Wondering how to teach Bible stories?
You have volunteered to teach Children’s Church this Sunday. Now what do you do? Find a craft? Choose a snack? Grab a Bible coloring book?
Or perhaps you teach the 4 year old Sunday School class and it has become boring, even to you? Or do you teach the 5th graders and it’s the “same old, same old” stories?
The coolest thing about the Bible, besides the fact that is was written by the God of the universe, is that it is the Living Word. It’s ALIVE and ACTIVE! Don’t you want these kids, who you see on a regular basis, to have a love of the scriptures? I do.
Over the last 20 years I have learned how to teach the Bible stories to kids. I’ve practiced and become better at it. And I still want to improve. Why? Because I don’t want them to just “know Bible stories.” I want these kids to see God’s Truth and character through the people He has chosen to interact with over the years to bring about His plan and purposes.
Here are my tips on how to teach Bible stories so children will gain heart knowledge and not just head knowledge.
Tip 1: Pray
Before each lesson I want to remember to pray for the kids who will be listening and for the Holy Spirit to speak through me. I try to confess sins and make sure that my heart is clean. I want so much for God to be in charge and not myself. (For more on this, please read How is a Master Teach Recognized?)
Tip 2: Read the scripture
Once you have chosen the Bible story you want to teach, go to the source. Read it once. Then read it again. You might need to pull out a commentary or get on the internet to learn more. Answer the questions Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? The more you know, the more you’ll be able to add little details to the story. Know the story. For example: Noah did not just take two of every kind of animal onto the ark. Another example: The magi were not present at the stable when baby Jesus was born. Amaze the kids with scripture. Point out how the world can slip in inconsistencies and error if we do not know God’s Word.
Tip 3: Be excited!
Enthusiasm is contagious. Why should a child listen to you if you don’t like the story you are telling? YOU GET to teach these children the word of God. THAT is one of the most exciting things you can ever do. YOU GET to be a catalyst for change in a young person’s life. If you aren’t excited about God, then there is no way the kids will see how wonderful and awesome He is through you.
Tip 4: Incorporate all of the senses
Back to the example of Jesus’ birth: think a minute about that experience. What smells would Mary and Joseph have smelled? What would they have heard? Were they hungry? What food would they have tasted? How dirty was the stable or cave? The more “real” you can make the story experience, the better. One of my favorite lessons is the last supper when I bring in the different foods Jesus would have eaten. I tell the story and we experience the food and the order of “service” as Jesus and His disciples might have. That becomes a very powerful story.
Tip 5: Remember kids learn in different ways
Research has shown that kids learn in three main ways: through visual, auditory, or physical experiences. While you don’t have to use each strategy for each lesson, it is good to use as many as you can. I tell stories (auditory), use hand motions (physical), and posters (visual). I also teach theology through hymns (auditory) and use object lessons (visual). Be creative! I don’t use all of these every time I teach, but I try to let the story lead me to my presentation.
Tip 6: Be repetitive
When I was teaching through the book of Acts last year I kept running into stories where just a few Jews would cause terrible trouble for Paul. I started using my hand and cupping it like I was holding something in it and I would say, “A handful of Jews.” And any time “a handful of Jews” did something I would do this motion and say the words. It got to the point that all I had to do was begin to lift my hand and the kids would roll their eyes and say, “A handful of Jews!” with such feeling and emotion! They knew what white washed tombs those Jewish leaders were by the time we finished the book of Acts. Scripture is filled with themes. Find the theme you want to teach and repeat, repeat, repeat!
Tip 7: Use a personal example for the life lesson you want to teach
Be authentic. Children know when grown-ups are being fake with them, so don’t try to be something you aren’t. If you are teaching a lesson on salvation, tell the kids how you were saved. If you are teaching on selfishness, tell the kids a story about when you had to learn about selfishness. Use the broken times in your life to show how you responded to God. You don’t know which kid needs to hear how you handled dealing with a back biting friend, or when you broke a window with a baseball.
Tip 8: Leave the kids wanting MORE!
Cliff hangers are wonderful things! And because so much of the Bible is chronological, it’s simple to do. All you have to do at the end of your story is to say something like…”And next time we’ll find out what happened when Jacob met his brother Esau after 20 years...” Oh the groans you will hear!!
Bible Teacher, prepare, but let God take over and work in the hearts of the kids. A main Truth I have learned is that I can’t change the hearts of kids. Only GOD can do that. But what you can do is make sure that you are as prepared and prayed up as much as possible. Make sure you know how to counsel a child to salvation. For God is in the salvation business, and we should be as well.