Archive - Bible Skills RSS Feed

“More Sword Drills, Please!”

(with Jill Nelson)

The first time I heard our young grade school-aged sons say they spent some of the Sunday school hour doing “sword drills,” I wondered if maybe they’d had a guest speaker from the Army. I’m only half kidding. Not having grown up in churches that had Sunday school, I had to ask them what they meant by the term. They explained that the teacher would announce an “address” (chapter and verse) for a Bible passage, and then all the kids would hold their closed Bibles over their heads, and once the teacher said “Go!”, they’d race to see who could find it first.

“How did you do?” I asked, doubtful if they knew the location of all but a few of the 66 books of the Bible. Thankfully their classmates were willing to lend a hand to these newbies who likely weren’t sure which Testament Zephaniah was in or the difference between an epistle and an apostle.

Fast-forward a handful of years and now our younger sons are among those leaning over to help newcomers at the sound of “Go.” As a teacher in the fourth grade Sunday school class, I’ve realized that growing up in Sunday school is no guarantee that children know where the books of the Bible are located or the difference between “chapter” and “verse.” We have students in our class who have been in church from birth, who still struggle to know their way around Scripture. And I’m more convinced than ever of the importance of knowing.

Years ago, when Jill was teaching 2nd-grade Sunday school, she ran into some push-back when she tried to make the case for Sword Drills. She says, “We were just beginning to strategically and intentionally present our children with a God-centered, Bible-saturated focus in our Sunday school classes. In order to maximize our classroom time toward that goal, we began moving away from the regular and time-consuming crafts to which the children had grown accustomed.”

“Some of the teachers were concerned that this wasn’t the best thing to do. ‘Won’t the children be upset?’ they wondered. ‘Won’t they grow bored if we don’t have some fun, hands-on crafts each Sunday?’”

Instead of eliminating crafts, they proposed an experiment: doing crafts every other week, then, on “no crafts week,” working on Bible skills during what would have been craft time. “I taught the children how to do Sword Drills,” she said. “We even had Sword Drill competitions with boys versus girls or teachers versus the children.”

Over time, guess what happened? The children started to complain, about the crafts. “Mrs. Nelson,” they pleaded, “can we do Sword Drills instead of crafts?”

Yes, it is possible to get children really excited about doing Bible skills activities in the classroom. That’s not to say that doing crafts is never an option—especially with younger children. Even older children can benefit from a craft that is geared toward helping them visualize and better understand a particular spiritual truth. However, craft or no craft, knowing God’s Word is essential for the Christian life. And knowing how to navigate it—to find what you’re looking for, is among the most foundational lessons a child can, and must, learn.

Are you giving precious, limited minutes to crafting on Sunday morning? Consider how you might maximize your classroom time toward things that will have a lasting, eternal, impact on your student’s lives. Taking class time to teach children basic Bible skills can be as fun, interactive, and “hands-on” as any craft. It’s certainly more important. It may even prove more exciting. Just ask those second graders.


Want some ideas to get you started? Here is a list of Bible and Memory Verse Activities, as well as detailed instructions for leading Sword Drills, you can use in your classroom or home.

 

Does Every Lesson Need to be a “Jesus and the Cross” Lesson?

Much has been said in recent years about teaching the Old Testament from a distinctly Christian perspective — seeing  Jesus and the Gospel in all of Scripture. But in this video, John Piper raises an important concern about turning this perspective into a type of simplistic interpretative formula. He says,

… the danger in making a beeline to the cross too quickly and too methodically and regularly is, number one, it’ll start to sound artificial. It’ll start to sound monotonous. It’ll start to be fanciful, because you’ll come up with really clever ways of doing things that aren’t really there and it’ll keep you from seeing important things that are there.

I believe Pastor John’s concern needs thoughtful consideration. I fully share his appreciation for the renewal of Gospel-focused preaching and teaching in the church. As a Sunday school teacher and parent, I experienced firsthand the gospel-less, deadly moralism that characterized so much of children’s Bible curriculum. But with this wonderful renewed focus on Christ and the Gospel, comes a new pitfall we need to avoid when teaching children.

