Telling Bible stories to my kids is a big part of how I want to share faith with them. After my previous blog post on how I parent my little guy for faith I was asked a question about what it looks like for us. Now, I will say firstly that my little guy (at the time of writing this) is 11 months old and, although he absolutely loves books, he is not a massive fan of story Bibles. The pictures don’t seem to grab him. He loves books with an exciting last page like a tiger jumping out, or all of the in the night garden characters dancing, which doesn’t seem to happen in a Bible story – go figure?!
Even so, anyone else find that Bible stories for kids are just (let’s be honest) terrible versions?! Having been a kid’s pastor for a church I have read many, many children’s Bibles and spent a lot of time telling Bible stories. And, there are not many I’ve found that I have absolutely loved. For me, I find that returning back to my ‘adult’ translation and telling the story from there wins most times!
Children’s Bibles, I find, often massively simplify stories, or miss out really important parts of the story. I don’t want my kid to have stories that suddenly change when he gets big enough to read a ‘teen’ or ‘adult’ Bible translation. I want to be telling Bible stories as they are so that he knows the Bible as it is. To know God fully.
So, I like to read a story myself and then re-tell it.
Let’s go for a classic children’s Bible story.
David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17)
Here’s how I might tell it…
The Israelites were going to fight the Philistines because the Philistines were stopping them from getting to the land that God had given them. God was super excited. But, the Philistines were pretty scary. Their army was camped out on one and hill and the Israelites were on another hill.
A giant named Goliath came out from the Philistine camp. He was incredibly tall. He had a bronze helmet, huge armour on his body and legs, and a javelin on his back. His sword was big and heavy and a man carrying a shield went in front of him to protect him!
Goliath was angry and he stood and shouted, “Why are you all so scared? Who is not too afraid to come and fight me?! Pick someone who can fight, if they beat me, we will lose, and if I win, you will lose!”
All of the Israelites were terrified and they shook with fear. What were they going to do?
Here comes David…
Now, David was a boy. He was a shepherd and he was God’s friend. David would look after his sheep and walk and chat to God. He loved God and God loved him. David had lots of older brothers who were in the army. He would visit them to give them food and see how they were. One day, he visited and he heard the angry giant shouting. He saw everyone run away because they were scared and he heard them saying how afraid they were.
David knew God was with him and David knew that God wanted them to get back to the land he had given them. He went to King Saul and he said, “I will fight Goliath”. Saul laughed. David was small and Saul did not think he could fight the giant.
But, David had spent lots of time protecting his sheep. In fact, David had killed a lion and a bear! David knew God had saved him from the lion and the bear and he knew that God could save him from Goliath.
David and God walked out together…
Saul tried to give David armour to protect him but it was too big and he couldn’t walk! David took them off. He didn’t need to be like Saul. David walked out with God. He took five smooth stones in his bag and off he went, marching into the field with God close to Him.
Goliath moved closer and tried to scare David. Goliath laughed.
David said, “You have a sword, spear and javelin, but I am with God. When I beat you, everyone will know that God is powerful and that He has saved me and my people!”
Goliath moved closer to attack David and David ran quickly, took out a stone and slung it, CRACK into Goliath’s forehead. Goliath went down! The Israelites cheered and whooped. David had won. God had won!
To be honest it’s probably slightly more waffly then if I was just telling it out loud but you get the idea. A friend of mine pointed out once that Bible stories often miss the main character’s relationship with God so that’s one thing I try to highlight. I’ve not yet found a children’s Bible translation that does that consistently and ultimately as we parent our kids in faith we’re trying to teach them what being in relationship with God looks like so I love to be able to model this through Bible stories.
The beauty of picking from your adult translations is that we can pick anything. Not just telling Bible stories, but sharing the whole Bible. For example we might pick a Psalm…
Psalm 121 (NIV version)
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
So, this is how I might chat to a kid about this, obviously allowing for questions and chatting, and perhaps making sheep noises (depending on the child’s age!)…
“There are lots of songs written in the Bible. This one was written by a guy named David. David was a shepherd. He looked after sheep, he protected his sheep. He spent lots and lots of time outside on the hills on his own. David loved God. God loved David. David loved to chat to God and he had so much time out with his sheep that he spent lots of time chatting to God.
Who helps me? God helps me. God, who made everything, all of heaven, all of earth, the animals, the people, the sea, the land… He looks after me. He won’t let me fall. God watches over me ALL the time and cares for me ALWAYS. He is right beside me, and looks after me in the day and at night. God keeps me safe and he knows every part of me and everything I do. He will always be with me.
Wow. How amazing that God looked after David like that. Did you know it’s true that God helps us like that know? What do you think that looks like? What does it mean that God is always with us?…”
More stories and more conversation
There are so many wonderful parts of the Bible that our kids won’t get to explore if we just use the children’s versions. I find that this way of reading the Bible together means we get to explore more of the Bible together and I find it leads to lots more conversation together. Sometimes it’s really tricky to figure out how to make the language kid friendly but it’s definitely fun to chat it through and I find both brilliant and challenging for my faith too as I have to really think about what the Bible is saying if I want to explain it to my kid!
If your little one loves screen time (mine is obsessed unfortunately so I’m choosing to embrace it) it’s also another great way to share the Bible together. We watch Bible story DVDs together at the moment. The other day we watched the story of Adam and Eve and the narrator said, “so God had to make them leave the garden…” and the little guy sighed a massive, sad sigh. I have no idea what he understood but he knew that something sad had happened and I look forward to when we can watch it again and chat about what’s happening.