Children who attend Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, worship services or confirmation classes learn important lessons and stories that help shape their faith and values for their adult years. Children, like adults, may not immediately understand the significance of many of those stories, but through repetition, reflection and experience, the interpretation and application of the biblical stories gradually become more meaningful.
Charles Swindoll tells a funny story about a 9-year-old named Danny who came bursting out of Sunday school like a wild stallion. His eyes were darting in every direction as he tried to locate either mom or dad. Finally, after a quick search, he grabbed his dad by the leg and yelled, “Man, that story of Moses and all those people crossing the Red Sea was great!” His father looked down, smiled and asked the boy to tell him about it.
“Well, the Israelites got out of Egypt, but Pharaoh and his army chased after them. So the Jews ran as fast as they could until they got to the Red Sea. The Egyptian Army was gettin’ closer and closer. So Moses got on his walkie-talkie and told the Israeli Air Force to bomb the Egyptians. While that was happening, the Israeli Navy built a pontoon bridge so the people could cross over. They made it!”
By now old dad was shocked. “Is that the way they taught you the story?”
“Well, no, not exactly,” Danny admitted, “but if I told you the way they told it to us, you’d never believe it, Dad.”
I doubt that such an imaginative child will ever forget that story, even though its historical and theological significance may be realized only later in life.
It is important for children to learn Bible stories, to memorize key passages such as the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes, and to hear affirmative testimonials of faith in action.
Exposure to biblical stories and instruction may build within a child a repertoire of spiritual data, which, though it may be dormant for a while, may initiate faith development, motivate spiritual growth, and provide a framework for moral and ethical decision-making.
Barry Howard is senior minister of First Baptist Church in Corbin, Ky.
Pastor at the Wieuca Road Baptist Church in Atlanta. He also serves as a leadership coach and columnist for the Center for Healthy Churches.