In Sunday School children are much more likely to learn about Christian values or the Ten Commandments than they are the unconditional love of their heavenly Father. This should trouble every parent.
It certainly troubles me.
Yesterday I happened to watch a puppet-show on a Christian TV station that was telling the story of how Adam and Eve fell into sin. The puppets very seriously told us that Adam and Eve disobeyed God, which is true, but isn’t the point of the Genesis story at all. I’m glad my kids weren’t watching but if they were, I would’ve told them, “Adam and Eve didn’t fall because they disobeyed. They disobeyed because they believed a terrible lie.” Their disobedience was a symptom of a far more serious problem.
Do you see the difference? The first message is “Do what you’re told,” but the second is, “Be careful who you listen to.” And right there is the difference between life and death and the health of our children.
At church and at school the message our kids often hear is, “Do what you’re told. Obey and keep the rules.” This is fine if you wish to raise servants and slaves. But if you have higher aspirations for your children, you need to tell them better stories.
For the past few years I have been doing exactly that. I have been telling my children stories that are intended to leave them awestruck at the grace and wonder of God. For a long time I didn’t know anyone else who was doing this, until someone introduced me to The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones.
The Jesus Storybook Bible is a children’s Bible unlike any other. Yes, it has all the usual Bible stories – Abraham, Noah, David, Joseph, et al. But these are presented as chapters in a greater Story, an adventure story “about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure” (p.17).
The success of The Jesus Storybook Bible is that every individual story is connected to the deeper Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them. It’s a brilliant piece of story-telling.
For the past few months I have been reading chapters from The Jesus Storybook Bible to my five-year-old son and my seven-year-old daughter. It is a tribute to Sally Lloyd-Jones that her book has captivated both of them, and especially my hyperactive son. And the colorful and brilliant illustrations by the artist Jago certainly helped. (My kids loved the picture of Thomas hiding under the table in the upper room.)
But ultimately the proof of the pudding is whether our children are able to connect the dots. Can they see the bigger Story behind the individual stories of the flood, the Exodus, or Daniel in the lion’s den? To test this I would ask my kids, “What does this story tell us about Jesus?” or “What does this tell us about God’s love?” And my children gave great answers every time. Thank you, Sally Lloyd-Jones!
I should probably give you a taste of the book, so here’s the bit where God gives the Ten Commandments:
God’s children didn’t trust him or do what he said. They thought they could do a better job of looking after themselves and making themselves happy. But God knew there was no such thing as happiness without him. So God led them to a tall mountain (and gave Moses the Ten Commandments) … “God promises to always look after you,” Moses said. “Will you love him and keep these rules?” “We can do it! We promise!” But they were wrong. They couldn’t do it. No matter how hard they tried, they could never keep God’s rules all the time. God knew they couldn’t. And he wanted them to know it, too. Only one Person could keep all the rules. And many years later God would send him – to stand in their place and be perfect for them. (pp.103-107)
Is The Jesus Storybook Bible the best grace-based resource written for children? With more than a thousand five-star reviews on Amazon, it’s definitely one of the most popular. If you have shared this book with your children, or if you have found other high-quality grace-based resources for kids, please let us know in the comments below.