“How do you teach theology to a young child?” I was recently asked this question! Today is part three of my “Theology for Kids” series.
Last week I discussed things that parents can do to equip themselves to answer their children’s questions about God. Today I want to give you resources to help you equip your children so they can know for themselves. There is great value in children being able to find answers on their own, and in owning their own faith.
The first resource I urge parents to provide for their children is a solid Bible teaching church. Make church the center of your week. Church should be the priority; don’t let anything get in between you and your weekly meeting with your community of fellow believers to hear the Word taught and participate in the worship of the Creator. When you don’t take your children to church every Sunday, they learn that God is not as important as…sleeping in, visiting family, soccer games, watching late night television, etc.
If you need help finding a solid church, Michelle Lesley offers good advice. We just went through this process ourselves, having left our church of ten years in 2013. My husband and I moved to a new church, tried to settle, and realized it was not as biblical as we had initially thought. We are now part of a gospel-centered covenant fellowship, and our son knows church is the priority around which our week is centered.
It is not the church’s responsibility to teach our children about God, but having a solid biblical community to support you will be of more help than you can imagine.
Storybooks for Little Kids
We started our kiddo out on Bible storybooks before he could even read. If you have a wee little one, start telling him or her about Jesus the moment they are born. These are some of the best books for that:
Don’t Mess with Moses: Peculiar Poems and Rib-Tickling Rhymes by Marty Nystrom. This was a baby shower gift from a friend of mine, and I want you to think Bible stories written i the style of Shel Silverstein. Published in 2006 by Standard Publishing out of Cincinnati, OH, this book tells complete Old Testament stories in funny verse. After each poem the Scripture reference is listed, along with a study question for your child to answer after they’ve read the passage. When your child is very little, the rhyme and rhythm of the stories is putting the stories into their heads; when they are older you can add in teaching time by looking up the passages.
365 Read-Aloud Bedtime Bible Stories by Daniel Partner. Published in 1995 by Barbour Publishing, Inc., we found this paperback book to be a great bedtime read-through. Starting with creation and moving all the way through Revelation, you can walk your child through the Bible in an entire year in bite-sized pieces. There were a few issues I had with wording choices, although I understand that the author made choices for either clarity for children or to spare parents from having hard conversations. (I am all for hard conversations, however, so I would rearrange the words so I could tell the real story). If you, as a parent, are not familiar with the whole story of the Scripture, this is a great choice.
My Picture Bible to See and Share by V. Gilbert Beers is a book from my childhood that my mother kept. It is a gorgeously illustrated book from Scripture Press Publications, Inc., from 1988. Essentially each major story of the Bible is told in a paragraph alongside a beautiful painting, covering Genesis to Philemon.
Taylor’s Bible Story Book by Kenneth N. Taylor is another book leftover from my childhood (Tyndale Publishing, 1970). Creation to Paul is told in a one to two page format with gorgeous pen and pencil drawings. These stories are written on a little older level, but not quite full Scripture.
The Usborne Book of Bible Stories by Heather Amery comes with a CD, and is written at two levels: the upper level on each page is for beginning readers, while the lower level is for parents or advanced readers. Gorgeous pictures and large font retell six major OT stories and 7 NT stories.
Bibles for Children
The very first Bible I ever read to our son was The Rhyme Bible Storybook by LJ Sattgast and published in 1996 by Zonderkidz. The first poem, “A New World” tells of creation in a beautiful rhyme, and the books ends with Christ’s ascension in a poem called “Good News!” I must have read through this 440 page book dozens of times; it is held together with packing tape and prayer! But I am convinced that hearing Bible truths set to poetry over and over and over again was key to planting truth in our son’s heart.
We started our kiddo out on his own Bible journey with The Beginner’s Bible by Zonderkidz Publishing. It is not quite the entire Scripture, but the stories that are told are handled accurately and illustrated very well. This Bible served us well until we joined our church, and our teaching elders began preaching from minor prophets!
The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones is another very popular option, and we still use this on a regular basis. This Bible works the story of redemption into every OT story, focusing your children on the fact that God ultimately sent Jesus to crush Satan and save people from their sin. You can find lesson plans for every major holiday on Pinterest for this book, or you can just read it over and over.
Kevin DeYoung published the most gorgeous Bible storybook in 2015 called The Biggest Story: How the Snake-Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden. Published by Crossway and illustrated in the most outstanding manner by Don Clark, if you buy no other book for you and your child, get this one. In ten short chapters, Pastor DeYoung takes you from creation to sin to redemption in heartbreaking and stunning detail. But it is not too much for young children.
Finally, Marty Machowski has published The Gospel Story Bible: Discovering Jesus in the Old and New Testaments. Published by New Growth Press in 2011, 156 stories take you from Creation to worshiping at the throne of God in heaven in Revelation. Beautifully illustrated, with study questions and Scripture references, this is a fantastic resource for family study time. He has also written to partner books: Long Story Short and Old Story New, both of which are ten minute devotional books to be used in a family setting.
I am also going to recommend two other books that are beloved in our home. The first is He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands by Kadir Nelson. This book simply contains the words of the beloved children’s song, but the pictures are stunning, and if you’re family “doesn’t match,” well, then…get this book.
The second book is God Gave Us Easter by Lisa Tawn Bergren. A sweet and simple story about a bear family, Mrs. Bergren tells the true story of Easter at a very child-friendly level. This book partners well with a book about adoption (God Found Us You) if that is something you might need, too.
Read the Bible to your children. I wrote here about how I use the Bible as curriculum in our homeschool, but you could easily adapt this for family devotions. Or you could simply read a story a week at breakfast or dinner. Fill your home with solid books such as these mentioned about, and your children will read them. Read them to and with your children. You will be well on your way to teaching your children solid truth, to teaching them theology. And you won’t even be trying!
***this article is cross-posted today on Satisfaction Through Christ***