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A Quick Way to Destroy Kids' Faith in the Bible

72_289There's one big way to destroy kids' faith in the Bible--and if you're doing it, you may be doing more damage than you realize. It seems benign, but I always think about the warning in Galatians that says "you will reap what you sow." Are you sure you're sowing the right things in kids' hearts when it comes to the Word of God that'll bear fruit for a lifetime?

I'm always struck by how modern culture refers to things in the Bible. They often call them "Sunday school stories." STORIES! Are stories to be believed? A case in point: My son and I went to the Avengers movie this weekend. One of the super-heroes asked another, "Have you ever heard of the tale of Jonah?" THE TALE!? Is a tale to be believed?

No! Stories, fables, tales, myths--all ficton.

So what do we do at church? We have Bible story books. We have Bible story time. We refer to the truths in Scripture as Bible stories! How are we to expect children to believe for a lifetime that these things actually happened?

Even worse--I've heard many referring to the entire Bible as the "Big God Story." Some in this camp even refer to God as the "main character" in the "Big God Story."

Yikes! We will reap what we sow! If we are guilty of fictionalizing God's Word, how will our children ever believe in its truth?

Here are a few things to change.

  1. Cut out Bible story lingo. Instead of saying, "In our Bible story today," we write into our lessons, "In the Bible today."
  2. Never refer to anyone in the Bible as a character--especially God! The people we read about in the Bible were actual people who interacted with a living person--God. The Bible is a historical account. Would we refer to Winston Churchill as a character from history? No!
  3. Change your lingo. In my 2-year-old class, we have "Bible time" instead of "Bible storytime."
  4. Affirm the truth of Scripture. When you open up the Bible with kids, tell them that "this is God's special book that he has written to us." Treat the Bible with great honor and respect because it is more than a book.

If I ruled the world--or at least the church (and I don't)--I'd cleanse these things from our vocabulary in hopes that we'd turn the tide that the truths in the Bible are just a collection of "stories and tales." Rather, it is truth from God to stake our lives on!

For more insights, check out this article from Children's Ministry Magazine: "Once Upon the Bible."

