Faith Development Resources: Early Elementary

FIVE TO SEVEN YEARS

51g94ru3P-L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Lucado, Max, Randy Frazee, and Karen Davis Hill. Illustrated by Josee Masse. God’s messages for little ones: the story of God’s enormous love. Grand Rapids, MI: Zonderkidz, 2012.

Well-known pastor and author Max Lucado leads a qualified team to present this devotional for children. With 31 devotions, the book can be consumed in a month with reading one a day. Parents can read it to their children but most six and seven year olds should have little trouble reading it on their own. Each devotional comes with an illustration of a Bible story and three textual components. The first component is a brief paraphrase of a scripture verse with a reference to the Bible story. The second component is a short three-line poem that summarizes some practical theological points from the story. The third component is a section called “God says to me.” This final part is a blessing/prayer/promise over the child spoken from the perspective of God towards the reader (http://www.familychristian.com/gods-messages-for-little-ones-31-devotions.html).

617vYV9yWrL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Lloyd-Jones, Sally and Jago. Thoughts to make your heart sing. Grand Rapids, MI: Zonderkidz, 2014.

From the author and illustrator of The Jesus Storybook Bible comes a book of 101 devotions with Scripture references that can be used by children and adults (http://www.zondervan.com/thoughts-to-make-your-heart-sing-deluxe-edition).

Wilhelm, Hans. Waldo, tell me about God. Norwalk, CT: C.R. Gibson Company, no date.

This short book is about a conversation between a boy and his talking dog named Waldo. The book begins with Waldo mentioning the handiwork of God and then the boy saying, “Who is God?” What follows is a series of answers from Waldo about the character and nature of God. The illustrations are appealing and the theology is Biblically sound. The main thrust of the story is about God’s enduring and ever-present love. A PDF version of the book is available online here: (http://www.childrensbooksforever.com/Childrenpics/WALDO%20TELL%20ME%20ABOUT%20GOD.pdf).

 IMG_7079Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.

This is an excellent program developed originally by Sofia Cavalletti and Gianna Gobbi with influence from Maria Montessori. It essentially takes the Montessori method of teaching children and transfers it to religious education. The “atrium” is the setting, which is kind of “halfway house” between the classroom and the sanctuary. Children both learn and worship in a way that is attentive both to God’s spirit as well as the needs, interests, and learning styles of the children. Lessons allow children to explore the stories of the Bible and the traditions of the church through interactive group experiences facilitated by a teacher (http://www.cgsusa.org/).

Berenstain, Jan and Mike. The Berenstain Bears: Show God’s Love. Grand Rapids, MI: Zonderkidz. 2010.

This single volume is a compilation of five Berenstain Bears stories. Each story teaches a Biblical concept. For example, the first of the five stories, Love Thy Neighbors, is a modern re-telling of The Good Samaritan story set in bear country. In this story, the bear family is surrounded by many neighbors in their town, most of whom appear to be all-around good people. Then there are the Bogg brothers. They live in a run-down shack, drive a beat-up car, raise dirty pigs, and spit in people’s properties when they drive by. But then the bear family’s car runs down on the way to the town festival. Both the mayor and the wealthy squire (who appear to be good people) whisk by the bear family on the road. Then come the Bogg brothers, who end up helping the bear family on their way and covering the costs for their car to get fixed at Uncle Zeke’s rusty repair shop. Each story opens with the corresponding Scripture reference so parents can discuss the Biblical basis for each story with their children (http://www.amazon.com/Berenstain-Bears-Show-Living-Lights/dp/0310720109).

Berryman, Jerome. The complete guide to Godly play. Vols 1-8. Denver, CO: Living the Good News/Morehouse Education Resources, 2002-2012.

