What is one simple Bible passage/story/parable that has produced good conversation for kids, two to six years old? I love this question, and there was lots of great examples, and we could go through the whole list.
But I wanted to level-up from this particular question, which is one passage, to basically, one way to think about how to engage young children in the Bible is to train them using the gospels.
You could start with something… Probably the gospel that’s the most simple for children and has the most action in it, versus maybe long teaching passages and stuff, is the Gospel of Mark. And so for a lot of people, I say, “Hey, you can go through the Gospel of Mark with your kids.”
And if you think about what our mission is as believers, as disciples. Jesus says in Matthew 28 that we are to teach the disciples we’re making to obey everything that he has commanded. So the basic mandate of discipleship is to walk through the gospels and teach disciples to obey all of the things that Jesus commanded, which are couched primarily in stories.
Some people have taken Matthew 28, that mandate, to teach obedience to the commands of Jesus and have broken down the gospels into these 30 commands, which is helpful. But I don’t think it’s as helpful as going through the gospels, because that is the reason why the gospels were written. They were written to help us make disciples. They are our disciple-making manuals, and they’re really good, and they’re really good for kids.
And so what you can do is just take very short snippets, one little story from the gospels, and you can read it, you can have your kids read it. A lot of times the pattern that we’ll use is we might read it to our kids, and if they’re really little, maybe have them act it out. We can read it a couple of times in a couple different versions. We can just talk about one little insight or one little thing that stood out to them. And they’re just getting familiar with the character and the person of Jesus; what he was like, the compassion he had for people, what kinds of things frustrated him, what kinds of things pleased him. And the gospels are so good at this, whether it’s a parable or a little story about the life of Jesus, they can really inspire a lot of great conversations.
So it doesn’t have to be super complicated. You don’t need necessarily some giant curriculum. That’s not bad, but the Bible has the curriculum about how to train disciples in the Way of Jesus, and they are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
And so that’s something that we’ve really focused in on a lot when we’ve been trying to train kids at this age.
But Jeff, what do you think about the gospels and how that works?
Well, I feel like too, one thing is I like how we turned it. There’s not just certain ones, but the gospels are a good start because of stories.
But I would say just create an environment where you just saturate the kids with Scripture, and do it in short… That doesn’t mean they need to always go long treatises or whatever. But just open up the Scriptures, read them, talk about them and make it really fun. Ask funny questions, ask fun questions, ask provocative questions; what do you think it was like? What do you think he ate that day? What do you think he did?
Just try to… How do I say this? A better thing at the toddler age, I think, is just to get them very familiar with the text in a subtle way, and also surrounding them with the world of it, if that makes sense. It’s more like you’re normalizing it for then when you actually, I think, are doing a little bit heavier lifting a little later.
And so I think that philosophy tends to help, of just there’s no pressure on it either. Just open it and start talking, ask funny questions, good questions, hard questions.