examples they needed to learn how to enter the kingdom of God. Ultimately, the disciples were the ones missing out.
Children in our communities, families and churches inspire us to act more like adults than we sometimes feel like acting. The inconvenience they bring produces patience. Examining priorities helps us maintain focus. And practising an active faith makes us useful. To keep children safe we plan better. To secure their future we work harder. To help them engage we adapt and change.
Most of all, like the disciples, we adults are sometimes satisfied with walking alongside and talking about Jesus. Children on the other hand want to touch him and be embraced by him.
May we learn from the example of the young ones among us. This does not bother him at all.
Sometimes we try our best and then wonder if children actually retain what we have taught them. I thought you might enjoy watching this video of children sharing what they have learned. I don’t know about you, but these children certainly encourage me to keep teaching!
Although we may sometimes view the Bible as a collection of stories it is actually one story. It is God’s Story. It is about how he has revealed himself to mankind throughout history.
Thank you to the Memorial Road Church of Christ in Edmond, Oklahoma, USA for allowing me to post this video on www.missionbibleclass.org
Thank you to the children on the video who are willing to share The Story!