Similar to the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd mentioned above, Godly Play is a model/method of helping children experience God and the stories of God in a Montessori-like setting. Berryman has developed a series of lessons using simple wooden figures and other tactile materials that allow children to interact with and explore the stories of the Bible. The overall mood is reverent and reflective as the teacher leads the children in an attitude of wonder towards the stories of God. Below are some online links that explain more and show examples of Godly Play in action:

  1. The main website – http://www.godlyplayfoundation.org/
  2. A good summary of Godly Play – http://www.buildfaith.org/2013/07/01/godly-play-for-all-ages-all-abilities/
  3. Godly Play in Germany – https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=360&v=py6vzIs_NcM
  4. My personal reflections on Godly Play from my blog – http://jessejoyner.com/godlyplay-a-model-for-ministry-with-children/

51gvnp4XnTL._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_Hoth, Iva. The Picture Bible. Andre Le Blanc illustrator. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook. 1998.

This is a comic-book styled Bible. The stories are illustrated with bubble texts coming from the mouths of the characters. With over two hundred stories from the Bible along with maps and “Did You Know?” excerpts, this book helps children (especially those familiar with comic book literature) engage with the stories of the Bible.

Vischer, Phil. Buck Denver asks…What’s in the Bible? Church edition. Jellyfish Labs, 2014.

This is a 52-week curriculum for use in children’s ministry settings. Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales, has headed up this project that teaches kids deep spiritual truths through puppetry, songs, and storytelling. I personally like the emphasis on Biblical theology taught by Vischer. The Veggie Tales franchise was very successful, but it seemed a little shallow on Biblical “meat” (which may have been the intent in order to reach a wider audience). This curriculum is unashamedly Bible-focused and Vischer speaks directly to the audience through the camera in a pastoral teaching role. Here is the link to the curriculum resource: (http://whatsinthebible.com/). I also wrote my own blog post reviewing it: (http://jessejoyner.com/whats-bible-curriculum-review/).

IMG_2272Memory Verse of the Week.

MVOTW – This acronym stands for “Memory Verse of the Week.” I speak at summer camps every year and several years ago I gave the memory verse of the week at one of the camps this nickname and the kids loved saying it (pronounced “muh-vah-twah”). We also added a dramatic motion to go with it (slowly raising one’s arms above the head to form the letter “M” over the head while emphatically saying “MVOTW!”). The boys then do a muscle-man pose while the girls jump like cheerleaders and kick one leg back. I, of course, give them the option to do either motion at the end so as not to reinforce any potentially negative gender stereotypes (such as ‘girls can’t be strong’ or ‘boys can’t be cheerleaders’). But nobody has ever had a problem with it because it is all done in jest. The MVOTW consists of the memory verse itself put to motions (some sign language mixed with made-up silly motions) and then the dramatic MVOTW pose at the end. For several years now, the MVOTW has been a huge hit with kids, especially preteens. My own five-year old daughter found this method to be helpful in memorizing Scripture. Here is a YouTube video of eight hundred kids and leaders reciting 1 John 4:4 using the MVOTW model: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-PIV-v86qe0).

IMG_7057Tabernacle Diagram Canvas – Alpha Artistic Evangelism.

This unique wall canvas at my daughter’s Christian Montessori school depicts the Israelite Tabernacle when they were wandering through the desert between Egypt and the Promised Land. It shows the tent city, the tabernacle, and close-ups of the Ark of the Covenant and what it all may have looked like during this period before the construction of the permanent temple in Jerusalem. It’s large size allows teachers and parents to show children a visual of the worship practices of God’s people in the Old Testament. I cannot find a solid reference for the work, so let it be an inspiration to create large images as aids for children to better understand the cultural and historical settings of the Bible. Below is a picture with a child to give proportion:

Family Fun Puzzle: Hosanna in the Highest! Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998.

This 100-piece jigsaw puzzle depicts Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey at what is called his “triumphal entry.” This is a great family activity for Palm Sunday weekend. The parents and children can assemble the puzzle as they talk about the meaning of Palm Sunday and how Jesus is the humble King who has come to save.

