By Gail Marsh
It’s been burned, banned, smuggled, and memorized.
It’s been the source of peace and calm, even though it chronicles decades of fierce wars, devastating human disappointments, and incomprehensible feats of power.
It’s an all-time best seller even though some claim it to be completely fabricated, while others strive to follow it as the ultimate truth.
What is it? The Bible!
Who needs the Bible? Everyone! Even kids. That’s right, kids! One of our most important roles as children’s ministry leaders is to help kids discover the excitement and joy found in God’s Word. We need to help them become Bible literate.
What is Bible literacy? It’s the ability to read Scripture independently. It’s knowing about the Bible: who wrote it and why, how the books are arranged, and how to find specific passages or truths. But Bible literacy is much more than that. Kids need to know that when they read this Book, God is talking directly to them—telling the story of his grace and his loving promise to guide, strengthen, comfort, and defend them throughout their lives.
Bible literacy involves two skills: how to physically maneuver through the Book and how to treasure its personal application. Here are a few ways to teach these skills:
- Find a way to get an age-appropriate Bible into the hands of each of the children you serve. Did you know there are Bible board books for babies?!
- Begin teaching the inerrancy of Scripture at an early age. Also emphasize that God speaks directly to us through his Word.
- As children begin to read, let them explore the different parts of their Bible. Help them learn that the Bible is comprised of many separate books. These books form two main parts: Old Testament books, which come before Jesus was born; and New Testament books, which tell about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The New Testament also records events that happened in the early Church.
- Show students how each book in the Bible is divided into chapters and verses. Explain how to read and locate a Scripture notation. For example, 2 Tim. 3:16 means Second Timothy, chapter 3, verse 16. Practice finding specific verses. Encourage kids to mark their favorite passages in their Bibles. (Yes, it’s okay to mark your Bible!)
- Challenge students to memorize the books of the Bible. Explain that by memorizing the Bible books in order, children will be able to find specific verses more quickly. (Check the internet for rhymes and songs that help with memorization.)
- Explain the Contents, Concordance, and Index (if included in their Bibles). Show children how to use these extra helps to locate specific truths, people, or stories in Scripture. Older students may want to explore external Bible study guides, as well.
- Always point out the personal application of the Bible stories you read together. Ask leading questions: What did you like best about the story? Why? What do you think Jesus wants us to learn from this account?
- Encourage families to make Bible literacy an ongoing family pursuit. Suggest they set a few minutes when everyone is gathered together to read a Bible verse and talk about how it applies to the family’s current situation. (Caution: NO GUILT ZONE! We know families are busy! This can be a five-minute devotional time as they’re gathered for a meal.) Children need to see that adults read, study, and rely on God’s Word, too.
- Make it fun! There are many different ways to develop Bible literacy skills, so add some variety. Try CTA’s Dive into God’s Word Activity Book or Books of the Bible Games!
As you begin to think more about Bible literacy for children, share your ideas and strategies with co-workers, teachers, and families. Make Bible literacy the goal for the students you serve!
How are you emphasizing biblical literacy in your ministry this fall?
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