Where’s Haggai?: How to Help Kids Navigate the Bible

It’s on page 1,195 of course!

So yeah, even most adults need the table of contents if the pastor says, “Turn to the second chapter of Haggai as we look at what this prophet says to Zerubbabel.”

And if you work with kids in a church or ministry setting, you know the challenge of trying to help them find their way through their Bibles.

Let’s face it: the Bible can appear daunting. To kids, a standard Bible is a super long book with tiny font and very few pictures. You may have a wide range of ages in the same room. In addition, there is often a wide range of familiarity and unfamiliarity with the Bible within a group of children. This is also known as the levels “Bible literacy.”

Furthermore, many of the children in our ministry settings have electronic devices and are reading physical books less and less and therefore bringing their physical Bibles less often to church and ministry settings.

Today the Bible is readily available as an app on devices. I’ve used it that way many times. But I have found that method to be lacking, in my opinion. First of all, some apps may have distracting “reading plans” or “devotionals” written by popular authors shouting for my attention on the app when I just want to read the Sermon on the Mount. Those might be great devotionals, but sometimes I just want the raw Scripture. I have also found myself distracted by other things on my device once I’ve opened it up, even if I went there to read the Bible in the first place.

So, call me old fashioned, but I like holding the physical book in my hand and flipping through the actual pages of God’s Word. That’s how believers have been reading the Bible for centuries.

When I teach children about the Bible, I encourage them to use a hard-copy Bible, not a Bible on an app. Adults can make up their own minds about app Bible verses physical Bible, but I really do think that children between the ages of zero and pre-teen need to be spared the distraction and given the opportunity by leaders to use real physical Bibles. Most of them have plenty of screen time in their lives already. Let’s use Bible time as an opportunity to turn the screens off and read God’s Word the way its been read for thousands of years.

Ok, moving on from that highly opinionated rant…

I want to share some ideas and resources with you that might help you help kids navigate their physical Bibles.

Types of Bibles

First of all, there are many English versions of the Bible – the NIV, the ESV, the NLT, the KJV, The Message, and more. Some are more literal to the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic words and others are more paraphrastic. Then there are others in the middle of the literal-paraphrase spectrum. It all depends on the translation teams. Work with your fellow church leaders to find a translation that is readable and works for your denomination. I think it is helpful to be consistent within your own local church, camp, or ministry setting and use the same translation (unless there is a good reason to use another translation for a particular context). It helps everyone to be “on the same page!” Let the church know which one you use and why.

Secondly, there are many Bibles written specifically for children. Some of these are picture Bibles or a collection of paraphrased Bible stories. In other posts, I have recommended some of these Bibles for various age ranges:

Early Childhoodhttp://jessejoyner.com/faith-development-resources-early-childhood/

Preschoolhttp://jessejoyner.com/faith-development-resources-preschool/

Early Elementaryhttp://jessejoyner.com/faith-development-resources-early-elementary/

Pre-Teen – http://jessejoyner.com/faith-development-resources-pre-teen/

Finding Something in the Bible

When you ask kids to look up a Bible verse, clearly say the reference and put only the reference (not the verse itself) it up on a projection screen if you have one. If you do not have a projection screen, then write the reference on a board or poster. There are other times to show entire verses on a screen, but if your goal is to help them navigate the Bible, do not put the whole verse on the screen. The reason is obvious. They will figure, “Why do I have to look it up if I can just read it on the screen?” If you just give the reference, they will have to look it up to read it.

I make everyone wait for everyone else. That means the kids who find the verse first need to learn a little patience and wait for their friends. In fact, this is a good opportunity for the kids to help one another. The ones who already found their place in the Bible can help the ones who are still searching.

Start with the table of contents: Once you have read out the reference, encourage the kids to use the table of contents to find the book of the Bible (most every Bible has one). The book titles are all listed, sometimes twice (once in Biblical order and a second time in alphabetical order). If they’re lucky, their Bible may even have the little tabs on the sides of the pages that list each of the sixty six books of the Bible.

