The Whole Counsel of God: Complementing Your Story Bible

The claim that a story Bible isn’t actually a Bible may seem a bit shocking at first. I mean, it’s got the word “Bible” right there in the name, doesn’t it? But now that I’ve had a few years to teach my kids with one, I’ve come to realize that most story Bibles contain very little, if any, actual Biblical text. And while their content is based on the Scriptures, they ain’t the real thing.

Of course, beyond the lack of Biblical text, they are story Bibles. This means they focus on the stories of the Bible, while leaving out entire genres of Biblical literature, including The Psalms, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments.

Now, this isn’t necessarily bad. Any attempt to simplify and condense Scripture will, by its very nature, have limitations. And that’s why they’re helpful. Story Bibles attempt to condense stories to a kid’s level, helping little minds wrap around a very grand story. But the selectivity of story Bibles is precisely why Christian parents who want to teach the whole counsel of God will need to complement them.

Here are a few of my suggestions for doing just that:

  • Read from a Real Bible: This is probably the cheapest and most significant thing you can do for your kids to increase their knowledge of the Scriptures. Yet, with the introduction of so many age-appropriate materials, we often forget how much kids get from being read to above their age-level. At 2 years old, my youngest daughter understood very little of the Biblical text read to her. I often wondered if we were doing her a disservice to read so far over her head. But now at 3 years old, she understands most of our nightly devotions. That’s not to say she doesn’t need other helps; I consistently reinforce our nightly Bible readings with picture Bibles during the day. But my goal has always been to help her understand the real text—not to replace our Bible with her story Bible. And her ability to listen to actual Biblical text means that she will have access to great portions of the Bible usually ignored in resources for kids her age.
  • Bible Memory: Most Christian parents already know the value of memory verses. But in your choice of them, you might like to think about how the verses complement the story bible you’re reading—not only how they reinforce those stories, but how they can fill in the gaps. Which leads me to another way of simplifying Scripture…
  • Catechisms: There are plenty of resources out there to help parents with this, from memory cards to catechism songs. One catechism I’ve found useful is My 1st Book of Questions and Answers by Carine Mackenzie (and endorsed by John Piper). Catechisms, like story Bibles, usually try to summarize Scripture, but in a different way. They focus on the doctrines of the faith, and as such, they can be very helpful in teaching kids how God relates to them and the world. Mackenzie’s catechism was particularly helpful, not because I made my kids memorize every word, but because it gave me give concise overview of Scripture. It included the Ten Commandments, an explanation of the Lord’s supper and baptism, and one section on the way to be saved–all great ideas for my kids’ weekly memory verses.
  • Music: Most of the musical resources I know about out there to help you “hide ’em in their hearts”—some of them very good—will cost you. And to review them all would take another blog. But I’ll mention briefly that I do know of two free ones. First, older hymns are often catechisms in themselves. In fact, during the Reformation, Luther and his companions instituted corporate singing to, among other things, teach their congregations Biblical truth. So, don’t forget to take advantage of those time-proven resources. And second, my family blog, Since I like the structure of a catechism but want to focus on the Scripture itself, this year I’ll actually be putting Bible verses to music based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. So even if you’re not Reformed, it’ll be free Bible memory to cover the breadth of Biblical truth.
  • Historical Books: In seeking to appeal to young children, story Bibles often impress kids with a cartoonish idea of God and Bible characters. While kids may learn a lot through Scooby-doo-like characters or talking vegetables, I think it’s important to help children see that the events of the Bible happened in the real world. Especially as they get older, I want my kids to see the events of the Bible as history, not just myth. Susan Wise Bauer’s The Story of the World helps provide a historical framework for the Biblical story. For the earliest readers, the DK Eyewitness Books (Eyewitness: Bible Lands) with their large photos and realistic sketches can be really helpful in that. Even if they’re not about the Bible itself, giving your kids books which show pictures of the ancient cultures or detailed sketches of the Biblical context, such as the one on Ancient Rome or Greece, can be very helpful. You may want to preview these, though, for any anti-Christian bias.

I know these suggestions have only begun to scratch the surface. For now, though, I would love to have some suggestions from our readers. How do you go beyond your story Bible in teaching God’s word to kids?


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1 Comment

  1. Janie on February 11, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    I mention this purely in the interests of being helpful, with this caveat: from time to time I will post comments about books I haven’t read. This will be purely in a FYI capacity, so readers can look up the book for themselves if it sounds interesting. THE ACTION BIBLE, a “graphic adaptation” (we used to call them comic books) of the entire Bible story. The Publishers Weekly reviewer was underwhelmed: “There are a few stunning moments, but . . . more weirdness than spectacle: Adam lamenting that–after eating the forbidden fruit–he’s not wise, just naked; Cain reflecting that he hates sheep.” The review also laments “a lack of emotion in the art,” which is too bad, if true, because the Bible tells the most emotional and dramatic story in the world. Graphic adaptations of anything will have their limits, so use caution; but THE ACTION BIBLE may be just the thing to get a squirmy fourth-grader’s attention.
    THE ACTION BIBLE, by Doug Mauss and Sergio Cariello, published by David C. Cook, $24.99 (750 pages)

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