Your Bible story is like an orange. You can hand it off to a kid and expect him to tear into it and eat it. Or you can peel it yourself and hand it in slices to the kid. It is easier for the kid to eat if you hand it to him in bite-sized pieces that are already peeled. Bible stories are easier for kids to understand and apply if you break them down and serve them in small parts.
“How do I peel apart a Bible story to get out of it something I can teach kids.” This is not the same as explaining how I teach a lesson. This is not about skits, object lessons, games, or other teaching methods. This is about digging into the Bible story for the points that make the story important and applicable.
What’s cool about this story?
As you prepare for your lesson, read the story pretending that it just occurred. See it through a fresh perspective. Imagine that it just happened yesterday. Jericho’s walls fell down yesterday. Moses divided the Red Sea this morning. David killed Goliath last night. That will help you FEEL the story. Then it will be easier to see what’s cool about the story that makes it alive. I want to see the story in a way that makes the characters real, displays the conflict in the story, and makes the story compelling to hear.
What did the people in the story feel?
Put yourself in the story. What do you think you would have felt? Or done? Make it real. Keep it honest. Don’t get religious? How would you have felt if Moses made a highway through the sea and it was your turn to march between the walls of water? I, for one, am not sure I would have done it. If I did I would have run with everything I had before those walls of water collapsed. I feel creepy when I walk through the glass tunnel at one of those aquarium theme parks and watch the fish swim over my head. Take the glass away and I’ll just wait in the parking lot.
What is in the story I can relate to today?
I seldom see a giant standing in my neighborhood shouting insults at God. It has been a while since a snake offered me anything to eat. But, I can relate to problems that seem bigger than life and I know what it is to be tempted to do something wrong. Make a list. What threatening problems do kids face today? What are they tempted to do?
What is the transferable action?
What did someone in the story do that we can do today? Can we follow an example in the story? What is it?
Be careful with this one. Make sure the action is consistent with the Gospel of God’s grace. There is a difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament. In the Old Testament the emphasis is God’s law, what we do for God. In the New Testament the emphasis is God’s grace, what God did for us through Jesus. Both were about faith so we can draw from the whole Bible but do not leave the impression that our daily actions determine our acceptance by God. Make sure the Gospel is clear. Jesus died for our sins and rose again to give us His perfect life so that we could have assurance of our destiny with Him in Heaven. Prayer, worship, Bible reading, loving one another, giving, etc. are relevant truths that impact our lives. Look for them in the story but do not confuse kids by making it seem like the actions earn our salvation.
David had the courage to take on Goliath because he believed God would be faithful to His covenant, the deal He made with His people to protect them. We can trust God to be true to His promises today. Joshua and the people had to be quiet as they marched around Jericho. We would often be better off if we kept our mouths shut instead of complaining all the time. Look for the relevant action and milk it. Make it relevant and easy. If it is irrelevant to life today then you missed the point of the story. If it is too hard to live up to then you are making it harder than God intended.
What does the story tell us about God?
This is the most important step. Ask what the story reveals about God that we might not know otherwise. How does the story tell us what God is like? Nothing is more important in the spiritual development of kids than for them to have a basic understanding of what God is like.
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 2 Peter 1:2-3 NKJV.
I have a simple interpretation of this verse. To me it means that God’s grace, peace and power for living flow from our knowledge of what God is like. If we have a distorted view of what God is like then we can expect a lack of grace, peace and power. If we have a correct view of what God is like we can expect grace, peace and power in our lives.
What do some of the familiar Bible stories tell us about God? The story of David and Goliath tell me that God enjoys seeing the weak win in life. Remember David could hardly stand up under Saul’s armor. The story of Jericho tells me that God likes doing great things against big odds. That is a reoccurring theme in the Bible. The story of Paul on the road to Damascus tells me that God sometimes chooses mean people so He can turn them around and do cool things through them. That is the kind of God we have. That’s what He is like.
Most of us agree we want to promote kids having a personal relationship with the Lord. If so then there is no better place to start than painting an accurate picture of God, showing what He is like. Far from the distant, mean, uninvolved God conveyed in today’s world, the real God has a magnetic personality. With His unconditional love, limitless knowledge and observable power He becomes irresistible to people who learn what He is like. And kids can grow up being attracted to a God like that.