Posted at 10:16

20 Comments:

ZeitMike said...
No No No! This article is so wrong! "There's one big way to destroy kids' faith" I'm not being pedantic here, the are LOTS of ways to destroy faith and to emphasise one of them over others is deeply concerning. Evangelical bias which is not (ironically!) justified my scripture. "the Word of God that'll bear fruit for a lifetime?" Jesus is the Word of God and the Spirit bears fruit. the bible is the word about the Word "Are stories to be believed? " Yes. People tell stories of the experiences all the time, everyday. its basic conversation "fables, tales, myths--all ficton." There is fiction in the Bible (Dare i mention the creation poem?!) - parable are an obvious example - truths in fiction. "referring to the entire Bible as the "Big God Story." " This is a completely appropriate way to approach postmodern culture, children especially. Archaic, overarching concrete truths are not well responded to by contemporary western people. Truth within poetry and prose is much readily accessible to the experience-centric people of today ""In the Bible today."" To say this betrays its historical context: It is not a modern text, its 2 to 4 thousand years old! Also implies a finite time-slot to the Bible - we should encourage children to read the Bible all the time. You'd be better saying "In the bible this minute"!! "Would we refer to Winston Churchill as a character from history?" Er…Yes we do actually! Character is not separate from person; quite the opposite! Character is an integral part of personal identity. …and the persons we read of in the bible shine a light on Christlike character (some inversely obviously!) "God's special book that he has written to us." Hmmm… tenuous and a bit warping of the truth. Galatians for example, was written to the church in Galatia (the clue is in the title). Not to little Tommy 2000 miles and years away. "If I ruled the world...I'd cleanse" Thank God you don't. Christ is the head of the Church and it certainly doesn't need that fascist attitude poisoning it.
June 26, 2012 11:16
ZeitMike, Thanks for your comments. I agree there are many ways to destroy kids' faith--not just one. This is just one recommendation to chip away at the belief that the Bible is more than a book of made-up stories. That to me is a scary belief for kids to have--whether they're postmodern or anything else. And, like you, I'm grateful that Christ--the living Word--is the head of the church and the world!
June 26, 2012 12:07
Andrew Richmond said...
I understand the heart of the article in questioning our choice of language when talking about the Bible. If we are not careful we can create a mindset that views the Bible as a piece of fiction. However, the words "story" and even "tale" by definition alone are not incorrect. Tale--a narrative that relays the details of a REAL or Imaginative event or incident. Story--a narrative, either true or fictitious, in prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse, or instruct the hearer or reader. We use stories in life to protray and teach truth in our lives. If it wasn't for stories the Old Testament wouldn't even exsist because it was communicated as a story through oral tradition for hundreds of years before it became a written word. Again I agree we should be careful to not trivialize the Bible and make it make believe but to throw the baby out with the bath water is also silly.
June 26, 2012 12:36
Thanks, Andrew. Good points. I wonder if children know the distinctions between terminology. Another reference I heard on a TV show was an adult saying that he thought the Bible was just a bunch of "Sunday school stories." When I hear references like that, I believe they're referring to fiction over truth.
June 26, 2012 12:48
Denise Cox said...
I understand what you mean, wanting to emphasize the historicity of the Bible, but there are probably better ways to do that than expunging a perfectly good word like "story" from our vocabulary. After all, many English Bible translators use the word "story" for historical events (2 Chr. 13.22, 24.27). We can help kids grow in their faith when they understand that the Bible is filled with real life stories loaded with truths that can be applied to their lives. I want my kids to understand that the Bible is a real life epic - a huge story - of a passionate King pursuing His people through love and sacrifice.
June 26, 2012 07:20
Jesse Smith said...
Sorry Christine, I have to agree with the other commenters here and say that, while I appreciate your heart on this I disagree. Modern culture has robbed much of what story and character mean but I don't think that it is time to toss out those words. I do think that we need to be very clear that stories can be true (ala stories in a newspaper) and that the stories in Scripture are true and many verifiably so...but they are stories. Stories connect us to one another, it's a natural language of the heart, it is what makes facts easy to remember...I want my leaders to be great story tellers...but I want them telling true stories. As a side comment, your mention of "The Big God Story" makes this article sound like a shot at one of Groups 'competitors.' from what I know of you, I don't think that was intentional.
June 26, 2012 09:54
Denise, I'd love to know the better ways to emphasize the historicity of the Bible--what have you done that works?
June 27, 2012 12:22
Jesse, thanks for your thoughts. While my blog may've made you think of a specific curriculum provider, I'd have to say that I know of more than one that uses this terminology. It wasn't intentionally aimed at any one of them.
June 27, 2012 12:30
Jesse Smith said...
I assumed as much Christine and did not mean to say that I thought you were taking a shot at anyone, just saying it felt that way... Sorry if that rubbed you the wrong way. Although I do think story is acceptable, I think the best way to help children see the historicity is through chronological story telling. I think that the biggest travesty in "Sunday School Stories" and the part that makes them feel like they are not real is in when they are presented as a jumbled mess. It is difficult for children to know if David or Moses was born first, when did Peter live...and so on. Anytime I heard the story of Daniel and the Lions den, even into adulthood, I thought of young Daniel. Any idea how old he is in that story? Based on the historical mention of kings, he's likely well into his 70s by that time.... I want to make sure that the children I help lead have a better grasp on the chronology so they can have a better grasp on history.
