How do we tell Bible stories without giving kids the false impression that the stories are as imaginary as other stories they are familiar with? How do we convey to them that the men and women in the Bible are not imaginary super-heroes?
When teaching, we have always taken time to state clearly that we believe the Bible story we are about to tell really did happen. We also took time in our curriculum/schedule to teach the reason why we know the Bible is true; why we can be sure that it is God’s message to us and not just the thoughts of men. This need not be tedious or dry and it can be done as a “spot” in the class/meeting over a number of weeks.
Here are a few more thoughts.
1. We should always preface the lesson by saying “We know this really happened, because it is in the Bible and the Bible is true” (unless you are teaching a parable and then you can say, “This is a story that Jesus told .”
2. We should use our imagination in recounting a Bible story, to dramatize it and make it relevant to the lives of our children. But we need to preface the “imagined” details with something like: “We can well imagine that ……” or, “We can’t be sure what happened then, but I expect……”.
3. When telling a fictional story we should always say that it is “pretend” or “made-up” or “imagined”. There is no harm in telling such a story to illustrate a Bible truth. But after we have finished, we must be sure to add something like: “Well, that story about X and Y was a pretend one, but there is something in it that is absolutely true!” And then re-emphasise the biblical theme that the story illustrated.
4. We need to make it clear that miracles are not magic, nor are they illusions like entertainers can do. They are the power of God at work – real answers to real problems in real lives.
5. We can use elements of our own personal story, or that of a helper, or someone else the kids know, to illustrate the lesson. Doing that anchors the truth to real-life and shows that what “worked” for the Bible people “works” for us. It shows that we have trusted in the Bible as God’s message and guide for us and proved it to be true.
7. Point out the flaws in the character and actions of the people in the Bible lesson. That is proof that this book is inspired by the God who sees all, and not a make-believe story about super-heroes.
8. If we have a Bible prominently displayed, and if we handle it carefully and reverently, the kids will pick up that this is a very special book, not like any ordinary story book.
9. If we continually live out in our own lives the truths that we are teaching, that adds credibility to what we are teaching from the Bible.
In all these varied ways we will build up an attitude in our children of reverence and trust in God’s Word.