The Bible: Dusty Old Book or Instruction Manual?

By Christine V. Hides

Is the Bible an old book or an instruction manual for life? The short answer is: “the Bible is so much more.” The preschoolers, after an important wondering time where we layed out many of the Bible stories, said, “you are trapped in the story!” Calming their fears, I said, “It is ok, we can walk around in this big story.” Sometimes we do get stuck in challenging stories—older children and teens especially. Our hope is that we can equip children, youth and families to weave the stories of God’s presence, love and grace into the stories of our own lives—developing a big story we get to move around in.  In this post I will explore the fifth of our Guiding Principles for Children’s Ministry:

The Bible is a record of faith, a source of values, a witness to the person and power of Jesus Christ. It contains enduring truths that remain relevant today. We develop opportunities to experience and imagine how each person’s story intertwined with the God’s story held within the Bible and Christian tradition. We equip older children and youth with the tools needed to read the Bible and to listen to how God’s word speaks to our lives today.

The Basics: The Bible is a collection, or library, of 66 books. Within the sixty-six books are the Gospels, the Good News of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There are also books which contain poetry, hymns, prophecy, history, letters, myth and more. These books and stories were told, written, and edited over a period of more than a thousand years, in various historical contexts. As we read the Bible today, we pay attention to the type of text we are reading and the period of time it was written in—especially in our fifth and sixth grade Habitat year.

More than an Instruction Manual: I often say that if God had meant for the Bible to be simply an instruction book, it would be much shorter—like IKEA construction tutorials. According to Elizabeth Caldwell, there are at least two ways to read the Bible: for information and for engagement. If we read the Bible for information, once we have acquired the knowledge or moral lesson, there is no need to reread the passage. When we read for engagement, we come back to the stories again and again to help us to reflect upon our lives and faith journeys. Engaged in the story, the bible becomes a book we can walk around in. While challenging, it is also a gift to have a rich, beautiful, and complex collection of sacred texts which offer a lifetime of opportunities for reflection, insight, and wisdom.

Putting the Pieces Together: Children who participate in the ministries of Kenilworth Union Church hear lots of Bible stories. Individually they might be interesting, but placed with the grand narrative of the Bible, the pieces begin to come together to form a fuller picture of who God is and the transformative power of God’s love. Each year we enter the narrative beginning with the Old Testament in the fall and move into the New Testament after  Christmas. Each year we walk around in the grand story again.

April 8, 2019

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