June 27, 2012 08:12
Adam Walsh said...
Chris, I totally get where you're coming from. I hate to see the Bible trivialized or fictionalized. The fantastical accounts are already borderline unbelievable; parting a sea? city walls crashing down? swallowed by a giant fish? However, Jesus was a storyteller himself. Stories are powerful tools to teach deeper truths. I love telling my kids stories from the Bible--and telling them, "And guess what? These stories are completely real." Also, I got this in my email from Group: The Humongous Book of Bible Skits for Children's Ministry 52 upbeat skits connect kids with the Bible as they act out favorite Bible STORIES! Easy-to-use format makes set-up a breeze...simply copy the script and hand it out to each actor. Each plays for three minutes or less! There's a part for everyone in each skit, so every child is involved. Coordinate with marketing, maybe? ;)
July 5, 2012 08:14
Thanks, Adam. This view is really mine...not Group's! I'll never change the lingo completely here...or anywhere else. But I love that it's made people think about it at least!
July 5, 2012 09:42
Deb C. said...
I couldn't agree more! This is one of my "pet peeves" right up there with Wise Men in nativity scenes. "Story" does carry an implication of fiction. I remember even as a child hearing an adult speak of "telling stories" when talking about someone who lied about something. Thank You for posting this.
September 5, 2012 02:40
Thanks, Deb. I appreciate your comment. I've been noticing a lot of "the story of God" language lately. It does concern me!
September 6, 2012 09:14
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January 4, 2014 02:38
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January 4, 2014 02:38
GaBe said...
Nice points! Very interesting read. I would argue that the word story is fine and not a problem. After all, you can just qualify it by saying it's a TRUE story if you're worried. I think a better option for number one would be: "don't JUST tell Bible stories" Read them something from the epistles about treating others with respect or from Jesus' teachings and make it applicable for their age group; they'll learn from a young age that the Bible is more than just "sunday school stories" but also has a wealth of practicality to it. Kids are smart - as long as you explain it clearly and with a well thought out approach they'll get it first time.
January 24, 2014 07:13
GaBe said...
Nice points! Very interesting read. I would argue that the word story is fine and not a problem. After all, you can just qualify it by saying it's a TRUE story if you're worried. I think a better option for number one would be: "don't JUST tell Bible stories" Read them something from the epistles about treating others with respect or from Jesus' teachings and make it applicable for their age group; they'll learn from a young age that the Bible is more than just "sunday school stories" but also has a wealth of practicality to it. Kids are smart - as long as you explain it clearly and with a well thought out approach they'll get it first time.
January 24, 2014 07:14
Eric Haynes said...
I understand why there is concern for use of the word "story" but, as a professional storyteller as well as a pastor, I think it is a misunderstanding of the value and use of "story" in our culture and history (look, there is that word "story" again). Is "history" fiction because it is the "story" of our past? Of course not. Just because something is in narrative form does not negate its truth. The far greater dilemma is not our use of the word "story" but that fact that our kids are quickly becoming illiterate and unexposed to these Bible stories. I see an amazing number of kids show up at our Sunday programs who have never even heard of Noah or Jonah or Adam & Eve! And I love to end those storytimes with the proclamation: "...and the craziest thing yet, is that this story is absolutely true!"
March 25, 2014 06:41
Eric Haynes said...
I understand why there is concern for use of the word "story" but, as a professional storyteller as well as a pastor, I think it is a misunderstanding of the value and use of "story" in our culture and history (look, there is that word "story" again). Is "history" fiction because it is the "story" of our past? Of course not. Just because something is in narrative form does not negate its truth. The far greater dilemma is not our use of the word "story" but that fact that our kids are quickly becoming illiterate and unexposed to these Bible stories. I see an amazing number of kids show up at our Sunday programs who have never even heard of Noah or Jonah or Adam & Eve! And I love to end those storytimes with the proclamation: "...and the craziest thing yet, is that this story is absolutely true!"
March 25, 2014 06:43
Eric Haynes said...
I understand why there is concern for use of the word "story" but, as a professional storyteller as well as a pastor, I think it is a misunderstanding of the value and use of "story" in our culture and history (look, there is that word "story" again). Is "history" fiction because it is the "story" of our past? Of course not. Just because something is in narrative form does not negate its truth. The far greater dilemma is not our use of the word "story" but that fact that our kids are quickly becoming illiterate and unexposed to these Bible stories. I see an amazing number of kids show up at our Sunday programs who have never even heard of Noah or Jonah or Adam & Eve! And I love to end those storytimes with the proclamation: "...and the craziest thing yet, is that this story is absolutely true!"
March 25, 2014 06:54

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