(This article was originally posted March, 2013)
I began teaching Sunday school more than 25 years ago. I currently teach first grade. What’s the biggest difference I see in my classroom today compared to 25 years ago? Bibles. Bibles everywhere. A Bible in the hands of every child. Bibles being opened, and eager faces and busy fingers trying to find Isaiah 44. And when they find it (and many still need extra help), you would think that they had just won a great prize. In reality, they have found a treasure greater than anything they could imagine: God’s own Word!
It wasn’t that Bibles were in short supply 25 years ago, or that first graders couldn’t read back then. No, it was something more significant—an unspoken philosophy embracing the idea that: The Bible is too difficult for young children and too boring for older children. The Bible itself—the actual text—isn’t really all that necessary or clear or sufficient for contemporary culture. So Sunday school curriculum adapted itself to this new way of thinking and, for the most part, the Bible disappeared from our Sunday school lesson times and was replaced by a sheet of paper that gave teachers an “easy to prepare” scripted, summarized Bible story.
But somewhere along the way, many of us started to notice something. There was no longer authoritative power in our teaching. Many children were entertained, but not many seemed changed. And the weekly “easy to prepare” lesson became a chore for the teachers who longed for something deeper and more soul-satisfying.
At CDG, we have a vision for the next generation—a vision of sponges, soaked full, super-saturated. Not, real sponges of course, but children. Children soaked full and super-saturated with the Word of God. Children who see the Bible being read and hear the text explained. Children who learn how to read the Bible for themselves and know how to properly study it, and then interpret its meaning. We long for a generation of Bible-saturated children who come to embrace God’s Word as sweeter than honey, more precious than gold, more exciting than any game or activity, more powerful than anything in their lives, more long-lasting and life-transforming than any new electronic gadget, and more soul-satisfying than the closest friend.
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14-15 ESV)
Getting practical: So what steps can we take to make the Bible more “visible” in our classrooms? Here are a few suggestions to start:
- Always teach with an open Bible, even if you are summarizing a story for preschoolers.
- Whenever possible read directly from the Bible. Even preschoolers should hear the actual text read at times. Where the Bible uses simple, straightforward language, read it.
- In kindergarten, start to teach children the books of the Bible through song.
- Beginning in first grade, encourage each child to bring his or her own Bible to class. Make sure it is a “real” Bible and not a storybook or paraphrased version. Communicate with parents and, if necessary, assist them in purchasing a Bible for their child.
- Offer small incentives (candy, prizes) for children who remember to bring their Bibles to class.
- Require children of reading age to look up selected texts and read them aloud during the lesson. Do this according to their age and skill level. Most first graders can, with some help, look up and read one short and simple text per lesson. By third grade, most children can handle multiple texts of varying lengths.
Want some additional tips for specific age levels? Print out this free handout from Children Desiring God: The Importance of Biblical Literacy for the Next Generation.
You can also watch this delightful illustration as Pastor David Michael envisions of the effects of a Bible-saturated generation: