Teaching the Bible to kids as one continuous story will help build their Biblical literacy, give them a more authentic view of God, prevent taking Scripture out of context, and provide a richer appreciation for the Gospel. How do you do it? Here are a few ways to teach the Bible as one continuous story to your kids.
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I grew up in a Christian home (thank you, Mom & Dad!), accepted Christ as my Savior at a young age, and have been going to church nearly every Sunday (and most Wednesdays) of my life. So, I’m no stranger to the Bible.
In my own private Bible reading, however, a funny thing happened – over the years, I developed a strong tendency to “hang out” in the New Testament. It was like a favorite meal + dessert, whereas most of the Old Testament was like the celery of the Bible – something you eat because you know it’s good for you, but you don’t actually enjoy. (This metaphor doesn’t work well with my kids, however, as they go wild over celery, the little weirdos.)
Other than the classic favorite stories, like Joseph’s rise to power, David’s defeat over Goliath, and Daniel’s protection in the lions’ den, I rather avoided the Old Testament. I was uncomfortable with the angry, vengeful, scary God I thought I saw there. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t much care for “the God of the Old Testament.” I was so much more drawn to “the God of the New.”
That all changed – completely and irrevocably – when I read through the Bible in 2020. I’d read through the Bible once before, but for some reason (likely a mix of more experience/knowledge + a humble, teachable heart + the help of The Bible Recap) this time was radically different. I walked away with a completely different view of God. He was no longer the harsh, ruthless God I thought He was — instead, I saw how incredibly patient, loving, and quick to forgive He was.
After that experience, it became imperative to me that my kids know the overarching narrative of the Bible. That they know it’s not a bunch of random, disconnected stories, but rather one continuous story of God’s love and faithfulness. That they know “the God of the Old Testament” is exactly the same as “the God of the New Testament.” Which means he’s exactly the same as the God of today.
To that end, you can read about the ways I’m teaching my kids the Bible as one continuous story, and how you can do the same, as well.
Why Is It Important to Teach the Bible as a Continuous Story?
Why is it such a big deal to know that the Bible is one continuous story? Here are a few important reasons:
- It gives a fuller, more accurate picture of God. As I mentioned above, when you’re able to see the Bible as a whole, you stop thinking of Him as “the God of the Old Testament” vs. “the God of the New.” There is no difference; He’s the same God. You also no longer see only His justice or only His love. Rather, you see how all of His attributes have been at work and on display from before the beginning of time.
- It helps us understand what the Bible is and is for. When we have a big picture view of the Bible, we understand that it is not primarily a story about us (as many of us have a tendency to think), but rather the story of God towards us.
- It helps prevent taking stories and Scripture out of context. Teaching the Bible as a collection of disconnected stories increases the likelihood of misinterpreting and/or misapplying their intended messages. Teaching them in their proper context, on the other hand, helps prevent cherry-picking and promotes Biblical literacy.
- It inspires a richer appreciation of the Gospel. Many of us are naturally drawn to the New Testament and its salvation message. However, without the background and context of the Old Testament, we can’t get a full appreciation for the Gospel. When we teach our kids the Gospel in light of the overarching narrative of the Bible, we give them a richer understanding of what it means and why it’s such an amazing gift.
Recommended Resource: How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth
How to Teach the Bible As One Continuous Story
Teaching the Bible to kids as one continuous story will help build their Biblical literacy, give them a more authentic view of God, prevent taking Scripture out of context, and provide a richer appreciation for the Gospel. How do you do it, though? Here are a few ways to teach the Bible as one continuous story to your kids.
1. Learn It That Way, Yourself
As I often say, we can’t teach our kids what we don’t know, ourselves. (If not impossible, it’s extremely difficult, at best.) Therefore, if we want to teach the Bible as one continuous story to our kids, we need to learn it that way, first.
If you’ve never read through the entire Bible chronologically, I URGE you to do so! No matter how long you’ve been a Christian, been in church, or even been reading your Bible, you will see things in a whole new way once you’ve read through it all. See the section above for a few of the ways it will change the way to see God and His Word.
