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

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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.

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.

2 thoughts on “Teaching Kids to Use Their Bibles (even before they can read)”

  1. Hi! Thank you so much for all you do on this website. I refer to it now and then, and know I can trust your material.
    I have a question. In this article, you mentioned YouTube links to your favorites for teaching kids the books of the Bible. There were no links, and you didn’t describe them in any way, so when I searched, there were so many! I wonder if you could communicate with me the specifics.
    I also teach ages 4-8 (a big age range, presenting its own challenges!), and am looking for ways to enrich my class. I hope you’ll see my inquiry.
    Thank you again!
    ~Mrs. Johnson
    Chinook Baptist Church

  2. Thanks for letting me know. The links were broken but updated now – we appreciate you letting us know.

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