Piper’s example of Elisha and Naaman serves as an excellent example. We need to give our children and students the proper Bible study tools so that they can dig deep into the text — mining it for its treasures. This takes time. It takes step-by-step training. But by doing so, we are giving our children a priceless gift; a gift that will serve them for a lifetime and will provide a wonderfully rich foundation for making them wise for salvation through faith in Christ.

At Truth78, we structure our lessons to foster these essential Bible study tools. We slowly and carefully lead children to discover the meaning of the text — asking questions, looking at context, drawing conclusions, etc. Once we’ve done that, we then point the students toward Christian application. In a lesson on Elisha and Naaman we might ask:  What does this story tell us about God’s character? What do we learn about man’s heart? How does the text apply to your own heart and life? Do you ever have a proud spirit? What does this look like? Is this pleasing to God? Why not? Has God provided us with an even greater blessing than physical healing? What is it? What does God call us to do in order to receive salvation through Jesus? etc.

This approach is more time-consuming in the classroom. And it requires teachers and parents to take the long view: We’re introducing children to the God of the Bible — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We’re helping build a solid Gospel foundation beneath them. We’re helping them learn to mine the immeasurable riches of the Word of God for a lifetime. We’re doing this because we want them to be able to “rightly handle the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

We may not be making a beeline to Jesus and the cross in every lesson, but we are diligently training children as we acquaint them with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

As we teach the whole Bible, we pray the children in our classrooms and in our family rooms will be made wise for salvation so that they may, like Timothy, be faithful to continue in faith.

——————— 

To learn more about our approach to teaching the whole Bible, please see these resource:

The Theological and Philosophical Foundations of Truth78 Teaching Resources

The Great Story and the Single Verse by John Piper

Jesus in Every Old Testament Passage? Parts 1 and 2 (The author discusses the merits and cautions of a “Christ-in-every-passage” approach to studying and teaching the Old Testament.)


Video Transcript (lightly edited)

You asked whether every lesson needs to be a Jesus lesson. Like if you’re in the Old Testament with Elisha, does it always have to go to the cross? That was the gist of the question. And it’s the same with preaching. I just wrote a book on preaching and I’m concerned about this. The Gospel Coalition is evidence of a renewal of gospel focus in the church and a lot of pastors think you’ve got to get to the gospel even if you’re preaching on tithing or something. I would say the danger in making a beeline to the cross too quickly and too methodically and regularly is, number one, it’ll start to sound artificial. It’ll start to sound monotonous. It’ll start to be fanciful, because you’ll come up with really clever ways of doing things that aren’t really there and it’ll keep you from seeing important things that are there.

Let me give me give a quick illustration right off my front burners. I’m reading through the Bible, and this morning I’m reading in 2nd Kings 4 and 5, the story of Elisha and the leper Naaman, and Gehazi. Here’s the gist of the story. This little servant girl says, “You should go to Israel and get the Prophet Elisha to heal you from your leprosy, Naaman.” And he goes to his king [of Syria], and the king writes a letter to the king [of Israel], and sends Naaman, and the king [of Israel] says, “I’m not God that I can heal this leprosy” – which  gives you a clue what the story is about – and Elisha hears that, and he goes to the king and says, “I’ll show him there’s a God in Israel.”

Now that’s the point of the story: “I’ll show him there’s a God in Israel. Tell him to come to me.” He goes to him; Elisha won’t even go out the door. He sends a messenger out to tell this big shot from Syria, “Go wash in the Jordan, see you later.” This guy’s ticked and he will not go. Now I think we ought to teach kids “pride keeps you from getting blessings.” I think that’s in the text and intentional, because his sidekicks argue, “Look, he’s asking you just a little simple thing. Would you just humble yourself and do it?” And when he comes up out of the water, it says his skin is like the skin of a child. This is about childlikeness receiving blessings from God.

