Making Sure Children Actually Hear the Gospel and Not Just a Bunch of Bible Stories

But we don’t remember that Moses said, “This blood is a symbol of the covenant,” in the Old Testament. We don’t understand why Abraham would be called to sacrifice Isaac if we don’t understand what would happen as God the Son is sent by God the Father to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. This interconnectedness happens all through Scripture.

When we take the Bible as a series of isolated morality tales, we think about 66 books with hundreds, if not thousands, of stories contained within them. In actuality, there are not thousands of stories. There are not 66 stories. There aren’t even two stories with the Old and New Testament. There is one story and that is the story of what God is doing—redemptive history.

The Gospel Is Not a Self-Help Program

Part of the challenge is in the midst of sharing the Gospel. We want to teach morals to kids, but we don’t want them to become moralists. Yet that is a facet of the predominant religion of our culture today—moralistic therapeutic deism.

Christian Smith coined this phrase.

Moralism is the idea that whatever God is out there wants you to be a good person. It’s also therapeutic. It makes you a better person. It’s actually good for you to have some spirituality in your life. And deism is merely the belief in some God doing something up/out there.

While many people would not self-identify as moralistic therapeutic deists, that is exactly what they are, practically speaking.

They often draw their theology from various sources, including the Bible. But they cherry pick Bible stories that work well with their worldview and adopt the morality found in the story. This will make them feel better and pleasing to God. Mission accomplished.

But that isn’t our mission. That’s not our desire.

The Gospel is that sinners have been saved and are part of a family of believers who edify and equip one another to go out to other sinners and tell them about the Savior. Scripture tells us how God has been searching for and saving people from the first Garden to the Eternal City. We have the privilege of telling that to others, including kids.

Contextualization for Children Is Essential

I’m not a children’s pastor and do not have a Ph.D. in educational pedagogy.

Yet, I can tell that that we should not let the fact that children are still learning how to learn keep us from sharing the whole counsel of God with them. When Jesus taught about our acceptance of the Gospel, He said that we must become as children.

Children were designed to hear about the things of God and have faith in them with few hurdles. So let’s be honest with them about the Gospel. It will make more sense if it is delivered holistically, and it will have a greater effect in their lives.

Definitely contextualize, as you would anywhere to anyone else. But do not strip the Gospel of its power in your delivery. God has a Story, and they are in it.

How can we more effectively teach stories without extracting them from the Story? What have you found as you teach children about the bigger story? What part of the Gospel is the most difficult to contextualize for children?

Some Resources

Thankfully, many gifted people see the need to teach the whole Story of Scripture to children. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of great resources available to the church today to teach children about Jesus, the Gospel and God’s Word. There are some links to some below. Feel free to suggest your tools in the comments below as well.   

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Ed Stetzer
Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books.