How The Biblical Story Shapes Your Kids’ Worldview
“In the beginning…” Three simple words that signal the start of the greatest story of all time. This is the story of humanity and God’s involvement with humanity. This is the story of God’s eternal Kingdom. This is the story of the Bible. And, this is YOUR KIDS’ story. The article will help you understand how the biblical story shapes your kids’ worldview.
Unlike a fairy tale that begins with, “Once upon a time,” this story is true and far more epic. This story includes everything that ever has happened and everything that ever will happen. This is the story of every human that has ever lived. This is the story that answers the fundamental questions that every person asks, knowingly or not. This story answers the most fundamental questions of YOUR life and the life of YOUR CHILDREN. Yes, this is THEIR story.
This is their story placed in its proper, true, historic, and eternal context. Not only does this story answer their most fundamental life questions, this story reveals that their lives are of far greater significance than any other story can possibly suggest. This story reveals that your child’s life is eternally significant in its duration, and infinitely significant in its value. There has never been a story like this!
Why A Story?
But why a story? Why, when God initiated the process of recording HIS revelation, did He choose to do so through a story? Why not just say, “Here’s what I want you to know about me and the world in which you live?” The record almost certainly would have been shorter, and more concise. Think of the arguments that would have been avoided. Think of the wars that might never have happened!
Those of us living in the contemporary western world might be tempted to think that such an approach would be preferable. We’d prefer to pull up to the drive-through window of God’s Revelation and “get it to go.” “Give me God’s Word in a convenient package I can consume quickly on my way to the office or soccer practice. There are, after all, things to do, places to go, and people to see.” As educators (or those responsible for education such as parents), we like lists and lessons that are “easy to prepare” and customized just for me. “Can I get that in a grape liquid form?”
But for some reason, God didn’t do it that way. He didn’t give us a concise list. He gave us a story. A LOOOOONG story. He then filled that story with confusing circumstances and baffling behavior. The story contains historical records of ancient kings and private letters to people we don’t even know. There are dramatic battles that keep you on the edge of your seat and “snoozer” passages that ramble on in a seemingly endless series of “begats.” “Who cares about these people anyway?”
For some reason, in spite of our busy agendas and urgent priorities, God chose to tell us a story. Pause here for a moment and think about this… God has revealed Himself in a story. A story. Really? Why?
Your Story Defines Your Worldview
An individual’s worldview, including that of your children, is determined by the stories they ultimately adopt. These stories become part of their own life story and it is this story, their OWN story, ultimately, that defines his or her own particular worldview. Everything we believe is based on one or more experiences of some kind, and these experiences inform, shape, define, and determine our story, AND, consequently, our worldview.
This is true because we all live in the context of time and understand very intuitively that we each hold some memory of the past, some understanding of the present, and some anticipation of the future. This collective memory, understanding, and anticipation is our “story.”
Yes, it is important for Christians and the church to formulate and articulate distinct elements of a biblical worldview. Historically, the church began to do this quite early and it continues to do so in the form of creeds, statements of faith, and countless books on systematic theology. Such formulations and statements are helpful because they tend to be more precise and technically crafted for the sake of clarity. Theology is important and the statements we craft that articulate Christian theology are important.
However, the biblical record never actually provides a comprehensive and systematic statement of Christian (biblical) theology. Rather, the Bible tells a story. The closest we come to a systematic statement of Christian theology would be The Book of Romans and even it is set clearly in the context of the broader story of Israel and the fulfillment of Israel’s Messianic expectation in the person of Jesus. Take out the story and The Book of Romans becomes incomprehensible. The New Testament writers simply could not escape, and made no effort to escape, the story they had adopted (mostly unconsciously) and in which they believed they were living. Their worldview, and the worldview they were attempting to communicate, was inseparable from the divine story within which they were living.
This happened naturally for New Testament writers. It’s not so natural for those of us living in the contemporary western world. We struggle to understand why the biblical story is so important and often dismiss the broader story of Israel as largely irrelevant, uninteresting, and unimportant. For those of us with responsibility for Christian education and discipleship in the church today, it is time to reconcile what our culture has all too often separated. It is time to reconnect our theology with the biblical story.
There’s Theology In The Story
Reconciling our systems of doctrine with the biblical story is important not simply because that’s the way it was done in the Bible (which is a good reason in itself). It is important at a very practical and parental level. Individuals, of any age, rarely (if ever) adopt a list or system of “truths” in order to adjust their own particular worldview. That’s simply not how it works.
Rather, people adopt stories of various kinds (mostly unconsciously) and then choose to accept those stories (or the truths imbedded within them or both) as true or significant. As an individual adopts various stories, those stories become part of their own story and those individual life stories begin to inform, shape, and define the individual’s worldview. This is especially true of children as their experiences are laying the foundation for the stories they will adopt in the future.
As kids are exposed to the larger story of the Bible, they will begin to understand that this story explains lots of things and answers lots of questions. They will begin to see that the biblical story is an unfolding story. It is GOD’S unfolding story and they have a place in it! As this amazing, epic, and true story settles into their hearts, they will begin to adopt the story (and its theology) as part of their own story. As the truths of the story are hidden away in their memories, it will begin to shape the foundations of their own personal worldviews.
Few things can be of greater importance in the education of our children than teaching them the broader biblical narrative; God’s grand story! Sunday School Zone is dedicated to helping parents, schools, and churches teach His story to successive generations.
Two Strategic Mistakes
Those of us in the world of education and discipleship have, for too long, made two strategic mistakes. First, in our efforts to “teach the Bible,” we have dismantled the broader biblical story into disjointed and essentially unrelated pieces. It’s as though we reach into the box of biblical puzzle pieces each week and say, “Today we’re going to study this piece of the puzzle.” Then the following week we study another piece that may or may not be related to the first. We rarely hold up the “box lid” to reveal the larger picture. This approach effectively destroys the cohesion of the biblical story.
Second, we have treated the individual stories of the Bible as moralistic tales or fables rather than historical pieces of the larger story. Bible study curricula tend to focus on behavioral outcomes rather than allowing the story to be a story. This approach diminishes the historical value of any given story (by making it about me and my behavior) and, again, undermines the cohesion of the broader biblical narrative.
The collective result of these two mistakes is that we destroy the story and make the individual stories all about the learner and his/her behavior rather than the story they need to learn and adopt. One of the goals of Sunday School Zone is to help churches recover from these foundational mistakes and begin to teach the story AS A STORY to this and successive generations. We hope to assist the church in articulating the story in an effective educational manner while also connecting that story with a carefully crafted worldview model that articulates the key elements of a biblical worldview. We believe this approach will help a church’s discipleship efforts from preschool through adults.
How we go about accomplishing this goal will, itself, unfold over time. But, this will help you understand our long-term goal and why we do what we do!
Author, Speaker, Bible Teacher
See a list of other articles by Rick Edwards.