So that’s lesson one that you might miss if you say, “He got washed in the Jordan from leprosy; Jesus will wash you from a worse disease,” end of lesson. Not a good way to end the lesson and miss all the points.

Here’s the second point: As soon as he sees he’s clean, Elijah says, “I’m not taking any money for this. We don’t sell good news here.” Now you’re going to talk about gospel preachers on television with these kids, ok? “We don’t sell we don’t sell the gospel. I’m not taking anything from you — you go back and worship the true God.” Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, says, “that’s crazy,” and he runs after him and says, “My master said he did, by the way, want some clothing and some of your silver.” And he says, “Oh sure, give it to him.” And when he goes back, Elisha says to him, “Did you think this was a time for getting silver and clothing?” And Gehazi had leprosy for the rest of his life.

Greed. Greed and pride. The story is about greed and pride. And if we run to the cross from the dipping in the river, before we see the point of the story, and tell these kids, “You’ve got to be childlike, you’ve got to be humble, if you’re gonna know God, you’ve got to not love money, and if you know preachers who preach for money, they’re not real preachers.” You’ve got to say that. Now when you’re done you can say – I mean the three songs you sang at the beginning of  Sunday school might have been all about Jesus. That may be all you need. We’re about Jesus every weekend in this room. Nothing comes to you but with Jesus – if you say, “How do you become humble? How do you become free from greed?” Then you dig into sanctification, and the cross, and the blood, and the power of the Holy Spirit, and the glory of the Father.

So my caution with that movement, in preaching on Sunday morning, and in teaching kids is – there’s a real good impulse behind it because we’re not mere Jews and we’re not mere Muslims, therefore we shouldn’t read our Old Testaments and interpret them in a way that a Muslim and a Jew would be happy with our interpretation. Which means we’ve got to be Christian. And so you do get there. But how you get there – please, don’t miss the awesomeness of Deuteronomy or 2nd Kings.

 

NOW AVAILABLE: Two New Booklets for Parents

Children Desiring God Blog // New Booklets for Parents

Children Desiring God is excited to announce the release of two, brand new booklets for parents, pastors, and those involved in ministry to children.

Children and the Worship Service

Children and the Worship Service, My Church NotebookJesus is opening His arms and inviting children to come to Him. One of the ways we reflect this truth to our children is by welcoming them into the most central, most regular, most valuable, and most corporate activity of the church. When we encourage families to worship together, we communicate to the children that they are a part of the congregation and, as such, should be included when the church gathers to worship. The presence of children also serves as a reminder to the church of its responsibility to nurture the faith of the next generation.

(more…)

Unchanged…or Changed?

Children Desiring God Blog // Unchanged or Changed?

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.—James 1:22-25

How easy it is for us to read the Bible, close the pages of this life-changing book…and walk away unchanged. Our response to God’s Word is much like a man who looks at himself in the mirror and forgets what he looks like.

When a man forgets his reflection in the mirror, is it because there something wrong with the image reflected in the mirror? Is the mirror faulty? No, and neither is God’s Word faulty, though we walk away unchanged. The problem is with us. We read but we do not apply; we do not consider what God’s words mean for our everyday lives.
(more…)

The HEART of the Matter

The Heart of the Matter

Complete the following checklist for your own children or the children in your class:

I want my children to…

  • Be attentive listeners
  • Act respectfully toward their teachers
  • Be honest and compassionate
  • Grow up to be responsible men and women
  • Have a good job in the future
  • Get married and have a family some day
  • Be actively involved in a local, Bible-believing church
  • Memorize Bible verses
  • Be biblically literate
  • Be able to recite the Catechism

If you checked all the points, you are probably not alone. What parent and teacher wouldn’t want this for their children? But is anything important missing from this list? Of course, and you probably spotted it—true saving faith, a heart that trusts and treasures Jesus above all. And what is tremendously sobering is that the above checklist can be achieved without sincere, life-transforming faith. Consider Jesus’ words: (more…)