Big Number, Little Number: I explain to the kids that Matthew 5:14 means…

The Book of Matthew.

Big number 5 (the chapter).

Little number 14 (the verse, which is sometimes a tiny number).

“Sword Drills”

This is a popular game/activity in many children’s church services and Sunday Schools and it has been around for a while. I do not know who came up with them. Personally, I’m NOT a fan, and I’ll share why after I explain what they are:

Sword drills are where you as the leader read out a Bible reference and then the kids race to find it first in their Bible. The first kid to find the verse usually then stands up or raises their “sword” (Bible in hand) and reads it out loud. Repeat.

The reason I do not like this activity is because I feel like it favors a particular learning style – and it rewards that behaviour in a confusingly spiritual way. The children who are fast at computing numbers and flipping pages and memorizing lists are rewarded with attention, praise, and even the public reading of God’s Word. We risk excluding children who are wired more for patient contemplation or who are simply more new to the skills of navigating their Bibles. There is absolutely no spiritual gain in finding a Bible verse a millisecond faster than your neighbor but we have somehow turned it into a game where we risk sending that message to our children.

Some kids take more time to find a Scripture passage than others, and they shouldn’t lose a game because of that.

Memorizing the Books of the Bible

This is one of the most effective practical skills we can give kids in terms of navigating their Bibles. There are a lot of books in the Bible (sixty six, to be exact). But there are some surprisingly very catchy ways to memorize the list in order so that when you are looking for a book of the Bible, you can simply hum your tune and find your way there.

Here are some of the songs and tunes that I would recommend. These really do work!

North Point Kids Rap Version (I like how they also mention the genres of literature)

JumpStart3 Books of the Bible (I like Jeff’s music here, very hip)

Brent Weber’s Old Testament and New Testament songs are on this CD

This one from Rachel Neuman is set to some catchy tunes

Here’s another rap version

Some Other Random Tricks

General Electric Power Company – this helps me remember four of the most commonly cited Pauline letters: “Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians.”

Psalms is usually in the dead middle of the Bible. Just hold the Bible with the pages facing you and open right in the middle of all the pages.

The New Testament (starting with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) is in the wayyyy back of the Bible. It is usually about 75%-80% of the way through the pages. So if you’re headed for a book in the New Testament, turn to the very back of the Bible. The opposite is true for the Old Testament, which makes up the majority of the Bible and is found first.

The prophets (both major and minor) are found after Psalms and before the New Testament. So if you hear an obscure Hebrew name (like Zephaniah), then find the Psalms in the middle and start moving further back in the Bible, but not too far. If you hit the Gospels (like Matthew), then you’ve gone too far. Remember, Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament.

Help them Discover the Wonder

Kids will work hard at figuring out on their own how to navigate things with which they are fascinated. The greatest gift we can give these kids in Bible navigation skills is a love for and curiosity with God’s Word. They can memorize the list of Bible books all day long, but if there is no interest to find out what’s in those books, they’re not going to care to look. As teachers, leaders, and pastors, we need to be excited about the Bible ourselves and show the kids why we love the contents and the stories. A fun exercise is to share about some of the lesser-known but incredibly dramatic stories of the Bible, like Jael nailing a tent peg into the temple of a sleeping Sisera (Judges 5:24-26)!

I also believe that the Bible is God’s living Word, which means it is not just a historical account of events. There is a great deal of history in the Bible, but it is first and foremost HIS story – the story of God for the past, present, and future. That means that it affects my daily life and that God’s Spirit speaks to me through this Word when I read it and meditate on it. As leaders, we can tell the kids stories about how God has changed our lives and shaped our understanding of Him through the message of His Word.

What Cain and Jesus Share

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A stained glass depiction of the births of Cain and Abel. Germany, late 14th Century.

What?! You’re comparing Cain, the first murderer, to Jesus? How dare you!

Follow me here. I was writing a paper about ministry with children and I suddenly discovered in the Cain and Abel story something I had never seen before…

You probably already knew that Cain was the first child to be born (remember, Adam and Eve were created). But what Eve said upon his birth is pretty remarkable. She said something that leads us to conclude that Cain and Jesus were both gifts of God’s grace, each in a unique way.

Here’s the excerpt from my paper….

When we look at Scripture, the first children in the Bible were Cain and Abel. Their parents, Adam and Eve, had already been banished from the Garden of Eden due to their disobedience and sin towards God (Gen 3:16-24). In this new reality of paradise lost, Adam and Eve conceived their first child, Cain. Despite having a broken relationship with God, Eve proclaims, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man” (Gen 4:1; italics mine). These are the first post-Edenic words spoken in Scripture, which I believe speaks to the significance of ministry with children. In this newly fallen world, our predecessor Eve viewed children as a gift from God. Even Cain’s name in Hebrew is a wordplay intended to sound like the word for “to bring forth” (Coppes 1980, 797-798). This means that God’s first gift of grace following our sin was a child. We turned from God, and the way he extended an offer of grace was through a baby.

Does that sound familiar? Thousands of years later, despite our sin, God gifted us all with the baby Jesus Christ as the ultimate gift of His grace.

This establishes the point that children are both a gift from God as well a means of God’s grace to adults (and other children, for that matter). Most adults in this world and in the church community understand that children are a gift, but how often do we view them as channels through which God extends His grace? When we view children in this way, we realize that as adults, we need children as much as they need us.

Citation:

Coppes, Leonard J. “Cain.” Theological wordbook of the old testament. Vol 2. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke eds. Chicago: Moody Press, 1980.

Cardboard Craft: Noah’s Ark

My daughter was making a zoo with blocks and her little plastic animals. I figured, “Why don’t we just make a Noah’s Ark since we have all these animals?” I’m not the most crafty person in the world, but I know how to cut cardboard boxes. So I started cutting up an Amazon shipping box. Her imagination did the rest! She proudly drew the windows. She loves it!

The great thing about crafts with kids is that it doesn’t have to be a masterpiece! It’s clearly a rectangular box and is not the stylish boat shape you see in great art. But five year olds don’t care! They just want to play with friends and family and use their God-given imaginations. We adults could learn a thing or two from that.

Cost: Nothing.

Payoff: Fun, stimulated imaginations, opportunity to share a faith story and its meaning with my daughter.

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An Undivided Heart

I love the simplicity of Scripture. The ability to rely on God and to have an undivided heart comes from Him!

“Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness: give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name” (Psalm 86:11).

Godly Play: A Model for Ministry with Children

Godly Play is a teaching system used by many churches around the world to educate children about God, the Bible, and also invite them into the Christian narrative. Jerome Berryman developed the curriculum and he was influenced by the educational theories of Maria Montessori.

I observed Godly Play in action once when I was in seminary. My professor, Dr. Catherine Stonehouse, ministered with children at her church in Wilmore, KY using Godly Play. As a class, we watched as she sat down at the level of the children and told them the story of Abraham and Sarah using small generic wooden figures and a pile of sand for the Middle Eastern desert. It was very quiet and the children were mesmerized. The whole feel of Godly Play is quite the opposite of many Children’s Ministries, which are full of electronic screens, loud rock band music, video games, and resemble the “Let’s Make a Deal” show.

Godly Play uses symbols, rituals, manipulatives, and storytelling to join children in the spiritual pilgrimage of knowing God. Children are not just receptors of information, but rather natural learners as well as teachers themselves. It is all done with an attitude of holy-awe and unplugged simplicity.

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Here are some resources that explain more about Godly Play. Check them out and let me know what you think!

  1. Godly Play Foundation
  2. Jerome W. Berryman. Godly Play. San Francisco: Harper, 1991.
  3. Jerome W. Berryman. The Complete Guide to Godly Play, Vols 1-8. New York: Church Publishing Incorporated, 2002-2012.
  4. Video Introducing Godly Play:

Sunrise at Masada

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Masada was the final Jewish stronghold when the Romans took Jerusalem and the surrounding areas in the early to mid 70’s AD. It is small rocky plateau in the desert just west of the Dead Sea. Herod built a grand palace atop Masada in the 1st Century and ruins of his palace still remain.

Today you can climb (or ride) to the top of Masada and the best views are in the morning, when the sun is rising over the Abarim Mountains of Jordan (in which is Mt. Nebo, where God showed Moses the reaches of the Promised Land).

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Super Easy Scripture Slides and Images

I recently stumbled upon a fast and free way to make Scripture slides for Children’s Ministry (or any other ministry, for that matter) with an array of free and attractive backgrounds.

And it may already be in your phone/device.

It’s built into one of the popular apps out there – the free YouVersion app of the Bible (they’re not paying me to post this, btw 🙂 I just really like this feature and want to share about it).

I was using the app recently and saw a button I had never seen before. So I clicked on it. What I found was amazing. It was an option to make an image of any selected Bible verse over any background of your choice (your own or from their library). The settings make it easy to change the font, the font size, the colors, etc. Below are some steps and pics to show you how to do it.

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  1. First, download the app. Search “youversion” on your app store.
  2. Once you familiarize yourself with how to find a certain verse (which is intuitive), select a verse by tapping it. It will underline the verse with a dotted line and then give you a selection of options on the right.
  3. Then tap on the orange button (of a photograph), which will lead you through the step-by-step editing process.
  4. Once you have your slide, share it as you like! See the images below for a more detailed look at how it works.
Tap a verse you want to turn into a slide. It will underline it will dotted lines. Then click on the orange button on the right - the one with the image of a photograph.
Tap a verse you want to turn into a slide. It will underline it will dotted lines. Then click on the orange button on the right – the one with the image of a photograph.
Select an image from their gallery. Or you can use your own (the very first option).
Select an image from their gallery. Or you can use your own (the very first option).
Use the options under the image to change the font, size, and color of the verse.
Use the options under the image to change the font, size, and color of the verse.
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When you’re ready, tap “save.” Then you will see this image. Tap the “share” button to see your sharing options.

Then you can share the image by email, message, or social media. You can also save the image to your device and hence drop it into any slide show you are making (such as Keynote or ProPresenter).

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I love to use it to share a quick verse on social media or as a slide when I’m speaking or teaching about the Bible. It’s super easy to use and best of all, it’s free!

Bonus: Many of the most popular Bible verses (John 3:16, for example) have special pre-made images with artsy fonts and backgrounds. Those are fun to discover and you just have to stumble upon them when you go to those verses and then go to this “edit image” process.

Want more creative ideas for Children’s and Family Ministry? Sign up for my free newsletter here.

Need a speaker/entertainer for your next event? Check out my promo videos here.

Here are some slides I’ve made since I found out about this……

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“What’s in the Bible?” Curriculum Review

db9e7794-phil-endorsement_06y04806y048000000c4f1c6b6-box-set-banner_09x07209x072000000I am somewhat of a bibliophile (one who loves books). And more particularly, I love to learn about and study the book of all books – the Bible. I guess that would be a more accurate use of the term “Biblio”-phile.

So it is with excitement and anticipation that I share with you a new curriculum from Phil Vischer, the creator of the well known Veggie Tales series (in fact, Phil is the famous scrappy voice of Bob the Tomato). This new curriculum, designed for use in Sunday School or other weekly church gatherings with elementary-aged kids, is called Buck Denver Asks…What’s in the Bible?

Here is the brief summary straight from the curriculum website:

“Buck Denver Asks … What’s in the Bible? is the 13-DVD series from VeggieTales® creator Phil Vischer. In his first new project since VeggieTales, Vischer has set out to teach kids (and parents!) the story of the Bible – God’s great rescue plan! We know the stories of Moses, Noah, David, and Jesus, but in this groundbreaking new Bible DVD series, we learn how they all fit together to tell one big, redemptive story. Vischer’s signature wit shines through with his all-new cast of characters, fast-paced flash animation, and catchy tunes. This is one journey through the Bible you won’t want to miss!”

