Read an Excerpt
Teaching Children Bible Basics
34 lessons that help children learn to use the Bible
By Barbara Bruce
Abingdon PressCopyright © 1999 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
In the beginning
Focus: In the beginning
Scripture: John 1:1
Connections: Students will experience counting the books of the Bible, discovering that the Bible is divided into two parts, and how the Bible came to be.
Materials Needed: 66 books (large/small/thick/thin/hymnal, etc.) arranged on a table that is easy for students to access, each student's Bible, newsprint/marker or chalkboard/chalk, parent signature slips.
1. Opening: Share names, grades, schools attended, and favorite subject. Invite students to get to know each other's names and other helpful information. Say: What is the Bible? Invite discussion and record answers.
2. Invite students to count together the books that are arranged on the table. One child can point while the others count. Then ask them to open their Bibles to the table of contents and count the number of books listed. Share with students the fact that each of the books tells a special story of God's people. Some of the books are poetry, songs (psalms), or laws, and some are letters; but all of the books give us information that helps us to know God.
3. Refer again to the table of contents. Ask students to discover the two main parts of the Bible. Look for the word testament— ask if anyone knows the meaning of "testament." Explain that "testament" means a covenant or promise between God and humans. The Old Testament tells us about how God created the world and the early stories of God and God's people. We will be learning about some important people who played a great part in who we are as God's children. Also, the New Testament is about Jesus' life and his teachings. Ask if any of them have friends who are Jewish. Explain that Jewish people refer to the first part of the Bible as the Hebrew Bible, rather than the Old Testament, and the second part of the Bible as the Christian Testament, rather than the New Testament. Ask the students why they think this is so. Invite discussion.
4. Ask students how they think the Bible came to be. Invite discussion. Explain that the Bible began by people's telling stories about God's part in their lives. They told these stories around campfires as a way of teaching their children about God. Play the game "telephone"—each person will pass on what he or she hears by whispering it once to the child next to them. Be sure to tell everyone that they can say the phrase only one time. Whisper into the first child's ear, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God." When every child has received the message, ask the last child to repeat what he or she heard. Compare the ending message with the beginning message. Ask students what they think this activity has to do with the Bible. Tell them that some of the stories may have gotten repeated differently, but the main story was pretty much the same. Some of the details may be exaggerated, but the story of the Bible is about God and how God acted in people's lives then and now.
5. Closing: Close with a prayer, thanking God for the gift of the Bible and for helping us learn how to use it and learn how God wants us to live.
Parents' Question: How many books are in the Bible? Give each student a slip for parents to sign.CHAPTER 2
How do I use my Bible?
Focus: How do I use my Bible?
Scripture: John 8:12
Materials Needed: Bibles, a copy of the Bible Bookmark for each student (page 21), crayons or markers, newsprint/ markers or chalkboard/chalk, parent signature slips.
Connections: Students will hear the scripture verse read aloud and discuss why Jesus is the light of the world and how the Bible helps us to "see" by this light. Students will discover a means of remembering the names of the first five books of the Bible, how to locate several books in the Bible, how to find specific chapters and verses, and they will create a personal Bible bookmark.
1. Opening: Review Lesson 1 by asking how many books are contained in the Bible. Ask students how many of their parents knew there were 66 books in the Bible and how the Bible came to be. Collect parent signature slips.
2. Turn to the table of contents of the Bible. Ask students to name the first five books of the Bible as listed. Help them with pronunciation, if necessary. Tell them that Jewish people refer to these books as the Torah. Explain that Torah means "teaching" and that the Torah is a record of God's covenant with human beings. Tell the students that covenant means "promise." Say: We will learn about many covenants, or promises, between God and humans. We will keep a list of all the covenants we discover in the Bible. Show students a scroll to illustrate that the Torah is a scroll that was written by hand on sheepskin or parchment paper and is very special. It is so special that it is kept in a sacred place in a Jewish temple or synagogue. Because the paper is so fragile, it is not touched by human hands; instead a special pointer is used to help read the verses. Invite students to create a song or rap to help them remember the books of the Torah. Ask them to practice their song or rap several times until they have it memorized.
3. Invite students to open their Bibles and look through them and make discoveries. Say: Are there pictures or maps? What discoveries can you make? Now ask them to find the first book of the Bible. Ask what the name of the first book is. Help them find Genesis 1:1. Point out the large number and tell them this is the chapter—Genesis 1—and that it is the first chapter in the book of Genesis. Next have them find the small number. Explain that this number is the first verse in the first chapter of Genesis. Ask them to keep these two numbers in mind and discover how many verses (small numbers) there are in Genesis, chapter 1. Help any students who appear lost, or if there are students who catch on quickly, ask them to help a friend. When all the students have discovered how many verses there are in Genesis 1, ask them how many chapters (big numbers) are in Genesis. Help them to make this discovery. Next, ask them to find the number of verses (small number) in the book of Exodus, chapter 6. Turn to Leviticus and ask them the number of chapters (big number) in the book of Leviticus. Then ask how many verses (small number) there are in Numbers 14. Move to Deuteronomy and name the number of chapters (big number) that are included. If time permits, allow the students to suggest other chapters and verses from the Torah to locate.
