encouraging education
October 9, 2013By Leigh Anne Ring

Life is full. Full of scheduled activities and last minute additions. Full of practice schedules and eating on the run. Full of sports of all kinds and the many loads of laundry that it takes to get our kids dressed appropriately. Full of homework and the management of education expectations. Few parents who sit in the Faith and Family Sunday School class (10:00 a.m. each Sunday in room 104) or on the playground on Wednesdays greet one another with these words, "I have it all together this week!”

Deciding how to spend our time as a family is a weekly, daily, sometimes even hourly struggle—only to sit in worship on Sundays and wonder if we are doing everything we can (or should) be doing to share the faith with our kids. Do we even really know what we believe? If we just take our children to church...won't that be enough?

You can certainly Google your way through faith. The internet will offer you ways to build faith practices into your family life (some are great ideas...while others seem sketchy to me). There were almost 9 million hits in less than a minute to my "faith formation for busy families” query.

I have read great blogs this summer about how to pass along your faith. My favorite is Bread, Not Stones (http://www.breadnotstones.com) by a Presbyterian Pastor, Rebecca Kirkpatrick. She has wonderful blogs like, "Confirmation: 100 Things Your Child Needs to Know” (http://www.breadnotstones.com/2012/01/100-things-your-child-should-know.html), which is a great litmus test of what you know and "Ten Things I Want to Tell Parents” (http://www.breadnotstones.com/2012/01/100-things-your-child-should-know.html) which includes, "You are the primary religious educator of your child.”

I was also introduced to a series on the Patheos website (http://www.patheos.com/Topics/Passing-on-the-Faith.html) about passing on the faith including great words from Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, "We build the brightest future, not by worrying about the future, but by living our faith in the present” and Phyllis Tickle's "My Six Essentials for Passing on the Faith,” which speaks to wanting to form "an intimacy with God and the things of God” in our children.

These are great resources that I love! If you are overwhelmed with where to start—start simply. In The Sound of Music, Maria teaches singing by starting at the very beginning (a very good place to start). For me, the beginning of encouraging education is encouraging you to build into your full life two practices of faith: read God's Word (the Bible) and pray. I'll start with the Bible and talk more about prayer another time.

So...let's get started! Children's Bibles aren't just for children. If you are new to the stories of faith, one of the most accessible ways to learn the stories is to read them from a children's Bible. The Bibles that are written for the youngest children contain fewer stories. Transition to older children's Bibles when you have learned those first stories. As you begin to add more stories you will see more of the wonderful tapestry of the Biblical narrative.

Build Bible reading into a regular practice with your child, grandchild, niece/nephew, neighbor, or friend. Have a Bible in your car; there is always some down time between practices and games, dance rehearsals or instrument lessons. Read a story from the Bible as a part of your child's bedtime routine. This is sacred time, and they don't outgrow it as quickly as you might think they would. You don't have to read a Bible story every night—maybe just once or twice a week.
Ask them about the Sunday School lesson and see if you can find it in the Bible together. Look at the bulletin from worship and ask what he remembers about the scripture lesson or what she remembers from the children's message.

You can use the table of contents in the children's Bibles to see what they already know about the story. Have them tell you the story in their own words. The stories of faith were first shared through storytelling. These stories are engaging, inspiring stories. Ask questions of your child. Don't be afraid to not have all the answers. Look and think about the answers together. Share you own family stories of faith. When did you pick up and leave everything just like Abraham? When did you test the fleece like Gideon? When did you worship Jesus like the shepherds?

Here are some of my favorite Bibles for children. If you have others, please share them with me!

Henley, Karen, The Beginners Bible: Timeless Children's Stories, Questar Publishers, 1989

This Bible is my favorite for our youngest of children. The stories are short and have engaging pictures. I also appreciate that there is a reference for the Bible story so that adults can read more once the kids have gone to sleep! There is a Toddler version that has bigger pictures and fewer stories.
Sattgast, L.J, The Rhyme Bible, Zondervan Publishing House, 1996
This is one of my favorites to read during Time with Children during worship. It doesn't have as many stories as other children's Bibles—but provides an engaging approach to the stories.
Arthur, Patti Thisted et al., Spark Story Bible, Augsburg Fortess, 2009
This is fast becoming one of my favorite children's Bibles because it includes so many stories with engaging pictures and a short question at the end of each story to spark conversation with your child. Our Extended Session during traditional worship is based on a survey of the Bible using this Bible.
Lloyd-Jones Sally, The Jesus Storybook Bible, Zondervan Publishers, 2007
I like this Bible because for each story—Old and New Testament—it adds a little bit of commentary to wrap up the story. For example in the story of the Tower of Babel it ends with, "You see, God knew, however high they reached, however hard they tried, people could never get back to heaven by themselves….People could never reach up to Heaven, so Heaven would have to come down to them. And, one day, it would.” (page 54) This helps children (and adults) who are beginning to know the stories of the Bible to see the relationship of the individual stories as one connected story, that includes them!
Some classics for children who are reading on their own—or ready for longer stories to be read to them:

Batchelor, Mary, The Children's Bible in 365 Stories, Lion Publishing 1985

The pictures are dated—but the breadth of story is wonderful. If you would commit to one story a day from this Bible, your family would certainly be blessed. The stories are short for each day and give the corresponding biblical reference.

Milton, Ralph, The Family Story Bible, Westminster John Knox Pres, 1996

This is not an updated version of the Bible above—with only 125 stories. The pictures are updated and the breadth of the overview of the Bible is wonderful. Before each story or group of stories, there is a short introduction that sets the stage. This is a wonderful Bible to be aloud with older children.

The Bibles that have been listed above are all Bible storybooks—they have taken the text from scripture—but the words have been changed to be more accessible for children. These are great tools for introducing the stories of our faith to our children. By the 4th grade, children should also be reading from their own Bible.  
Here are two that we use at RRPC:

The Adventure Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishers, updated 2011

This version offers engaging helps for children as they read the text. The NIV translation is accessible language while holding true to the original biblical text. We have given this Bible as a gift to our 4th graders in the past and have them in our children's Sunday School classrooms.

Deep Blue Kids Bible, Common English Bible, Abingdon Press, 2012

This is the children's Bible that we have given to our 4th graders for the past two years. This translation of scripture is hot off the presses with accessible language and a trio of characters to journey with your child through the scriptures. This Bible offers engaging in-text notes and other features to encourage them to interact with scripture. This Bible is a Christian Education tool all by itself.

These books provide a solid foundation for beginning to introduce the stories of faith through the words of the Bible with your children. Read the storybooks from beginning to end or jump around from story to story—just read them Draw nearer to God by reading these words, learning these stories, and talking about them with your family. Sharing the faith is best practiced at home!

Next time: Milestones of Faith celebrations at RRPC

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