If you’ve tried to read through the Bible in the past and gotten stuck, lost, confused, or discouraged, I highly recommend The Bible Recap (the podcast or the book, as both are great). It will clarify sticky spots that may have confused you, explain events that sound bizarre to our modern Western ears, and highlight how God was at work through it all.
Another resource you might find helpful is Angie Smith’s book Woven: Understanding the Bible as One Seamless Story or her corresponding Bible study, Seamless. Both walk readers through the entire Bible, showing how all the threads of Scripture weave together into one big tapestry. (As informative as these resources are, however, I still strongly encourage you to read through the Bible yourself at some point!)
Related Post: My Favorite Bible Study Tools
2. Start With The Jesus Storybook Bible
For little ones, something like The Jesus Storybook Bible – which “tells that wonderful Story beneath all the stories in the Bible… how God loves his children and comes to rescue them” – is a great way to introduce them to the overarching narrative of the Bible. Rather than retelling each individual story as a stand-alone account, as most storybook Bibles do, these Bibles tie everything together, showing how each individual story is actually part of one big continuous Story.
3. Read Through the Bible Together
Once your kids are old enough, read through the Bible together. In contrast to fragmented readings (a story here and a story there), reading through the Bible from start to finish will help them see the big picture and give context to familiar stories in the grand scheme of God’s plan for us.
A few tips for this:
- Read chronologically, or at least in an order that shows the progression of events. The Old Testament narrative books are pretty easy for this, but the prophets get a little tricky.
- Start each new book of the Bible with an introduction. Tell your kids who wrote it, when they wrote it, where they wrote it, and why they wrote it. Don’t worry if you don’t know – a Bible handbook can tell you all of these things and more!
- You don’t need to read every word. Depending on the ages and attention spans of your kids, feel free to skip over lists of names, long descriptions, and grisly scenes (Judges 19-21, I’m looking at you). Don’t miss the forest for the trees – the point isn’t to read every single word, but rather to give form and features to the Big Picture Story.
4. Get a Bible Timeline
Even after reading through the Bible, it can be difficult to keep everything straight. A Bible timeline, then, can be incredibly useful for visualizing the sequence of events. Here’s a great one for kids, and I just love this Bible timeline puzzle from Tiny Theologians!
Again, the point isn’t to memorize all the details and be able to recite every name, date, and location. But giving our kids a better understanding of the timeline of Biblical events will help them see the Bible as one continuous story.
5. Connect the Old and New Testaments
Talk to your kids about the flawed feelings that arise about the Old Testament and how/why it gets a bad rap sometimes. Explain that some people think of God as angry and vengeful in the Old Testament, and then discuss how reading through the Bible shows this to be untrue. As you read through the Old Testament together, point out how patient and slow to anger he is with the Israelites, and how quickly (and repeatedly!) He forgives and welcomes them back.
Explain why we, as New Testament believers, should continue to read and study the Old Testament. As you read the New Testament, try to relate as much as possible back to the Old. Doing this will give your kids an even better understanding of who Jesus was, why he died for us, and what that means for us today.
Related Post: How to Talk to Your Kids About Easter
6. Come Back To It Often
As you discuss what you’re reading and learning from the Bible, keep pointing back to the overarching Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation narrative (a common framework for describing the “Big Story” of the Bible). Show where your readings fall in the timeline. Consider each event in light of God’s overall plan, and talk about how you can see His love for His people.
At some point, talk about where we fall in the overarching story of the Bible, as well. (Helpful Hint: it’s between redemption – Jesus’ death and resurrection – and consummation – his Second Coming.) Discuss how knowing our place in God’s story affects how we live our lives.
SHARE WITH US: What do you think about this idea of teaching the Bible to your kids as one continuous story? Do you agree that it’s important, and was this helpful to you in doing so? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:
- 7 Ways to Disciple Your Kids at Home
- How I Read the Bible to My Kids (to Teach Biblical Literacy)
- My Favorite Bible Study Tools
- How to Make a Family Discipleship Plan
- 10 Perfect Gifts for Building Kids’ Faith
- 5 Powerful Ways to Nurture Your Kids’ Faith