*This list comes directly from a paper I wrote for a class at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL in March 2016. The class was ES 7524 (Education and Ministry Experiences for Children) taught by Dr. Magdalene Larson.

Faith Development Resources: Preschool

This is the second list in a series of posts I am doing that list resources for ministry in both the church and home in regards to nurturing faith in children. Here we turn to the preschool age group.

TWO TO FOUR YEARS

591448Arch Books. Various authors. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

There are over a hundred of these small books that creatively tell and illustrate Bible stories through rhyme and art (http://www.cph.org/p-7003-arch-book-set-set-of-125.aspx).

Brown, Margaret Wise. Pictures by Clement Hurd. The Runaway Bunny. New York: Harper Collins, 1972.

While not explicitly Christian or faith-based, this classic children’s story by the same author of Goodnight Moon communicates a beautiful story of a mother’s pursuing love. The little bunny tries repeatedly to run away from his mother, but the mother always finds a way to track him down. Once the little bunny realizes that he cannot escape the love of his parent, he surmises, “Shucks….I might just as well stay where I am and be your little bunny.” The connection to God’s love being like a shepherd going after the lost sheep is evident. A parent can read this to their child and very little explanation is needed. At most, the book can be followed up with a simple phrase like, “Just like I will always find you” or “Just like God will always find you.” Or it can be left to speak for itself and the child will naturally see the mother bunny’s resemblance to God in due time (http://www.amazon.com/Runaway-Bunny-Margaret-Wise-Brown/dp/0064430189).

Stewart, Sonja M. and Jerome W. Berryman. Young children and worship. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1988.

This guide for parents and teachers helps these leaders facilitate worship for young children. Stewart and Berryman present their tested models which combine worship experiences with faith education (http://www.amazon.com/Young-Children-Worship-Sonja-Stewart/dp/0664250408).

IMG_7128Gibbons, Erin ed. Whirl Story Bible. Minneapolis: Sparkhouse, 2014.

The Whirl Story Bible, like other story Bibles, provides shortened versions of major Bible stories meant for reading out loud to children. It follows the Revised Common Lectionary, which is used by many Christian denominations. The characters in the illustrations are depicted in a wide variety of olive/dark skin tones, which is probably more accurate to the people of that time and place. Many children’s Bibles depict the historical figures as Europeans in Middle Eastern clothes, which can be confusing and alienating to many cultures/races around the world (May, Posterski, Stonehouse, Cannell, Children Matter, p. 185). Each story lists the corresponding lectionary lesson at the top of the page and includes simple follow-up questions the parents/leaders can ask the children (http://www.wearesparkhouse.org/kids/whirl/classroom/).

The Gospel Project for Preschool. Lifeway.

This is the new LifeWay 3-year curriculum focusing on the idea that the story of Scripture is one unified whole pointing towards (OT) and back upon (NT) the person and work of Jesus Christ. The tagline is “Every Story Casts His Shadow.” There are dozens of contributors including author Ed Stetzer and pastor Matt Chandler. Colorful and creative graphics such as a timeline wheel of salvation history  accompany this curriculum, which also has modules for all other age groups in the church (http://www.gospelproject.com/kids/preschool/).

Jones, Stan and Brenna Jones. The Story of Me: God’s Design for Sex, Book 1. Colorado Springs: NavPress. 2007.

Part of a four book set, this book helps parents talk with their kids about the body and sex from a Biblical perspective. Each book in the set progresses a bit deeper into the discussion. Appropriate illustrations are used.  (http://www.amazon.com/Full-Set-Design-Revised-Paperback/dp/B00O5DIVTU)

079-179-2TLloyd-Jones, Sally. Illustrated by Jago. The Jesus Storybook Bible. Grand Rapids: ZonderKidz, 2007.

