School supplies are everywhere these days. Most schools give parents lists — sometimes really long ones! — of supplies their children will need for the first day of school. As a longtime Sunday school teacher, I would like to give parents a list for their children’s Sunday school class. You’ll be very happy to know that there is only one item on that list: a Bible. Not a storybook Bible. Not a New Testament and Psalms. The full Scriptures, Old and New Testaments.
Sunday school exists because of and for the Bible. Our goal as teachers is to lead, encourage, and inspire children and youth to know, honor, and treasure the God of the Bible, through trusting in the Savior revealed in the Bible, so that they would live lives in conformance to the Bible. In Sunday school we:
- Instruct minds with the Bible
- Engage hearts with the Bible
- And influence wills with the Bible
As a teacher, I can cleverly retell or dramatize stories from the Bible. I can provide interesting and fun illustrations that help students grasp truths from the Bible. But if I don’t give them the Bible — the text itself — I have withheld from them the very words that have the power to save and transform them.
Over the many years of teaching Sunday school, my most vivid and delightful memory is watching 35 first-grade children eagerly, and determinedly searching for a passage of Scripture in their Bibles. When they found it, they put their finger on the verse, and looked up at me with bright smiles on their faces. Then, like treasure hunters, we read each word, unlocking its mysteries, finding out about the greatest Treasure and Joy in the universe. Oh for a generation of children and youth who love the Word!
At Truth78, we have a vision for the next generation — a vision of children soaked full of the Word of God; children who see the Bible being read and explained in the home and in the classroom; children who are taught how to properly read, interact with, and study the Bible. We long for a generation of Bible-saturated children who come to embrace God’s Word as sweeter than honey, more precious than gold, more exciting than any game or activity, more powerful than anything in their lives, more long-lasting and life-transforming than any new electronic gadget, and more soul-satisfying than the closest friend.
Here are some practical steps for making the Bible more prominent in Sunday School classrooms:
For parents and teachers: A Vision For Teaching the Word of God (video link).
Classroom tips for teachers:
- Encourage parents to provide their children with a Bible. If necessary, assist them in purchasing a Bible for their child.
- Always teach with an open Bible, even if you are summarizing a story for preschoolers.
- Whenever possible read directly from the Bible. Even preschoolers should hear the actual text read at times. Where the Bible uses simple, straightforward language, read it.
- In kindergarten, start to teach children the books of the Bible through song.
- Beginning in first grade, encourage each child to bring his or her own Bible to class. Make sure it is a full-text Bible and not a storybook or paraphrased version. We highly recommend the ESV Children’s Bible.
- Offer small incentives (candy, prizes) for children who remember to bring their Bibles to class.
- Give children of reading age opportunities to look up selected texts and read them aloud during the lesson. Do this according to their age and skill level. Most first graders can, with some help, look up and read one short and simple text per lesson. By third grade, most children can handle multiple texts of varying lengths.
Want some additional tips for specific age levels? Print out this free handout: The Importance of Biblical Literacy for the Next Generation.