By Lydia Kaiser
Children love to hear stories. Bedtime, bath time and between time, stories entertain and spark imagination. Bible story books abound, but are we taking full advantage of God’s purpose for recording these events?
The longer I study the Bible, the more amazed I am at how the plan of salvation is pictured throughout all of Scripture. There are incredible parallels. And then there are so many discipleship lessons that we couldn’t exhaust them in a lifetime.
When reading Bible stories with children, we can get caught up in the storyline and then at the end, when we try to talk about what we can learn from the story, the child’s interest wanes.
Here’s four tips on how you can teach kids important lessons without resorting to preaching at the end of the story.
First, pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you and bring things to mind, and then listen. The standard, most obvious lesson to be learned from a story may not be the one for you and your child this time. Often we want to just get the story read so we can tuck the child into bed or move on to the next thing, so we forget to pray for this time to be maximized in its effectiveness. No amount of planning is a substitute for listening to the Holy Spirit.
Second, keep in mind what your child is currently facing in life and that God can speak to him directly about it. How many times as adults, do we open God’s Word and find exactly what we need on a particular day? Share with your child that’s your experience and it can be true for him too. When he sees how God works in this way, he begins to look forward to a lifetime of daily personal devotional times and hearing from God through His Word. Often we want to finish the story and say “there you go” instead of asking the child questions to see if God is impressing something on his heart.
Third, look for places in the story where you can include the elements of the gospel message. These gospel elements are God’s love, sin which separates us from relationship with God, Jesus bridging that separation, and our need to respond and decide to follow Him. For example, in the story of Noah’s ark, God created people in His image to be and do wonderful things. That’s God’s character and love. The sin of people broke God’s heart and destroyed relationship. That’s the gospel element of sin. God provided one way for them to be saved, in the ark of course. That’s the gospel element of God providing for salvation one way, through Jesus. Noah’s response allowed for his salvation. That’s the gospel element of our need to respond. Do you see the gospel picture in that story? It’s in nearly every story in the Bible! Even saved children need to hear the gospel illustrated as many ways as possible.
Fourth, for the saved child, identify in the story one Christian living principle that can be illustrated one or more times. For example, in the story of Noah, there was God’s provision time and again during very difficult circumstances. If the kids you’re reading with aren’t going through a difficult time, there’s the principle of obedience in Noah’s obedient response to every detail in God’s instruction to build the ark. He cooperated with God’s plan and God used him. But he was completely unable to gather the animals, so God did that without his help. There’s the principle of trusting God for what seems impossible.
Make the life application during the story, not at the end. If the principle can be illustrated more than once in the story, pause and ask your child if he sees what God just did and can make the application himself. The added bonus is that pausing to discuss stories will build your relationship with kids.
For great training in how to draw out gospel elements and discipleship principles in stories, check out your local CEF chapter’s training offerings, as well as the online and campus training by Children’s Ministries Institute. Go to CEFCMI.com or find your local chapter and give them a call by going to chapters.cefonline.com to use the chapter lookup.
I hope this helps you make the most of every story time with the dear children God has given you the privilege of influencing.
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