5 Tips for Teaching Kids Using the Real Bible

In my large group teaching I don’t usually have kids follow the lesson along in their Bible. That’s because we have a broadly graded program that includes many preliterate readers. Usually I’ll just read it aloud or have older kids read the verse for the group. Then any supporting texts I’ll display on PowerPoint or a marker board.

So, when the Go Fish VBS called for kids to actually use their Bibles I was not really prepared. It’s a big change in learning environment and will take some adaptation. After a little practice our kids found the routine, but here are a few things I learned along the way.

1. Make sure you have extra Bibles on hand. No matter what prize you offer some children will forget to bring their Bible. We even had several kids bringing story book Bibles. Having loaners on hand ensures no child is left out.

2. Encourage a standard translation as much as possible. This can be a challenge when kids bring their Bibles from home and it can be a real shock for some kids to see different things. Be ready for some questions! Most of our kids come with the NIV, which is fine because we have a stack of extras that match in the children’s department. Above all make sure the leader’s Bible and posters match your emphasized translation.

3. Allow time and assistance for locating each Bible reference. After announcing the verse let the children work to find it and then help one another as needed. Once everyone has the spot they should raise their hand to show they are ready.

4. Invite the strong readers to read the text aloud. Even on longer passages I call on several readers so that no one reads more than a few consecutive verses. I will include less confident readers, but only when I’m certain they can handle the verse. Be ready with quick pronunciation help for unfamiliar words.

5. Alternate short readings with explanation and question. Be ready to paraphrase and restate the meaning of the verse. Then use questions to immediately test comprehension. Often I will ask and answer the questions without waiting for volunteers to answer. Sometimes I will ask teasing type questions or silly statements and allow the children to correct what I said.

I’d love to hear your feedback on these tips, especially if you teach a large group of kids with open Bibles. Just leave a comment below.


  1. says

    Your teaching style is similar to mine, at our church we always encourage use of the Bible in every service, so they woul understand that the Bible teaches everything that is to be known.
    It’s the greatest love story ever written.

  2. Cathy Carrion says

    Amen! We gotta get them into the “real Bible.” We started emphasising it over a year ago and it is a great idea, though, true, sometimes there is some waiting while they look. But it ups the value of the Bible in the sight of the kids. There is too much paraphasing going on these days.

  3. Linda says

    I use to work with kindergarten kids and I found that they loved to correct me. They had so much fun. We would say the alphabet, colors or count and I’d get one out of order or wrong and they would jump right in to correct me and they thought it was great. It showed me they were paying attention. It’s a great tool.

  4. says


    Great suggestions. Another thought – actually this came from Katie Wetherbee – have the kids follow in the Bible word by word with their fingers. It helps those who are slower readers. Even beginner readers can follow along if you read slow enough.

  5. says

    Robin – I love this suggestion. Especially when dealing with time restraints this would help things move quicker. Thanks.

  6. Sabine says

    This is exactly what I do. I have one of the older kids come to the front with me and show the Table of Contents. Then I tell the children what verse to look up. In my ministry, naturally, the older kids gravitate to the younger ones to help, so unplaned, “my” kids established “Bible Buddies”. :-)

  7. B Chin says

    Thank you very much for providing so many wonderful ideas to teach in Sunday school. I have been a teacher in Sunday school for the pass 18 years and I really thank God for the opportunities to share our lives with little children. I find the book of Proverbs is the best book to use to inpart living skills and wisdom to children. And I can see the changes God has made in the lives of these young children. So I greatly encourage all Sunday school teachers start using this book.

  8. says

    This is such a great idea that I am going to start using it this week! I believe kids would use their bibles more if they weren’t so intimidated about learning where everything is. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Julie says

    I pre-print the verses from the lesson and cut them into strips. I hand the strips out the kids who will be reading them aloud. They look that verse up and then use the strip as a bookmark. Some kids struggle to find the verse, so if we run low on time, they still have the written word on the strip to read and look up later.

  10. Cassandra says

    We use The Book (NLT) for our Sunday School. We find the language easier for the kids to understand.

    I always teach how to find Psalms (open to the center of the Bible) and New Testament (after finding Psalms, open to the center of the right hand side of the Bible). I have found this little exercise easy to use with all ages.

  11. Robin Abegg says

    We are currently using a curriculum that is teaching the kids to use their Bibles and one of the suggestions I took was a 4 color ribbon book mark. Red – this one always stays at the table of content, then, Yellow at Genesis – Green at Psalms and Blue at the beginning of the New Testament. It has helped kids find passages easier. I always write the scriptures I’ll be using on the board with the color of ribbon they need to move. It has helped the kids know how to find passages easier – now we’re doing ‘sword drills’ So exciting to see kids excited as they are learning!

  12. Kurt Boemler says

    For young or weak readers, I suggest the Contemporary English Version which is written at a third grade level. It is not a translation I’d recommend for serious scholarly work, but it can introduce children to the Bible in a way that is not frustrating. The NIV is good for reading levels of 6th grade and up; the NRSV, ESV, and NASB are at a 12th grade level.

  13. Scott says

    Great tips, Tony. It’s so important for kids to use (and see us use) the Bible at church.

  14. says

    I lead a large group with about 100 kids age 4-11. I encourage all kids, even non-readers, to bring a Bible (preferably NIV) with them every week. Some weeks I just have kids raise to find a couple of verses and other weeks I’ll ask all the kids to find the passage- with some cues from the front about how to find the verse, and small group leaders around to help. I’ll have volunteers read verses, or we’ll all read together from the screen. On those weeks I’m generally teaching more expositionally through the passage, where we’ll discuss one verse or part of the verse and I’ll ask questions as we go through the passage.

    In the last year or so of teaching this way the majority of our kids have learned the books of the Bible and they’re all getting faster at finding verses and seem to be developing in their skills for individual Bible study and comprehension.

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