Telling Bible stories to our children is a wonderful opportunity to teach them of God’s love and also to show that the God of the Bible is the true God. Telling these stories with love and enthusiasm will ensure that the children will want to hear more as despite all the electronic gadgets available, children still love to be told a good story. And what better stories to be excited about than Bible stories as they do relate to so many of our life experiences. So let’s get our children enthused to listen and learn.
PUT YOURSELF IN THE STORY. Step into the story so that you can feel what is going on. Every time I read or tell the story where Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, I get goosebumps. Hannah’s prayer for a child brings tears; Jesus in Gethsemane – how alone he was, and when he says ‘Mary’ on that first Easter morning - how special for Mary was that, especially as she thought Jesus was dead and to make matters worse, his body was now missing. That one word ‘Mary’ sends shivers down my spine.
CHOOSE THE LEVEL OF LANGUAGE of your audience and tell the story accordingly. Also, assess what facts are relevant for the age group. For example, children don’t need to know that Rahab was a prostitute (Joshua sending the 2 spies to Jericho). Nor would they understand that the big fish disgorged its stomach contents (Jonah) onto the beach. They may be familiar with ‘vomit’ but for most, ‘spewed’ would capture their imagination.
CHOOSE THE LEVEL OF DRAMA. If it is a bed-time story, you don’t want the children having nightmares about being eaten by lions or chained up in a jail. However these well known Old Testament and New Testament early church stories of shipwrecks and escapes from prison are wonderful stories to tell, but keep in mind that these stories are there to demonstrate God’s love. (When children are older they can then re-evaluate these stories for other aspects of God’s character.) Put the stones in David’s (imaginary) sling and make the circles with your arm faster and faster before letting go. Pretend to be a lion with its mouth closed and try to talk – that was how God kept Daniel safe all night. Whisper slowly the story as Peter escapes from prison. Look up and (pretend to) spit out and cough and brush off pieces of roof as the paralytic man’s friends break through the roof above you.
INVOLVE YOUR AUDIENCE. Ask the children to suggest what the boy might have said when he produced the 5 loaves and 2 fish. Ask what happens when you have something in your tummy which makes it really sore – you spew – that’s just what the big fish did with Jonah. How many lepers did Jesus make better? How many came back to say ‘thankyou’?
LOOK FOR LIFE LESSONS WHICH ARE RELEVANT TO TODAY. You do not need to preach at your children – what a turnoff – but during a story point out how God was there for that person. For example, in the story of Joseph, did he really deserve to be sold as a slave, then when all was going well, did he deserve to be thrown in prison and forgotten? As adults we know that there will always be injustice but God was with Joseph and in his case, there was a happy ending – that doesn’t always happen either. But knowing that God is with us always in good times and bad, even when things don’t work out how we anticipated is a promise to always remember. Jacob thought he was on his own once he left Canaan but God told him otherwise. Just telling that part of the story in a positive way is enough to get the message across that God was with him. Gideon was afraid to do something he had never done before – lead an army – but God was not angry with him when he asked for reassurance. Often, just the tone of voice and a smile can convey the message without the need for further explanation.
TELL STORIES AS A SERIAL. This is a really fun way of making a Bible story exciting. Where possible, I finish a story with a question, for example, ‘what was going to happen to Joseph in Egypt?’ ‘would Daniel be safe all night with the lions?’ ‘ would the paralysed man’s friends manage to get him to Jesus?’ Then ‘I’ll tell you the answer next time’. Kids love it.
I cannot underestimate the importance of teaching children the stories from the Bible. It gives them the grounding or basis for knowing what God is really like, not what we want or imagine him to be. They are also wonderful examples of life lessons. In whatever situation our children find themselves, if they have the knowledge of those Bible stories, they know that God is with them in all situations. What better gift could you impart to your children?