4. Invite students to create a personal Bible bookmark. Have them print their names on the bookmark and draw a picture or symbol of what the Bible means to them.
5. Closing: Lead the students in a prayer, asking God to help them use the Bible to teach them how to know God.
Parents' Question: Do you know what the Torah is? What are the names of the first five books of the Bible? Give each student a slip for parents to sign.CHAPTER 3
The Story of Creation
Focus: The story of creation
Scripture: Genesis 1:1-2:3
Connections: Students will read and retell the creation story day by day and discover ways they can protect and preserve God's creation.
Materials Needed: Bibles, copy of "God's Creation" (page 27), newsprint/markers or chalkboard/chalk, modeling clay, pencils, and "My Promise to Protect God's Earth" (page 28), parent signature slips.
1. Opening:Say: If you were creating the world, what would you make sure was included? What would you leave out? Encourage discussion of things the students love best and those they consider "yucky," like snakes, mosquitoes, etc. Collect parent signature slips.
2. Invite students to find Genesis 1:1 in their Bibles. Ask for volunteers to read the creation story one day at a time. After each day, discuss briefly what was created. Distribute copies of "God's Creation." Encourage the students to draw a picture of what was created on each day.
3. Invite each student (or pairs of students, depending on the size of your group and your students' abilities) to select one day of creation and make an object from clay that will show what was created that day.
4. As students are creating their objects ask them to describe ways they can preserve and protect what God has created. Make a list of the various ways students can be caretakers of this world that God has given us. Then ask them to make a covenant by filling in and signing the "My Promise to Protect God's Earth" form, on which each student agrees to do something to protect God's earth.
5. Closing: Pray together, using Psalm 8:1, and thank God for creating all things, even us.
Parents' Question: What did God create on each day? Give each student a slip for parents to sign.CHAPTER 4
Adam and eve and choices
Focus: Adam and Eve and choices
Scripture: Genesis 2:4-3:13
Connections: Students will hear the second creation story and discuss making choices.
Materials Needed: Bibles, newsprint/markers or chalkboard/chalk, paper, markers, pencils, a picture (from a Bible or picture file) of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, parent signature slips.
1. Opening: Ask students to tell about a time when they did something they wished they had not done. Say: What happened because of what you did? Create a chart of what students did and what happened because of their action. When all students who wish to tell their story have spoken, tell them they are going to hear a story about the first man and woman that God created, a very bad choice they made, and what happened because of it. Collect parent signature slips.
2. Engage the students as you tell the second story of creation—Genesis 2:4-3:13—in your own words, being sure to use words and concepts that children will understand. As you tell the story, display the picture of Adam and Eve. Add suspense and animation as you tell the story. Ask frequently, "What do you think happened next?"
3. Add to your chart the actions Eve and Adam took and what happened because they disobeyed God. Invite answers from the students and record their words on the chart.
4. Ask students what they think the world would be like if Eve and Adam had never eaten the fruit. Talk with students about some of the things that would not be present in the world if everyone from Eve and Adam on down to us had obeyed God. Share the "peaceable kingdom" (Isaiah 11:6-9). Provide students with blank paper, markers, and pencils. Invite students to write about or draw what they think the world would look like if we all obeyed God always.
5. Closing: Help children to locate Isaiah 11:6 and read the "peaceable kingdom" in unison. Ask God for help in obeying God's rules.
Parents' Question: What did Eve and Adam do to disobey God? What happened because they disobeyed? Give each student a slip for parents to sign.CHAPTER 5
God destroys the world-almost
Focus: God destroys the world—almost
Scripture: Genesis 6-9
Connections: Students will encounter the story of Noah and the great flood through a song and discover another covenant, parent signature slips.
Materials Needed: Newsprint/markers or chalk and chalkboard, copies of page 33 of this book for each student, markers or crayons.
1. Opening: Ask students to think about what they would do if a tornado (or some other type of major storm) was coming in 30 minutes. Tell them they must prepare to leave and take all of their family members and pets with them. Stress that they will be leaving quickly and will have little time to pack. Ask what would they take with them. Allow time for discussion. Ask why they made the decisions they did. Ask if they know a story in the Bible that tells about God saving one family. Collect signature slips.
