Teaching Kids to Use Their Bibles (even before they can read)

Next to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, the most important thing we can give the kids who pass through our children’s ministries is an understanding of how to use their Bibles.  The Bible is critical to the continued spiritual development of kids. If there was any doubt, just read these verses where the Bible describes itself.

In my church, I work with Kindergarteners and First Graders every Sunday.  It’s a great age, but it does present some unique problems.  When it comes to using the Bible, the most pressing problems is that many of the kids in the room either don’t know how to read or are just learning how to read. That, however, is not an excuse for not teaching them how to use their Bibles.  So, what can you do with kids who can’t read to teach them how to use their Bibles.  I see three very important things that kids can learn at that age.

1. The Books of the Bible

There are 66 books of the Bible, and there is no reason your average kindergartener and first grader can’t learn them all.  In our classroom, we start with the Old Testament and introduce approximately five new books each week.  I don’t explain each book but do give the kids some broad classifications.  For example, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy were written primarily by Moses and are called the Books of the Law.  They tell the story of how the world was created, how God picked and protected his special family, and the rules God gave his people to live by.

Each week, after we review all the books learned to date, we introduce a new set of books and this use what I think is the single most valuable tool in teach kids that age the books of the Bible – music.  There are a ton of great books of the Bible songs.  Check out two of my favorites on YouTube: here and here

A search of You Tube will reveal several more in a number of different genres.  The one I have been using is closest to the first video above.  We are currently working through the Old Testament so we do the Old Testament song every week and throw in the New Testament song from time to time.  As the kids get more and more familiar with the books, I invite them to the front of the class to help out the other kids.

2. Finding Specific Scriptures in the Bible

The second things young children, even those who can not read, can do is find specific books, chapters, and verses in the Bible.  The key for kids at this age is to teach them how to use the table of contents.  Even if they can’t read, they can find the right book in the table of contents and get to the appropriate page.  You can also explain that the “big numbers” are chapters and the “little numbers” are verse numbers.  Here are some tips to help kids find specific verses:

  • Put the kids in groups of two.  They can help one another this way.  Anything larger tends to get unwieldy.
  • Write the book, chapter and/or verse you want them to find in large letter on a board at the front of the room.  That way the kids can constantly refer back to it.  Even if they can’t read, they will be able to find the book name you’ve written in the table of contents and go from there.
  • Have leaders ready to help children who are struggling.
  • Have teams stand as they find the verse.  As the kids get more proficient have those who finish early help the kids who are struggling.
  • Praise everyone for finding the verse.
  • Start by giving plenty of time for everyone to find the verse then move towards time limits to encourage kids to always grow stronger in their skills.

Each month we have a new memory verse which I have the kids look up.  I usually also have them find the chapter in the Bible where the story we covering that day is located.  As kids learn their books of the Bible, searching for specific scriptures will get quicker and quicker.

3. Start to Give them a Sense of the Chronology of the Bible

The Bible is one big story.  It is God’s story, and it is critical that we teach kids the chronology of the Bible.  In the younger elementary ages, I am not suggesting the lay out an extensive timeline of human history alongside a biblical timeline.  I am suggesting that you put every Bible story in its appropriate chronological context.  Last week, I taught the story Gideon.  I explained to the children that Gideon came during the period of the Judges which was after Joshua conquered Jericho and before Israel demanded a King and God gave them then Saul & David.  Continuing to do this with every story starts to pain the chronological picture for the kids.


Comments

  1. says

    I agree with you on pairing kids up. Having two kids reading the bible and learning together makes studying an active activity instead of a bible activity that a solo kid could pretend to be into. Pairing creates the expectation that your buddy is keeping up in the scripture, and vice-versa. Great idea.

  2. Heelen Setser says

    This came at just the right time. I am getting ready to teach
    Exploring God’s Word (by Bible Visuals) in children’s church and your ideas will be a great help. Thank you so much!

  3. Minnie Stark says

    Thank you for all the great info…it’s very important to me that children learn about salvation and how to live for Christ in this world of so many temptations and sorrows.
    The Lord Bless you all for your help..your seeds that you are sharing will be sow into fertile, new, fresh grounds…our kids
    Thank you

  4. says

    Wayne, an added thought – Have the end be the beginning of life with Christ in heaven – then as kids truly become a part of God’s family let them add themselves. (That is just a brainstorm idea – I haven’t done it) It could have some troubles – such as kids wanting their name on the timeline so they “say” the prayer to receive Christ when it isn’t the Holy Spirit drawing them.

  5. says

    Wanda,

    I really need to read your Sunday Plus curriculum. I feel like I know now even though I haven’t read it. :)

    I do love the idea of butcher block paper and letting the kids add things to the time line as they go. What a fun and creative way it would be to get them invested in understanding the chronology of the Bible! Thanks for sharing it.

  6. says

    Amen! I am trying to do this with the Sunday Plus Curriculum. Each week – even the non-readers come to their Discipleship group with THEIR Bible. The Discipler helps them find the scripture they are learning about that day.

    In one of our pilot church’s the kids were all given a Bible at the beginning of the year. They were all excited to have “real Bibles” – their term. One Sunday one of the first graders at the beginning of the adult service shouted out, “Look Mommy I can find the Old and New Testaments.” No adults minded :)

    On the chronology – I think it is good to have the kids draw a large time line on butcher paper. They could add the stories as they learn them if they are studying them chronological. The importance of the chronology is for them to see how God has a plan from the beginning and NOTHING can deter His plan. Each thing that happens has to do with His plan. That is even true in our individual lives.

    As usual, great post Wayne.

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