It was the Bible stories that the kids kept talking about

kindergarten-504672_1280“Welcome to Bible time! I’m so glad you are here! Every day we will hear a story from God’s Word, the Bible.” Audrey* held up her Bible for the children to see, and then continued: “And the stories will help you to understand what the Bible is all about. Make sure you come back every day to get the big picture. It is like climbing the mountain. When you get to the top, you will see the big picture!”

The small classroom was filled wall to wall with children and their leaders. They sat cross-legged on the floor and looked up expectantly at Audrey. She stood beside the table full of visual aids—everything from stuffed animals to flannelgraphs to cut-outs of the cross and tomb. It was day one of Vacation Bible school. The children Audrey was teaching were from varied backgrounds—some churched, but many from broken homes and foster care. She had five days, one short session a day, to teach them the Bible’s story and help them understand the gospel.

Audrey had put a lot of prayer, thought and preparation into these Bible times. The purchased VBS curriculum had included material for a Bible time each day, but somehow it didn’t seem to be what was needed. Isolated Bible stories are just not suitable for children who know nothing about who Jesus is and what he did. They only had one week with these children and she couldn’t see how to adapt the assigned stories in a way that would clearly explain the gospel. The material also seemed watered down, missing key aspects of the gospel. Audrey decided to go back to square one and, with the blessing of the church leadership, made her own curriculum for the week.

So here she was, before the first group of expectant children, ages 6 through 12. All she had was her Bible, a worn copy of The Story that Matters, the visual aids and her notes.

Her approach was uncomplicated. She simply read aloud The Story that Matters, having divided up the material into five sections, one for each day. While she read, she made use of the visual aids to illustrate the concepts. She also made sure to write out unfamiliar words (including God’s personal name Yahweh) on the whiteboard behind her. The visual connection was like “velcro for the brain” for the children and helped moved the story along and keep the children’s interest.

On Monday, Audrey read the first nine pages from The Story that Matters, covering the events of God’s perfect creation, as well as introducing God’s character, angels and heaven. This is also where the book explains just what the Bible is: a one-of-a-kind, special book and letter from God.

In a culture where children are constantly bombarded by multi-sensory gadgets and technology, it may seem doubtful that Audrey’s quiet reading of the book would interest any of the children, especially the young ones. Don’t children need stimulus and excitement? On the contrary, all of the children were very engaged, from start to finish. There wasn’t any fooling around. Even the children with short attention spans or behavioural issues were attentive. The word boring wasn’t even mentioned.

On Tuesday, Audrey read until page 27 of the book, now covering the story of Lucifer’s rebellion, Adam and Eve’s disobedience and God’s rescue plan. She used the visual aids of a lamb and an altar to explain the need of a sufficient substitute to deal with man’s sin problem.

On Wednesday, Audrey opened the time by saying, “In our Bible story yesterday, we heard how things went really wrong, but how God had a rescue plan—what a comfort! Our world needs healing. There are bad people out there, but what about you and me? Aren’t we good enough to go to heaven, God’s perfect place? Let’s hear from the Bible.”

It was on this day that Audrey read until page 39, which covers the Ten Commandments and the coming of Jesus to earth. The children now understood God’s standard of perfection, and they also learned about Jesus being Saviour. Audrey finished that day’s session with a recap: “We can never be perfect on our own. We all need a Saviour. Jesus is our Saviour. He is God.”

At the end of each Bible time, there was a brief review time for each of the leaders with their small groups. The questions asked were simple ones, clarifying that the children had understood the material covered. The leaders were blessed by the teaching as they sat with the children. One of them shared later that she had expected it to be boring but ended up being blown away by it.

Thursday was a special day as Audrey finished reading the rest of the story. This is where the book explains how Jesus is our Lamb who died in our place and paid for all our sins. The significance of the cross and empty tomb are clearly explained, as well as what it means to trust in Jesus as our Saviour.

Audrey did not put any pressure on the children to respond. She just let the concepts soak in as she finished the time by saying, “The Bible says Jesus took all the punishment our sin deserves. That is why he can forgive us. Jesus is our Lamb.”

Friday was when Audrey took the time to review everything they had read through the week. Using her visual aids, she began walking through the Bible’s story. The children immediately responded, revealing just how well they had understood as they helped Audrey retell the story.

Audrey read a few pages from the last chapter of The Lamb to help conclude the review time. Then she explained the key verse of the day, the latter part of John 3:15: “Everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.” Because of the foundational lessons through the week, this verse now made sense to the children. They understood what it meant to believe in Jesus, what he had accomplished for them and what eternal life is—being with God in his perfect home forever.

Once again, Audrey did not put any pressure on the children to respond. There was no appeal for raised hands. Instead there was just a simple explanation that everyone needs to make a choice: whether to believe in Jesus as their Lamb or to reject God’s message of love and salvation. Each child was sent home with his or her own personal copy of The Story that Matters.

Reports came back from the VBS staff and leaders that the Bible times had definitely been a success. On the whole, the 100 children who attended that week showed that they understood the message of the gospel. There is a lot of fun squeezed into a week of vacation Bible school—games, crafts, songs—but it was the Bible stories that the kids kept talking about.

One woman had brought her granddaughter to VBS, choosing to volunteer as a group leader so she could be with her during the week. The grandmother was quite sure that her granddaughter wasn’t a believer when the week began. By the end of VBS, however, she was convinced that her granddaughter had put her faith in Christ as a result of the Bible lessons. The grandmother was very enthusiastic about how the gospel was shared, especially as it impacted her own family specifically.

When asked whether she had any encouragement for others who may want to use the same approach in children ministries, Audrey says, “Just have courage to do it. If you have any experience with VBS, you know the challenges. If it turns out great, then good! If it only turns out good, then it’s still good!” Audrey is thankful that God had blessed her efforts to share his truth with these children and prays each will make their own decision to trust in Jesus as their Lamb.

(*Names changed as per GoodSeed policy.)

Author: Michelle Hiebert

Staff writer at the international office.