2. Ask students to tell you everything they know about Noah. Record their answers without comment on newsprint or chalkboard. Tell the story of Noah and the great flood in your own words or have someone come in costume and tell the story in first person. Ask the students to listen carefully for the covenant. As the story is told have a student place a checkmark next to each item on the list of things the class knew about Noah. Afterward check the list against the story. Ask them what the covenant was that God made with Noah.
3. Learn "The Noah Song." Teach the chorus and the tune. Invite the students to sing the song with you. Sing the chorus after every verse.
4. Once you have sung the song through once, sing it again and invite students to draw a quick picture on the newsprint or chalkboard to go along with each verse. Sing the song a third time using pictures to help remember the words.
5. On the back of the copy of "The Noah Song," suggest that students draw a rainbow and ask them to think of the closing verse about the promise that God made—God would never again destroy the world with a flood.
6. Closing: Finish with a prayer about God's making and keeping promises or covenants.
parents' Question: What do you know about the story of Noah and the great flood? Give each student a slip for parents to sign.CHAPTER 6
Abraham and Sarah and laughter
Focus: Abraham and Sarah and laughter
Scripture: Genesis 17:1-8, 15-17; 18:1-15; 21:1-7
Connections: Students will discover the importance of names in the Hebrew Bible, that God keeps the covenant, and that anything is possible with God.
Materials Needed: A book of names, a person to tell the story in first person or a tape of someone telling the story in first person, one copy of the "Father Abraham" song (page 36) for each child, parent signature slip. Optional: If you have someone in your congregation who is ninety or close to it, invite that person to come in and talk about how God has kept promises to him or her.
1. Opening:Say: What's in a name? Ask students if they know how their names were chosen. Look up each student's name in the name book. Tell them what their names mean. Tell them that they are going to learn about another covenant that God made and about a child named "Laughter." Collect parent signature slips.
2. Ask students if they know someone who is ninety years old. Talk about great-grandparents or someone in your congregation who may be that old. Ask them to think about this person having a baby. Tell them that in the book of Genesis God makes a promise to a man and his wife, but it takes many years to keep the promise. Have the guest tell (or play the tape of) the story of Abraham and Sarah in first person from Sarah's perspective. Ask the students to listen to the story, and then tell it in their own words. Invite one student to begin the story and tell a sentence or two. Then ask another student to tell the next part of the story. Continue the story until it is complete.
3. Ask students why they think Abraham and Sarah named their only son "Laughter." Ask what they think they would have done if God had made a promise to them and then took over sixty years to keep it. Would they give up hope? Would they no longer believe that God keeps God's word? Invite discussion.
4. Ask them if God has made a promise to us today. What is that promise? How do we know if God is keeping the promise?
5. Learn the song "Father Abraham." Go through the tune and words with the children. Then lead them in singing "Father Abraham," adding in the accompanying actions. If the tune is unfamiliar, create your own rhythm for the song and movements and sing it as a rap.
6. Closing: Offer a prayer about believing in God's promises.
Parents' Question: What was special about the baby named Isaac that was born to Abraham and Sarah? What does "Isaac" mean? Give each student a slip for parents to sign.CHAPTER 7
God has a plan for Joseph
Focus: God has a plan for Joseph
Scripture: Genesis 37:1-36
Connections: Students will review Joseph's dreams and his brothers' antagonism.
Materials Needed: Bibles, paper, pencils, newsprint/ markers or chalkboard/chalk, parent signature slips.
1. Opening:Say: Have you ever felt that your parents played favorites with you and your brothers and sisters? Encourage discussion and ask for outcomes. Tell students that in this lesson we are going to learn about a favorite son and how being the favorite got him into big trouble. Collect parent signature slips.
2. Invite students to locate Genesis 37. Ask them to read to themselves from 37:1-11 and then tell about the dreams that Joseph had. Allow discussion about how they believe Joseph's older brothers must have felt when he told them about his dreams.
3. Invite students to read the story of Joseph and his brothers from Genesis 37:12-36. Ask them to write a letter to a friend as if they were Joseph telling about his experience. Allow enough time for reading and writing. Invite everyone to share letters with the class. (If your students have difficulty reading this much printed material, tell them the story or read it with expression.)
4. Give students the opportunity to play a pictionary-type game in two teams. Ask them to add up their shoe sizes. The team with the largest shoe size goes first. Team 1 gets to choose a scene from the story of Joseph and draw it. Team 2 will have 2 minutes to guess what the scene is. If they guess correctly, they get to draw the next picture. If they do not guess correctly, Team 1 gets to draw another scene from the story. Play until both teams have had an opportunity to draw at least once or until you run out of time.
Excerpted from Teaching Children Bible Basics by Barbara Bruce. Copyright © 1999 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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