Few would argue that storytelling is a highly useful tool when working with or teaching kids. The availability of hundreds of thousands of children’s books gives testimony to the commonly understood reality that kids connect with stories. In fact, it’s not just kids. Storytelling is a powerful means of communicating with just about everyone. Whether you are 9 months old, 9 years old, 39 years old, or 90 years old, nearly everyone loves a good story.
Of course, there are stories, and then there is The Story—that is, God’s one big story. While we should be very careful not to place the stories of the Bible next to fictional stories of many children’s books, we can redeem the craft of storytelling for helping children begin to see and understand the most important story of all. It is to the next generation’s advantage that we lead children to begin understanding the Bible as one story with Jesus as its central figure. We must see the Bible as God’s story with a beginning, middle, and end. There is one focus throughout the narrative. His name is Jesus.
In Gospel Centered Kids Ministry, Brian Dembowczyk notes, “Jesus interpreted Scripture, not as a collection of random stories but as one big story about Him.” (p. 34) And just as Jesus began “with Moses and all the Prophets … [interpreting] … the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures,” we should too. (Luke 24:27) Jesus was communicating to the disciples of Luke 24 that it is only by understanding the whole story that we can truly understand His work on our behalf. In his article “4 Reasons to teach the Bible’s Storyline,” Trevin Wax put it this way: “The story of the Bible gives context to the gospel message about Jesus.”(1) To begin to grasp the fullness of our salvation, we must understand—and help the kids and families we serve to understand—that every story points to the One, making the Bible one big story about Jesus.
When we see the Bible as Jesus’ story, we are freed from implying (or outright expressing) kids carry an unrealistic, unhealthy, and impossible burden of being more courageous or more faithful or even more obedient on their own. We will begin to see God’s immeasurable grace radiate off every page as we look to His Son who loves us, took the punishment we deserve, and now empowers us to live holy lives for His glory. We will see that God is faithful to carry on what He began in the garden to its completion in the new heavens and the new earth—creation’s final restoration.
Toward this goal, we want to help kids ministry leaders and parents have a framework by which to read the Bible this way, as one big story. We have included a section in our new resource Big Picture Questions and Answers for Kids called “Seeing Jesus in the Bible.” In this resource, we have included six “lenses” that can help us when studying individual stories of the Bible. Each lens gives readers a way to understand both Old Testament and New Testament stories in light of the gospel. We pray this resource will be another tool your ministry toolbox as you point your kids to Jesus.
Jeremy Carroll is the team leader for Lifeway Kids Discipleship Resources. Before coming to Lifeway, he has been active in local church ministry for nearly 20 years in TN, TX, and AL. Jeremy earned a Master of Arts in Christian Education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. A Middle Tennessee native, he and his family live in Murfreesboro, TN.
Other helpful posts:
Four Reasons to Teach the Bible’s Storyline