Helping Your Kids Connect With Scripture
Try these ideas for getting the family into Bible study together.
© 2003 by Paul Thigpen
Are you looking for fresh ways to help your family dig into the Scripture? Consider these four ideas: two games and two general strategies for getting kids better acquainted with the Bible.
Play "Stump the Parent." To small children, Mom and Dad are omniscient; to teens, clueless; to kids in the middle, somewhere in between. Whatever their age, your children will enjoy this game of Bible knowledge as they relish the possibility of stumping you.
The rules are simple.
- Any reasonable Scripture-related question is fair game, from the purely factual ("How many sons did Jacob have?") to the speculative ("Did Jesus ever get sick as a child?"). Of course, speculative questions are hard to prove wrong, though an insightful child might well be able to poke holes in your reasoning.
- For any particular session, limit the subject matter (for example, questions about Bible places) or the texts (questions about the book of Proverbs). That way, both you and the kids can prepare ahead of time if you want to. (This isn't cheating; it's good strategy: It gets the whole family searching the Scripture carefully on their own and thinking about what they find there.)
- If you like, you can allow players to have a Bible in hand as they play-that way, knowing where to locate something quickly in the Scripture provides a desirable advantage.
- Mom and Dad take turns fielding questions.
- Kids earn a point for stumping a parent, but only if they themselves can answer the question correctly (or in the case of a speculative question, convincingly, as judged by the whole family). That means they have to do some "homework" (but don't ever call it that!) to get ready for the game.
- Even if a child doesn't know the answer to a particular question, he or she can still ask it for fun or out of curiosity-it just doesn't win any points. If the parent is stumped as well, then pull out the Bible, concordance, and Bible dictionary to find the answer together.
- If you have more than one child old enough to play, try a little competition. Let children vie to see who can rack up the most points in one session. The winner is declared "Grand Stumper." Otherwise, you can simply decide ahead of time how many points a child must earn to win some small prize (anything from an ice cream soda to a Bible bookmark to an evening without chores).
- If the children's ages vary widely, let them form teams to earn points, with both older and younger children on each team. If you have only younger children, let one parent help them in stumping the other.
Here are some sample questions our own children have tried to stump us with: How old was Noah when he died? What are the Ten Commandments? Can you name the twelve apostles? If Jesus is God, and Jesus is God's Son, doesn't that make Jesus His own Son? (This last one came from our four-year-old, with giggles. I often say, only half-jokingly, that I got my Ph.D. in theology just so I could answer her questions!)
Be prepared to be humbled-another good fruit of this game.
Play "Nebuchadnezzar." In college I learned a game about famous people called "Boticelli," after the celebrated Italian painter. To help our kids learn more about people in the Scripture and to test their knowledge in a playful way, I adapted the game and called it "Nebuchadnezzar." Here's how you play.
- One person volunteers (or is chosen) to go first. He or she thinks of a particular Bible character to pretend to be, then says, "My name starts with the letter A" (or whatever the initial of the name may be).
- The other players begin thinking of Bible characters whose name starts with that letter. With A, for example, it could be Adam, Abraham, Ahaz, Abigail, or many others.
- The other players then ask whether the first player is a particular character, but not by asking the question directly. They must ask instead whether the person fits a certain characteristic. For example, if the letter is "P," and they have in mind the apostle Peter, they might ask: "Did you deny Jesus three times?" This requires the players to know something about the Bible people they have in mind.
- The first player must figure out who it is the other player is asking about. If that person's guess is incorrect, he or she answers, for example, "No, I'm not Peter." Then someone else gets to ask a question.
- If the guess is correct, he or she replies, "Yes, I am Peter," and someone else takes a turn being a new character.
- If the first player is stumped by a question, then the player who asked it gets to ask a single yes/no question to help further with identification. Examples: Are you in the Old Testament? Are you a woman? Do you know Jesus? Are you married?
- Sometimes a question is so general that even though it applies to the character being played, it also applies to other biblical figures whose names start with the same letter. For example, a "J" person might be asked, "Are you an apostle?" If the character being played is Judas, the player can still try to throw the others off by saying, "No, I'm not James." However, if the other players realize that more than one character could fit the description, they can go on to ask, "Are you another apostle?"
We especially enjoyed playing this game in the car on long trips to pass the time and increase our recall of Bible characters. After playing it over several years, we could even identify folks like Othniel and Cushan-rishathaim! (Check out the book of Judges.)
Focus on imagery. Younger children may not always be able to play the games we've described. An alternate way to help them (and older children as well) tackle a particular Scripture text is to explore with them the imagery used by a biblical writer.
For example, when you read together that Jesus said, "I am the light of the world" (Jn 8:12), ask your children various questions about light. What is light? Why is it so important to us? How does it help us? What would the world be like without light? What problems do we have when we try to do things without enough light?
Given their answers to these questions, you can then help them make applications: How is Jesus like light to the world? How does he help us the way light does? What would the world be like without Him? What problems do we have when we try to do things without Him?
The images Jesus uses for Himself throughout the Gospel of John are in fact a good place to start with this strategy (not only light, but also lamb, life, bread, door, water, shepherd). The Psalms are also rich in vivid word pictures that children can explore: God's Word is like honey (Ps 19:10); He prepares a table for us (23:5); the righteous are like a tree planted by water (1:3); and many more.
Focus on a personal issue. Yet another strategy is to have children identify some current issue of importance to them personally, and then go looking together for Bible passages that address the issue. It might be an event, situation, experience, problem, challenge, or opportunity. What's on their minds these days?
Has a child had a disagreement with a schoolmate? Has someone won an award? Is someone starting a new endeavor? Is someone ill … afraid … joyful … lonely … hopeful … confused?
Use your concordance to identify relevant Bible verses, then read them together and talk about what God is saying through them. Always be sure to follow your Bible study with prayer focused specifically on the issues you've identified. Then stand back and watch the Lord work in your lives!