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Reading the Bible with Children
by Elizabeth Caldwell
In your ministry with children, you will meet all kinds of parents/caregivers. Some are wonderful teachers in church educational programs for children. Some are great supporters and want their children to grow in their spiritual formation, but are not able to help. And others want religious education experiences for children but have no understanding about their partnership in this wonderful faith journey.
Inviting all of these kinds of parents/caregivers to be involved in engaging Bible stories with children is a great way to help them understand their important role as faith partners with children. Help them see how making a commitment to reading the Bible with children each day can become a ritual that supports the growing life of faith in adults and children.
Using a wondering model of reading Bible stories with children is an easy way to begin. It doesn’t assume a lot of experience with the Bible. This is a major reason many parents don’t read the Bible with children. They are afraid of questions that a child may ask, ones that they don’t think they can answer. This model of reading stories together simply encourages parents/caregivers. They can create a tradition of a simple bedtime ritual of closing the day with a story from the Bible. It also introduces children and a family member to a spiritual practice that has five simple steps:
Enter. Find a space for a beginning. Consider the transition from playtime or bath for this space using questions that help a child review the day: How was your day today? Was there something that made you really laugh? Something that made you sad? Something that you wonder about? The ancient spiritual practice of The Examen invites you to think about these two questions: Where did you see God’s love today? Where did you receive or share God’s love today?
Hear. Read the Bible story together.
Pause. Take a brief quiet moment after reading the story.
Wonder. Engage the story with the child, inviting their questions or asking ones like:
Who is in the story and what happens to them?
What do you think this story is about?
What questions do you have?
Why do you think this story is in the Bible?
What would you like to remember about this story?
Bless. Affirm some of the things you heard the child say about the story. Recall some of the things that were said during the entering time and end with a prayer.