One of the members at my church recently asked me if I knew of any good books for young children who were asking questions about spiritual matters. There is a plethora of books and curriculum geared towards older children, but it can be difficult to find foundational materials that invest in younger children. A series with which I have been particularly impressed that is intended for ages four to seven is Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers, which was written and illustrated by one of my good friends, Joey Allen. He states the purpose of his series when he relates the following:
“The Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers series was born out of the conviction that children need to be exposed to systematic theology from an early age. Moses instructed the people of Israel, ‘Impress (God’s commandments) on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up,’ (Deuteronomy 6:7). A foundation in theology enables our children to relate properly to God and His world.”
In his series, Allen takes theological concepts and breaks them down into bite-size pieces for his young audience. The Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers series consists of four books: The Trinity, The Scripture, The Mission, and The Gospel. Each book begins with “A Word to Parents and Teachers” where Allen explains the importance of the subject, as well as describes how this topic can impact young children. Allen’s pictures capture the attention of his young audience. Throughout the pages of his books, Allen has Scripture in parentheses so that one can have a Scriptural basis for the truths he is presenting.
In The Trinity, readers get to meet Angel and hear how she describes God’s attributes, followed by her relating the concept of the Trinity. She states, “The Trinity cannot be completely explained because God is not like anything in the world. God is greater than we can ever imagine. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit live united as one God. The Trinity teaches us how to live in unity with different people.” From here Allen wraps his message in the Gospel and presents each person of the Trinity in relation to the work of salvation.
The Scripture is presented by little Gabe who walks his readers through why the Bible is important. He begins by discussing how terrible it would be if God never spoke to us or told us how to live. Gabe cheerfully announces that God has spoken to us through the inspired words of the Bible. He takes us on a journey of the Old Testament and relates that it points us toward God’s Son Jesus. Gabe then turns to the importance of the New Testament and how it explains Jesus’ life and how we can follow Him. Allen then goes on to illustrate how the Bible can apply to a child’s life today.
In The Mission, Allen introduces the readers to Mikey who will tell them about the importance of spreading God’s love. Allen explains the Gospel message in simple terms that children can understand. He then turns to the importance of telling other people this Good News and writes on ways they can share with others and encourage missionaries.
The Gospel is presented by Gracie, who wants to share the best news with the readers. Allen explains the gospel message to his tiny readers and includes examples to which they can relate, such as when Gracie states, “When you ride in an airplane, you don’t need to flap your arms or jump up and down. You cannot help the airplane fly. All you need to do is trust the airplane to get you where you need to go. In the same way, there is nothing you can do to get to heaven on your own. You cannot save yourself. All you need to do is trust Jesus to take you to heaven.”
Allen’s series Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers is a great resource to have for sharing with young children the importance of God’s Word and the message of the Gospel. His passion for reaching young children with the Gospel is evident throughout his four books.
You can buy these books at WTSbooks.com for a great price and even download a PDF preview.
Bonus Interview with Joey Allen
Back in May 2006, Tony interviewed Joey over email. Here is a copy of those remarks. Enjoy
Can you tell me how you came to Christ?
While I was still in the womb, my parents were telling me the gospel message. They had both become Christians in high school and wanted me to come to faith in Christ as early as possible. I knew that I was a sinner and deserved to be punished. I believed in Jesus when I was a little boy. I knew my parents loved me and wouldn’t lie to me about something as important as that. As I grew up, I began to be enticed by the world, but after my junior year of high school, I went to the Philippines on a short-term missions trip. It was on that trip that the Lord did a work in my heart and opened my eyes to see how life altering the gospel truly is. Since that trip, it has been my heart-felt desire to direct other people into a personal relationship with Almighty God through God the Son, Jesus Christ.
Were there people in your life that encouraged you to use your talents as an artist to glorify God?
Yes. My parents recognized my talent for drawing and encouraged me to study art in college. I earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Georgia. Many of my professors there pushed me to improve. They exposed me to sculpture and other art mediums.
When I was in college, I felt called into ministry, so studying art didn’t make a lot of sense to me. I had no idea how God would use it in the future. But it was not a waste. Besides the children’s books, I currently support my family by using my skills in graphic design.
How did you first become interested in writing Theology books for children?
My second semester at Dallas Theological Seminary, I took a class called “Trinitarianism” from Dr. Scott Horrell. One of the assignments was a creative project. We could do anything from a poem to a painting. I decided to do a children’s book on the Trinity. Thanks to the direction of another professor, Dr. Reg Grant, a publisher showed interest in the book and partnered with me to published the Big Thoughts series.
Who are the major figures that have shaped your theology?
My parents and the Bible had the biggest impact on my belief in and understanding of God. Besides them, I have been influenced my professors, especially Dr. Jeffrey Bingham. Authors who have influenced me include A. W. Tozer, Jim Elliot, J. I. Packer, John Piper, Blaise Pascal, Plato, and C. S. Lewis, among others.
How has your experience as a missionary influence your children’s books?
Our concept of God has a direct bearing on how we live. The story is told of a woman weeping at the door of her hut while her husband goes to the temple to consort with temple prostitutes. Later, the women is weeping at the door of her hut while her husband takes their only son to the temple to sacrifice him to his gods. The woman’s makes an insightful comment, “If he had a different god, he would be a different man.” The woman is exactly right. How we think about God is not an idea floating disconnected from everything else, but a highly practical doctrine that influences our daily lives. People all over the world are living out the ramifications of their views of God. Not only that, but people all over the world are living disconnected from God. Since God is the creator, he is the source of life. A life disconnected from God inevitably leads toward death. That’s what makes the gospel so essential. The gospel is God’s plan for getting us reconnected with him, the source of life.
The gospel is a revolutionary message! I have witnessed its power to change individual lives and as a result, impact collective societies. I have experienced the thrill of sharing the gospel message with people and seeing them experience freedom from fear of demons and fear of condemnation, and the joy of knowing the God is their Father and the joy of knowing that they have a home in heaven. I’ve never experienced anything so wonderful as directing another person toward faith in Christ.
How would you like to see this type book used?
I would love to see the books used to lead children to faith in Christ. I would love for children to receive a solid biblical and theological foundation that guides them the rest of their lives. I would love for children to avoid cults as a result of reading these books. I would love for the books to lead children to become fervent worshippers of God.
I would also love it if parents and teachers benefit from reading the books. If parents and teachers find a way to teach that there is one God who exists as three persons without comparing God to an egg, I will be very pleased. I hope the Scripture references on each page help, as well.
Do you have any other writing project on the horizon?
I am in dialogue with Evantell concerning a gospel tract project for kids. I also have plans to write and illustrate another book on the doctrine of God for an older audience (8-12 year olds).
What are your plans after you finish your degree at Dallas Theological Seminary?
My wife and I hope to serve in the 10/40 window sharing the gospel, organizing new believers into communities, and being involved in their discipleship process. We would be grateful for your prayers as we seek the Lord’s direction.