When I wrote about how to teach Bible study to a 4-year-old, some wise guy with a PhD – who happens also to be a good friend of mine – commented that the post was more about teaching the Bible than teaching Bible study. I think all that graduate school must have paid off, because he’s on to something.
It’s deceptively easy to hand out fish but hold back rods. Any effective ministry is in danger if it centers on the teacher. It centers on the teacher when the people keep coming back for food and don’t learn how to get it themselves. For this reason, Paul instructed leaders not only to teach but also “to equip the saints” (Eph 4:11-14).
So, although I don’t recant what I suggested in my earlier post, I would like to supplement it with further reflection on equipping the little ones to handle the word of truth rightly. These tips take the previous tips and merely make explicit what was implicit.
1. Build Familiarity with the Bible
I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it. We’ll never foster fat souls without increasing their biblical caloric intake. Children’s Bibles can help at times, but they must never replace God’s Knowable Word. Denying access to the Scripture itself is like serving Tofurkey for Thanksgiving. Worse, in fact; Tofurkey isn’t half bad.
By age 4, children are memorizing things like crazy. Why not give them useful stuff to memorize?
We ought to guide their journey through biblical history and wax eloquent about the many stops on the way to Jesus and beyond. Let’s also give them a map for the trip. “Today’s story is from the book of 1 Samuel. Let’s sing our Bible book song, and raise our hands when we get to 1 Samuel. ‘Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers…'”
2. Model Good Bible Study
At this age, one of the best gifts you can give your kids is the wealth of the gospel, not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction (1 Thess 1:5). Let your kids see the depth of the riches of God’s love as revealed in the Bible.
As you observe the text, interpret it for the children, and apply it to their lives, you give them something worth imitating (1 Thess 1:6). As they grow and can develop their skills at handling the word themselves, they’ll feel like it’s simply what they’ve been doing their entire lives.
3. Draw Attention to Key Principles
As you go, take time to highlight not only what you say but why you’re saying it.
Don’t just say, “be kind to your sister.” Say instead, “Listen, it says right in verse 32, ‘Be kind to one another.’ Did you hear that? What does God wants us to do to one another? We should always pay attention to what the Bible says” (Observation).
Don’t just say, “be kind to your sister.” Say instead, “When God says, ‘Be kind to one another,’ he wants you to think of your sister more than yourself. That’s what it means to be kind. We should always try to understand what the Bible means” (Interpretation).
Don’t just say, “be kind to your sister.” Say instead, “When is it hard to be kind to your sister? Do you want to keep all those toys to yourself? That will never work, will it? What did Jesus do for you? How can you be like Jesus toward your sister? We should change and make different choices because of what God says in his word” (Application).
Now, please go back and read my original tips, and consider how you can teach your 4-year-olds not only what the Bible says but also how to study it themselves.