A new children’s ministry book is coming out called Pulse: Pumping Life into Your Kids Ministry from the folks at KIDZMATTER.
I got asked to contribute a chapter for this book. Here is an excerpt:
Encountering the Biblical Narrative
Engaging children in the chronological, linear, and unfolding biblical narrative.
“The biblical tale, through the most rigorous economy of means, leads us again and again to ponder complexities of motive and ambiguities of character because these are essential aspects of its vision of man, created by God, enjoying or suffering all the consequences of human freedom. Almost the whole range of biblical narrative, however, embodies the basic perception that man must live before God, in the transforming medium of time, incessantly and perplexingly in relation with others; and a literary perspective on the operations of the narrative may help us more than any other to see how this perception was translated into stories that have had such a powerful, enduring hold on the imagination” (Alter, 1981, p. 22).
For me it all started with a side comment by my professor, Mark Jalovick (2000), in his Old Testament History Two class: “Children need to learn the stories of the Bible.” To most this remark would have sounded obvious, and it is. Humanity’s young progeny need to learn the basic content contained in Scripture and, thankfully, this content is primarily narrative in nature. Stories seem to be a near universal medium to transfer both history and information. There’s a reason why my own children beg my wife and I to tell them stories of when we were kids. They are fascinated by their parents’ histories and they want to come to know us more deeply by our transferring that knowledge through the narrative literary device.
It’s no wonder that God chose narrative, storytelling, to be the primary literary device to communicate both the knowledge of Himself as well as the account of His interaction with His people. It’s been said that “the Bible is about God, continually working to fix this world through His kind of people in order to make His kind of world.” If the Bible is primarily narrative and this is the literary device of choice to transmit, according to Alter (1982), “its vision of man, created by God, enjoying or suffering all the consequences of human freedom” (p. 22), then the stories are interconnected and dependent upon one another, and are not intended merely to be principalized nor disconnected from the environment in which they are found.
As a children’s ministry professional I encounter curriculum that has been organized into human constructed topics and themes with disparate Bible stories included that have been disconnected from the narrative environment in which they are found. These topics seem to be of high value to its adherents. Topics like: generosity, friendship, faith, leadership, service, attitude, and prayer. Topics might even be organized in theological categories like: Who is Jesus? Who is God? Who is the Holy Spirit? What is the Bible? The standard approach seems to be: find a relevant topic, theme, or characteristic that needs to be taught and engaged in with children and find Bible stories that seem to speak to those particularities. In other words, the curriculum writer or practitioner finds a problem or issue that needs to be addressed in life and looks to the Bible for the answers to that particular problem or issue…