The Biblical Story – Part Four
The Fourth of Six Articles Supporting
God’s Unfolding Story for Older Preschoolers
Art Note: Use StoryElements.jpg for the image with this article.
The Biblical Story – Packaging It For Children
We have argued that God has commanded us to teach the biblical story to children and grandchildren as a story. We’ve tried to make a case for teaching the story as an unfolding story so children understand the story is not over and they each have a place in the story.
All of this sounds easier than it actually is, however. The Bible itself is a collection of stories and writings written by many different writers over centuries of time and compiled by groups of people hundreds of years later. Summarizing this vast collection of documents into a comprehensive story or meta-narrative that a young child can understand is quite a challenge.
Any summary or outline of the biblical story is, by default, an interpretation of the story because it will articulate a “story line” that implies and assigns a grand, interpretive scheme to the story. It also will have to select a limited set of broad “events” that form the story’s framework. This selection must, by necessity, be interpretive because it treats some events or groupings of events as more important to “the story” than others. We must be careful, therefore, to craft a story that falls “safely” in the mainstream of historic Christian thought. We hope we have accomplished this in a biblically responsible and accurate way in the summary statements below.
The biblical story, however we may summarize it or outline it, must be appropriate for people of all ages and should be teachable and relevant to a person of any age. Consequently, it makes sense to craft the story “from the ground up,” meaning we start with the elements to be captured by preschoolers, then consider how to adapt the story for older age groups. Here’s how we have outlined the biblical story for preschoolers with the understanding that these will work for any age group. We call these the God’s Unfolding Story Narrative Elements.
- God created everything.
- People disobeyed God.
- God chose a special people.
- God sent Jesus to help us.
- Jesus began the Church.
- Jesus is preparing heaven for us.
As learners mature, they will develop a deeper and more age-appropriate understanding of these preschool story elements and be able to articulate the story with greater theological clarity and insight. The story elements above will form the framework for the biblical story at any age. The biblical story doesn’t change as our learners get older, but how we/they articulate the story should change. We want them to build on the story and add more complex concepts. The goal is to help churches teach all learners the biblical story in a way that is appropriate for the age group and can be retained and built upon for life.
Interestingly, we have discovered that the above story elements are helpful for even adult learners. The elements are simple and easy to remember. We would encourage any age group to adapt them as needed and appropriate, but it’s certainly acceptable to utilize God’s Unfolding Story Narrative Elements for any age group just as they are.
By learning these six story elements, a learner of any age can begin to establish a mental framework for the entire biblical story. From here the learner can begin to place individual stories into the framework in a way that makes sense and accurately reflects the biblical storyline. Hopefully the story elements are simple enough that they can be retained for life so every future sermon and every future Bible study can be placed in its appropriate biblical and historical context. Learners now have a “box lid” (see Part Two) to help them organize and understand the individual “pieces” of the biblical story.
Now that we have a story to tell (God’s Unfolding Story Narrative Elements), it’s very important to understand that the process of learning the biblical story is not a one-session effort. It requires much more than that. That’s where we’re going in Part Five.