The tagline of this extremely successful children’s Bible is “every story whispers His name.” Excellent artwork accompanies creatively written Bible stories that the parent can read to the child. Lloyd-Jones is keen to point out the foreshadowing of Jesus Christ throughout the Old Testament. There is also a compact disc (CD) set available with David Suchet reading the stories aloud in his baritone British voice (http://www.sallylloyd-jones.com/books/jesus-storybook-bible/).

Prayers for little hands. Illustrated by Tammie Lyon, Judith Pfeiffer, and Tish Tenud. Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International. 2001.

This board book is a collection of simple prayers in the language of modern 2-4 year-olds. Each prayer is accompanied by an illustration depicting something within the prayer. It opens with a prayer by Cecil Frances Alexander: “All things bright and beautiful/ All creatures great and small/ All things wise and wonderful/ The Lord God made them all.” Most of the other twenty-seven prayers are anonymously attributed and follow the same simple format of child-like poetry. This book is perfect to use for teaching little children how to pray. It shows children that prayer is not complicated and is often best communicated when it reflects the natural language of the things of normal everyday life (like family, nature, food, and school) (http://www.amazon.com/Prayers-Little-Hands-First-Treasury/dp/0785351078).

Psalty the Singing Songbook. Character and company created by Ernie and Debbie Retino.

Psalty is a clown-like character played by Ernie Retino. He is a large anthropomorphized blue hymnal who teaches kids about God, Biblical character, and worship. There are books, videos, live shows, and musical albums featuring Psalty along with his friends and family. Psalty’s worship songs are catchy and lend themselves to simple accompanying motions. The children in Psalty’s programs experience the ups and downs of life and learn how to navigate life by trusting God and experiencing a meaningful relationship with Him (http://www.psalty.com/).

Worship Baskets.

Some churches have materials available for children to read, color, or manipulate during an intergenerational worship service. It is helpful if these materials are placed in individual  baskets or on clipboards so parents can grab one for their family. The baskets can include children’s Bible story books, crayons with Bible story pictures, or beads and bracelets that tell a story. Here are some  pictures from the worship baskets at Providence Presbyterian Church in Fairfax, Virginia:

IMG_7143 IMG_7142 IMG_7141

*This list comes directly from a paper I wrote for a class at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL in March 2016. The class was ES 7524 (Education and Ministry Experiences for Children) taught by Dr. Magdalene Larson.

Four Ways to Help Kids Get Excited About the Bible

(Picture above thanks to JaredFanning.com). Also found at http://visual.ly/top-10-most-read-books-world

Here’s the file of the image:

most-read-books-in-the-world(1)

In my previous post, I shared about a large group game idea called “Super Bible Trivia.” I wanted to follow that up with a few practical tips that help us share the wonder of God’s Word with children. Here are a few ways that we as leaders can help bring to light the joy of reading and studying God’s Word.

  1. One place to start is to explain that the Bible is indeed God’s message to us (“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” – 2 Timothy 3:16, NIV).
  2. Use Bibles that are in an easy to read translation. There are many publishers who now make Bible versions for all age and reading levels. There are also Bibles out there with stunning visuals and graphics (even comic book Bibles and magazine Bibles). 
  3. Show kids that the Bible is not a boring book of old fashioned stories. Show them the thrilling narratives of the Bible, including the lesser known stories. Some kids think they have heard it all. They think that once they know Noah’s Ark and David defeating Goliath then they know it all. Ask them if they know about the sword that got swallowed up into the gut of a king on the toilet (Judges 3). Or see if they know the story of the woman who nailed a man’s head to the ground with a tent stake (the very next chapter: Judges 4). Kids love these stories if you tell them.
  4. Of course, all these stories lead up to or look back to the apex of The Story, which is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Show the kids how the Old Testament points ahead towards the cross (see Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53, for just two of many examples of clear Christological prophecies).

What are some ways that you instill a joy and fascination for God’s Word in the hearts of children? What have you learned about God’s Word from children?