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Age-Level Insights - Bible Stories

Brent Van Elswyk

How children learn Bible stories--and ways to teach them.

2 to 5 years

Young children like to be read to with age-appropriate books. They like pictures, age-appropriate terminology and simple wording. Their attention span is only two to 10 minutes. Preschool children like to interact with objects. They learn by touching objects and through repetition.

Paraphrase Bible stories and highlight only main points. For example, say: "God chose Noah to save all the animals from the flood. He told Noah to build an ark. An ark is a large boat. Noah brought in the animals. The flood came. Finally the ark landed on dry land and God made a rainbow." Tell the story using objects, such as storybooks, stuffed animals or a wooden animal and boat set. Allow children to play with the objects after the story. Remind children about or repeat the story as they play. Reinforce the story with an activity such as an animal craft, song or game.

6 to 9 years

By this age, children's attention span is 10 to 20 minutes. They understand more details. Objects hold their attention during story time. Children love to be a part of and interact with the story. Children think concretely and focus on the parts and actions of the story.

Provide details. For example, say: "God wasn't happy with people on earth. But Noah made God happy because Noah obeyed. People made fun of Noah and his family when Noah obeyed God." Have children act out the story, playing different parts such as Noah, his family, friends and animals. Let children tell the story in their own words. Highlight only one main point with one direct application. For example, say: "Noah obeyed God. We can obey God too." Reinforce the story with crafts, games or other activities. For example, play Simon Says, and focus on the importance of obeying the leader.

10 to 12 years

By this age, children have heard many of the Bible stories over and over. And when they hear the stories again, kids ask "So what?" Older children need modern-day applications to Bible stories. They learn more when they see how stories apply to them personally.

Introduce the story with a question or personal anecdote kids can relate to. For example, ask, "How do you feel when someone tries to make you do something wrong?" Or describe a peer-pressure issue. Then get into the action of the story as soon as possible to arouse identification and emotion. Identify and highlight one main issue in the story. For example, Noah was obedient to God in the midst of peer pressure. Weave personal explanations and applications into the story. Relate the story to events in kids' lives. Say, "Just as Noah's friends tried to get him to disobey God, sometimes our friends try to get us to disobey God." Build the story's climax, identifying the main point in the struggle and the result. Show how Noah resisted the pressure. Conclude with an application by having kids identify personal examples of peer pressure and ways to handle it.

Brent Van Elswyk is associate pastor of family ministries in California. He has worked with children for 18 years.

Copyright© Group Publishing, Inc. / Children's Ministry Magazine


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