It is great that the stories of the Bible are so integral to children’s curricula. But I am concerned that it often focuses too heavily on exploring what the human characters do.
Consider the story of David and Goliath. Traditional approaches make David the hero, whose behavior is to be imitated. Goliath is the villain and his behavior is to be avoided (if his role is explored at all). The actions of King Saul and the other soldiers (for example, David’s brothers) are also noted as negative examples of fear.
But the main character of this story is too often ignored.
Who is this story really about? Ask David. Whose reputation is David concerned about? How is it that David has so much confidence when everyone around him is terrified? David’s heroic behavior arises from his worldview that sets his beliefs and grounds his values. David knows who the main character is–God!
David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. (1 Samuel 17:45, 46 NIV)
John Walton’s “Bible Story Handbook” http://amzn.to/1gmLInR is a good resource on this topic because it reminds us that the point of the stories, parables, etc. is not a “moralistic” one. If people realized that we’d save millions of trees devoted to books called “The Daniel Diet” because Daniel’s protest wasn’t designed to tip the scales with a divine “assist” in the “paleo/vegan” diet debate!
Especially with children we tell stories (or skew the “moral” of the story) to control behavior to our liking in the immediate context not point them to the ultimate reality at stake. When we point them to the ultimate reality, the behavior conforms to God’s pattern if not our own!
Reblogged this on Curated Links For Soulfriend.org and commented:
Why do we tell Bible Stories as if we (or our listeners) are or could be the heroes when the actual hero of the story is….
This is something I first heard about through Dog and Cat Theology and Unveiled at Last books. It’s not how I grew up reading the Bible, but yet, it is such common sense! I am going to get a copy of the Bible Story Handbook that Chuck mentioned. I’m appalled when I look at my SS curriculum now! The children’s department at Calvary Church in Lancaster, PA has written their own curriculum, based on this idea. I’m excited to learn from others who have figured this out and implemented it in their ministries with children. It seems a subtle difference, but it’s really very foundational and makes a huge impact over a few generations.
We need to write all our curricula from this perspective and train the parents in our churches to see the Word as the revelation of God. It does not have its full power in our lives until this shift happens. Thanks for sharing your heart. I will look forward to hearing how the shift affects your teaching at home and in Sunday School!
I think the idea is great. There’s the possibility that many existing churches might end up using it in lieu of traditional “Sunday School” material. One church out west that worked with the late Avery Willis found great success using Bible Storytelling with adults. http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=35112 Once you introduce it to the children’s ministry… it might help spark life in the whole church.
I strongly encourage looking into the book “Think Orange” and “Parenting Beyond Your Capacity” by Reggie Joiner. The first is directed at children’s ministry leaders and discusses the role of the church in coming alongside parents as a support to the whole family. The second book focuses on parents and being intentional about shaping your children’s worldviews. It strongly encourages parents to seek out other trusted adults (such as SS teachers and family friends) who share similar believes, and then for parents to surround their children with these adults.
From the philosophy of these books, a group was formed called the ReThink Group. They have created SS curriculum that focuses more on God and less on the humans of the Bible. For example, this month, the theme has been “Super Kids.” We have talked about a different Bible story each week and the lessons have focused on how the people in the stories (Elijah, Esther, and Rahab are all we’ve done so far) do not have super powers. The lesson’s have specifically stated that God is the one who made these individuals super through their faith an courage in Him. I’ve been really impressed with how this curriculum makes God the focus.
One last resource I have discovered is called the Jesus Storybook Bible. It is a children’s bible with great animations. The philosophy behind the making of this Bible was to emphasize God in the stories rather than the “heroes” that most children’s bibles highlight. I highly recommend it for toddlers up to 2nd graders.
Thanks for suggesting these resources, Rachel. It makes a dad proud to share the journey with his children!
Thanks Rachel, I am going to read 2 books by Joiner that you mentioned. They look great! I’ll also look into the ReThink’s curriculum for ideas.
Rachel, I read the Think Orange book, and the one for parents as well. It’s so great to see others have been thinking through this for years already. I have learned a lot already, and look forward to applying it to life as I go forward. I am passing the book to the children’s director, as well as the youth group director of my church.
I just read this from their blog and loved it. http://orangeblogs.org/orangeleaders/2013/11/13/book-study-losing-your-marblesplaying-for-keeps-week-2/
Thanks for the words and ideas Rachel and John.
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