The Bible isn’t a book of inspiring stories that help us be better people.
Help your kids see how Scripture fits together to tell ONE story—the gospel.
As a kid, two of my favorite church activities were review games and Bible drills. Every Sunday, we had a review game of boys versus girls, and, as a competitive boy, it was my greatest joy to try and crush the girls’ team! Even though I knew a lot of information and could do well in those competitions, it wasn’t until much later in life that I learned how all those individual Bible facts fit together.
Many kids growing up in church are just like I was. They can tell you all about Moses and the burning bush or Daniel in the lions’ den . . . but they can’t tell you why those stories were written or what they are really about. As we teach our children the Bible, it’s so important to help them understand how Scripture fits together. The Bible isn’t a book of inspiring stories that help us be better people. The Bible is a library of sixty-six books that all tell ONE story—the story of the gospel. If kids don’t have a proper understanding of this, the Bible may become a random compilation of ancient, magical tales they don’t understand and don’t feel compelled to believe when they get older.
When explaining the redemptive story of the Bible, it’s usually easier to use the New Testament than it is to use the Old Testament. But the Old Testament is so important in helping kids understand the full story of the gospel!
4 steps to help your kids understand how the Old Testament fits together:
1. Read and study Bible verses in context
I remember watching a popular Marvel superhero movie once with zero context about where it fit into the overall plot. Needless to say, I was very confused when the movie ended!
Sometimes we read the Bible in a similar way. If we open Scripture and begin reading a story without understanding the context, it can be very confusing. As you read the Bible with your kids, explain the verses or passages before and after what you’re studying. Ask questions like “who,” “what,” “when,” and “where” to understand why the story was written and what is happening. As we’ll see in a minute, the stories in the Bible aren’t meant to just make us better people. The stories are meant to point us to God, so look for Him in the context!
2. Show how each Bible story fits into the gospel story
The Bible is similar to a TV series or movie trilogy that uses a variety of places, characters, and events to tell one cohesive story. The big difference between the Bible and those examples is that the Bible story is TRUE. It is the most important thing you could ever read. The Bible is a library that contains sixty-six books that all tell one story of Jesus redeeming a sin-cursed planet and bringing it back into a relationship with its Creator. As you read the fascinating stories in the Old Testament with your kids, look for opportunities to point toward Jesus and the gospel on each page.
3. Make each story about God instead of the characters
We all love heroes, and it’s easy to read the Old Testament looking for human heroes to emulate. We try to find the champion of a story (like David, Joseph, or Daniel) and live our lives like them so our story works out like theirs. But there are a lot of problems that come with this. First, all of those characters were flawed humans. Second, the Bible isn’t about people. The point of each story in the Old Testament isn’t “Look at [David, Joseph, etc.].” The point of each story is “Look at God!”. As we read Scripture with our kids, it’s important for them to understand that God is the hero of the Bible. The whole book is about Him, and each story helps us know Him better so we can trust Him better.
4. Apply the gospel story rather than moralizing the Bible story
When we make the Bible about human heroes, the next logical step is to try to act like those heroes. We teach kids to “have faith like David so you can kill your giants” or “do right like Daniel so God will protect you.” While these applications have their place, they are not always true. Many times, these Old Testament moralizations fall short because God doesn’t deal with every situation the exact same way (compare Daniel in the lions’ den to Jeremiah in the pit). What if I have faith, but my problems don’t go away? What if I do right but still get persecuted? Is God no longer good? Furthermore, these moralizations fall short because they’re not the main focus of the Bible. Each Bible story demonstrates an attribute of God that relates to the gospel. As we read the Old Testament with our kids, it’s important to point them to a good God instead of just trying to make them good kids.
We’ve made this easy for you!
I’ll never forget being shocked when a teenager who had grown up in church asked me, “Who are the Jewish people?” That teenager knew all the Bible stories, but they didn’t know what the Bible was about. As your family studies God’s Word together, it’s so important that kids learn the story of the Bible instead of just Bible stories.
Teaching the Bible this way to your kids can be difficult, but there’s good news—we’ve made it easy for you! We created God’s Story: A Study Through the Old Testament for this very reason. We want families to learn what each book of the Old Testament is about and how each book tells the redemptive story of the gospel. We’re confident that studying this together can help your family become more grounded in your faith and more obedient to God’s work in your lives. Click the image below to find out more.
After receiving a master’s degree in Christian education, Mark had the opportunity to serve as both a children’s pastor and youth pastor during his first years in full-time ministry. He loves working with children and teens to make the Bible come alive and help them understand how its redemptive story can change everything about their lives. He also loves graphic design and photography and is passionate about using those skills to spread the gospel.