I took a look at the info and some samples of the curriculum and I am impressed overall. I would certainly recommend it (and if you keep reading, you will see some special discounts on the curriculum that I can offer my readers).

Here are the things I like about What’s in the Bible?….

  1. A scope and sequence guided by the overarching narrative of the Bible, rather than topics. I know a lot of curriculum out there follows a general chronological order of the Bible, but this one aims to cover the entire Bible while constantly keeping in mind the overall cohesion and interconnectedness of the Bible. And it uses the entire story of the Bible as the driving force of content rather than just teaching topics illustrated by a few popular Bible stories.
  2. Use of a variety of learning methods. This curriculum is self-described as being “media-driven,” but that doesn’t mean “media-only.” There are plenty of interactive activities in small groups. There are hands-on activities as well as more cognitive activities (such as review through trivia questions). I like curriculum that keeps moving and draws on a variety of teaching methods and learning styles. I like how the videos use both puppets and Phil teaching (as himself). The puppets help the kids stay engaged (while teaching about the Bible) and Phil’s teaching brings a very real and pastoral aspect to the content. He is both deep and understandable at the same time. I like the combination of all those elements.
  3. The commitment to Scripture. This might sound obvious, but it is important that a curriculum have a strong Biblical grounding in terms of how the writers view Scripture. Phil Vischer has a strong commitment to Scriptural inspiration, authority, reliability, and relevance. To him, the Bible is not just the world’s best selling book that teaches us about the religion of Christianity and how people wrote about it centuries ago. For Phil, the Bible is God’s inspired Word – a revelation from God to us as His message of love and story of redemption. And that changes everything.
  4. It’s all right there. You basically have a curriculum in a box. From what I reviewed, it did not appear that the teachers (who are usually volunteers) need to bring much of anything with them except the videos and other handouts/materials provided by the curriculum itself. Any way to cut down on unnecessary clutter is helpful.

Here are the things I think can be improved….(which is not much, by the way)

  1. There is a puppet named Michael who rides in the back of a car on the way to grandma’s house. I’ve seen him before in other Buck Denver videos. Maybe it is my personal preference, but his voice is hard for me to understand. It is very high-pitched and sounds extremely unnatural for whoever is providing the voice for him. I think it is important to have clear and legible communication if you want to convey such quality content.
  2. Some of the puppets have no eyes (or, at least you can’t see the eyes due to over-furrowed brows or hats). I think the eyes bring life to a puppet (or any other creature for that matter). Again, it might be my personal preference, but I feel like I receive communication better when I can see some eyes in the puppet, person, or creature. Would you like a pastor to preach a sermon to you with a hat down over their eyes the whole time?
  3. There is an extra DVD for a Christmas series (yay!). But it would also be nice to have a special DVD series for Lent (the weeks leading up to Easter). They cover the Gospel stories and the death and resurrection of Christ, but I think it would be nice to have a dedicated series that follows the weeks of Lent.

There is not much to criticize here, because Phil and his team have worked very hard to put out a great product that will help lots of churches communicate the truth of the Bible in a largely Biblically illiterate culture (and becoming more and more so, unfortunately). Many of us are familiar with the success of Veggie Tales and the way it has become “salt and light” by teaching Biblical truths in ways that are not preachy and are palatable to the masses – both Christian and secular. My hope is that this “What’s in the Bible” project will similarly penetrate into our culture and society in a way that can instruct young people about the most popular (and I believe) most important book in history.

So, here’s the discount I promised you (as well as a free sample):

Click on this link to get ALMOST 50% OFF retail price (good through the middle of November 2014) and an opportunity to get a free sample: http://promos.whatsinthebible.com/kidmin-2014/