While Tim, a soon-to-be third grader, was helping me straighten classrooms one day, he suddenly asked, "When will we get our Bibles?"
"The first Sunday in September," I answered.
"What kind are we getting?" he asked.
"What do you mean?" I responded.
"Are we getting the big ones with pictures or the red holy ones?”
That conversation enlightened me in several ways. I realized that the children who receive Bibles look forward to receiving them. I also realized that children form impressions of the Bibles they receive based on appearance. And I realized how important it is to help our children know how to use their Bibles.
What Do We Give?
A common question is what Bibles do we give children? For Tim, the red-covered Bibles seemed more "holy" or important. However, the large Bibles were much easier for the children to read.
In selecting a Bible to give, ask these questions:
1. What translation of the Bible is most used in the curriculum? If children are reading Scripture in class, then it is less confusing to also be reading from the same translation in their personal Bibles.
2. What translation of the Bible is most understandable by children? As adults, we may have used many translations. Each may be meaningful for us in different translations. Maybe you are like me, I didn't begin learning to use my Bible by using several translations. I grew in the ability to use different translations for different times. As children grow, they will learn to use a variety of translations, but it is much easier to begin with one.
3. Is what we are considering a translation or a paraphrase? A translation of the Bible is done when scholars go back to the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts and to the best of their ability translate the words into other languages. A paraphrase is made by starting with a translation and changing the words to update them into current language. The translation will much more accurate.
4. What Bibles do we already have in our classroom? It can be expensive to change from one translation to another. Children may forget their Bibles. If we have classroom Bibles of same translation, the children can more easily keep increasing their Bible skills. My church decided to change slowly, starting in the classroom with children who would receive their Bibles that fall. We are a small congregation, and this makes it easier for us to manage financially. And it helps those children who are new at reading the Bible.
How Do We Teach Bible Skills?
Do you remember what it was like to be new at reading the Bible? For me, that's more than a few years in the past. As a teacher, you may be aware of the many questions children have when they first begin using a Bible. Some of those ques-tions you've probably heard are
• "What are the big and little numbers for?"
• "What do you mean when you say Old Testament and New Testament?"
• "How can I find what you're asking me to find? I don't understand this book!"
Learning to use the Bible is as important a skill as learning verses and stories from the Bible. As children learn how to use their Bibles, they will be more likely to read and study at home. They will be more likely to volunteer to read in class. They will be more willing to read in worship. We give children a lifelong skill when we teach them how to use their Bibles. We start them on a personal journey of study and reading, learning God's message to Bible people and to us today.
It's important to make time for children to explore their Bibles and build Bible skills.
Consider the following:
Take the first four weeks of the fall to concentrate on building Bible skills. Use the curriculum, but make sure your plans include three or four activities each week to help children increase their knowledge of how to use the Bible. Ideas include
• Asking parents to help children remember to bring their Bibles each week.
• Starting your story time with everyone finding the Bible verse and story in his or her Bible.
• Choosing to use all activities in the curriculum that build Bible skills.
•Setting up a "Getting to Know Your Bible" table with games for finding Scripture verses, different books in the Bible, maps, the index, and other special features in the children's Bibles.
•Invite another adult to come and share his or her favorite Bible story. The person could tell why the Bible is important to him or her.
•Set up special "using your Bible sessions" for four weeks, one afternoon each week. If you have children's ministries during the week, add time before or after for the sessions.
•Have an after-church Bible skills afternoon at the church. Eat lunch together, then spend one to two hours playing Bible games, looking up passages in the Bible, and discovering all the special features in the children's Bibles.
•Plan an overnight retreat, start on Friday evening. Include Bible skills activities, food, and fellow-ship. Sleep over at the church or a nearby camp.
Invite youth or adults to help children gain Bible skills, have them plan some games and activities that will help the children learn more about their Bibles. Make sure the youth or adults bring their own Bibles and ask them to share why reading the Bible is important to them.
Starting a Lifelong Practice
We have the perfect opportunity to start children on a lifelong practice of reading and studying the Bible. They are eager and ready when they first receive their new Bibles.
By intentionally using Bibles in all areas of your children’s ministries, you will emphasize the importance of lifelong study and Christian growth.