Inviting Kids into God's Story

"God's big story is long, but short when it's told, It’s a tale for all people, the young and the old."

Our new sermon series, Long Story Short, presents an exciting opportunity for entire families to explore the story of the Bible together-- some for the first time, others in a way like never before. Over the next 13 weeks, we will engage the chronological story of the Bible and our sermons will focus on the inciting incidents of Scripture—the moments that propelled the story along. Parents and children will be learning similar content at our weekend services, which means we can maximize conversation at home for shared learning. Here are a few ideas for engaging.

Captivate Them With the Story

Howard Hendricks said, “It is a sin to bore people with the Bible.” And yet we are often guilty of that. We have reduced the Bible to a big religious rule book or a collection of ancient morality tales instead of recognizing and celebrating it’s uniqueness and influence.  

As we talk with our kids about the Bible, let’s elevate and celebrate it’s authenticity, uniqueness, and influence. And let’s help them understand it’s different components and how they all fit together. Here are some practical ideas for how to do that:

  • For young children, check out The Jesus Storybook Bible. It presents the stories in kid-friendly language and length, but it retains accuracy, solid theology, and the overarching story that points to Jesus.
  • When you tell the stories, bring out your best acting. Find costumes and props and act out the stories together. Grab your Legos and recreate the scenes.
  • Go on a field trip to a local art museum and look for the following paintings: The Annunciation, Adoration of the Magi, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, Return of the Prodigal Son, Christ Cleansing the Temple, Elijah Fed By the Raven, The Baptism of Christ, and David With the Head of Goliath. Talk about how they made you feel. What did you like? Not like? Go home, grab some crayons, and create your own gallery of Bible story art.
  • When you come to a crazy story or idea in the Bible, talk about it with excitement in your voice. With older children, point out some of the difficult moments and talk to them about what you do when you read things in the Bible that you don’t like or don’t understand.
  • When you come across a particular attribute of God, describe a time that you saw that character first-hand.
  • Sing songs. Story Songs From Scripture is a great way to help some of these stories come to life in memorable ways for kids.

Organize the Order

Typically, the way we teach Bible stories to kids is as individual stories, giving the impression to kids that these are independent stories without relationship or connection. This series gives us the opportunity to take a look at the chronological order of the Bible, how things actually happened in history. During this series, we want to connect the dots for kids. Here are some ideas that come to mind:

  • Crosswalk Kids will receive a pack of flashcards. Help your kids practice putting those in chronological order. Help them make connections between the stories and see how they fit together in history.
  • Memorize the Crosswalk Kids Long Story Short poem together.
  • When reading individual stories, pause and connect the people and places and events to previous stories and subsequent stories. For example, when you are reading about Joseph, remember that his father was Jacob, his grandfather was Isaac, and his great-grandfather was Abraham. When you read about Moses and the exodus, remember that the Israelites wound up in Egypt because Joseph had been sold into slavery there 400 years earlier...and then the whole family eventually moved there.

Show and Tell

Pastor Mark said, “A picture is processed at about a billion bits per second. That means that a picture isn’t worth a thousand words. A picture is literally worth ten million words!”

As you enter into the stories of the Bible with your kids, find ways to put pictures into their Biblical imaginations. For instance, when you read about Moses and the Exodus, look for photographs of the Wilderness of Zin. When you read about the Tabernacle, find a diagram. When you read about Jesus teaching along the Sea of Galilee, show your kids pictures of the landscape. When you read about the resurrection of Jesus, show you kids a picture of the Garden Tomb.

Maps can also be helpful in framing the stories. God often placed his people in very strategic places for specific purposes, and incorporating those ideas into the story can help give us a sense of scope (how far did Paul and Silas travel?), and sense of meaning (how did the Kingdom splitting impact Israel’s stability), and a sense of place (when Daniel was exiled to Babylon how far away from home was that?)

Join the Story

  • We all have a role to play in the story of God. Ask your kids two questions:
  • What did you learn about God today?
  • What role do you think God might want our family to play in the story he is writing?

If we just learn more about the Bible during this series, we have only accomplished half of the goal. Ultimately, we want to play our part in the story. When we move from learning about the Bible to living out the Bible, we get to participate in the great story that God is writing in history.

A native Alabamian, Heather Zempel currently leads the discipleship efforts at National Community Church in Washington, DC where she oversees small groups, directs leadership development training, and serves on the weekend teaching team. She lives on Capitol Hill where she can be found enjoying the adventures of parenting with her husband Ryan as they raise Sawyer, their fun-loving and energetic daughter. Heather is the author of Sacred Roads, Community is Messy, and Amazed and Confused.