Life Theology

Telling Our Kids the Best Story (Part 1)

Series Index:

  1. Telling Our Kids the Best Story
  2. God Loves His Little Pharisees and Prodigals
  3. Give Them Jesus, Not Morality
  4. Interpreting Stories With the Best Story

Part 1 in a 4 part series. View series intro and index.

The whole Bible is about Jesus. I say that lot on this blog. Probably in every post, one way or another. I say it so much so that I wonder if people get bored. Oh yeah, here comes the Jesus card again. What could be more exciting than the preeminent and all-satisfying Treasure of the universe? The challenge, then, is to be creative and fresh in pointing to Christ while still remaining biblical. We don’t want to allegorize or make an unwarranted connection. This takes hard work, but it’s possible.

This is necessary, of course, for preaching, teaching, and writing blogs. But it is also vital for children’s education. In fact, if we want our children to embrace the gospel and be salt and light in the world, we must make Christ the sum and focus of all our instruction.

If you have been around the church for any amount of time, the running joke is that the Sunday school answer is always “Jesus” to any given question. Despite this, many children’s ministries and Christian parents forget that, in fact, Jesus is the final answer for the Bible stories and spiritual lessons we teach our children.

The average children’s curriculum at an evangelical church is filled with Old Testament character studies or Jesus’ parables. A particular passage is read or the story is paraphrased, only to end with a line on how to be nice or kind or not lie. The point is clear: be more moral because that is what God wants! When we do this, little separates God’s self-revelation from Aesop’s Fables.

The goal of raising children and instructing them is not get them to be more moral. Our children are monsters on the inside from conception. They don’t learn to sin. They come out of the womb primed and ready, and they cannot learn to not sin. Our children, like us, are broken mirrors that need to be put back together in order to reflect his image. This cannot happen unless Jesus, the true image of God, is seen and embraced as the only Redeemer.

For the most part, children’s devotions remove a particular story of the from its redemptive-historical setting. This simply means that two things are being neglected: 1) the story’s original place along the timeline of history in God’s dealings with Israel, and 2) how the story testifies to the person and work of Jesus Christ, who is the fulfillment of all God’s dealings with Israel. You might respond, “Kids can’t understand this ‘theology’! But they can understand they aren’t supposed to lie!” I disagree. Kids are captivated by good stories, and good theology tells the best story.

When we reduce our gospel story to a moral lesson we are not helping our kids. That will only make them self-righteous little Pharisees. Even Jesus condemned the Pharisees for reading the Old Testament to find rules to follow (John 5:29; Matt. 23:1-39). Wouldn’t it be so much more glorious to tell our kids how the Bible is really one story with one Hero who has done for us all the things we are incapable of accomplishing for ourselves?