Encouraging Biblical Literacy in Children: Ages 9-11

Encouraging Biblical Literacy in Children

In my previous post, Encouraging Biblical Literacy in Children: Ages 6-8, I mentioned two main ways in which we can encourage and help children grow in their proficiency in reading and understanding the Bible:

1. Teach precept upon precept by introducing specific Bible skills and concepts at appropriate ages.

2. Teach in a way that encourages the children to be actively involved with the text.

Now, I would like to aim our thinking toward ages 9-11. At this age, students should be encouraged and expected to interact with more and more text, including reading passages aloud. During classroom time, their Bibles should be open more often than not, and most should be able to quickly look up two or more passages of Scripture during a lesson and be able to examine larger portions of text.
(more…)

Encouraging Biblical Literacy in Children: Ages 6-8

Encouraging Biblical Literacy in Children

As children’s ministry leaders and teachers, one of our goals in the classroom should be to encourage and help children grow in their proficiency in reading and understanding the Bible. To that end, the methodology and tools we use are important. For example,

1. Teach precept upon precept by introducing specific Bible skills and concepts at appropriate ages

2. Teach in a way that encourages the children to be actively involved with the text

How might you do this when teaching a classroom of 1st– or 2nd-grade children? Here are a few practical suggestions for encouraging the first point:

(more…)

Teaching Preschoolers with a Flannelgraph

Teaching Preschoolers with a Flannelgraph

For preschool classes using the He Established a Testimony or He Has Spoken by His Son curricula, we recommend using felt visuals with a flannel board for the presentation of the Bible lesson. One source of these visuals is through Betty Lukens.

With young children, it is very important to use visuals to hold their attention and help them visualize things that are unfamiliar. For example, showing a picture or felt figures of Abram on a camel in a caravan will help children understand the unusual mode of transportation and the barren conditions of the slow journey Abram faced.

Tips for Teaching with a Flannelgraph

Less is more when using a flannelgraph. Sometimes spiritual truths can get lost in the busyness of illustrating the story. For example, using enough male figures to show all of Joseph’s brothers takes more time than their role warrants. A single group of men can represent the “brothers,” even if it only shows a few. You may discover that you cannot show Pharaoh’s chariots following Israel into the Red Sea because the chariot faces the wrong direction and is four inches taller than the parted walls of water. But, you can use the chariot piece to show what a chariot is. (more…)

How to Use Fighter Verses for Instruction

How to Use Fighter Verses for Instruction

Fighter Verses are a wonderful means to share the Word of God with our children. Breakfast or supper, riding in the car, or any time the family is together is a good time for instructional conversation about the Fighter Verses. Below are a few tips to remember as you share God’s Word with your children.

Keep it Short

A short instructional time that catches and holds a child’s interest is better than a long drawn out time that leaves the child bored and frustrated.

Teach “Bite-Sized” Portions

To keep the instruction from becoming long and burdensome for the child, teach a word-, phrase-, or verse-at-a-time, as suits your child’s age and attention. The Bible is so rich that a single verse can present a number of different avenues for instruction. Rather than worry about being exhaustive in your instruction about a passage, pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit and teach the points God puts on your heart. Spend several days on a passage rather than try to cover it all at one sitting. (more…)

Round-Up: Encouragement for Teachers and Parents of Youth

Youth Ministry

Here is a collection of our favorite articles written in the past few years to encourage youth pastors, mentors and parents. Check out the links below for advice on partnering with parents, developing a vision for your ministry, fighting the fight of faith and planting roots of faith that will last beyond the teen years.

Youth Ministry as a Bridge

What Will Win Your Youth?

Centering Youth on the Word

A Genuine Parent and Youth Ministry Partnership

The Importance of Parents in Youth Ministry

Youth Ministry: Set Apart or A Part

Already Relevant

Abusing “Jesus Loves Me”?

We Need the Wisdom of the Past

Preparing Teens for the Great Battle

 

 

Page 1 of 3123»