Reading the Bible With Children and Youth at LEAD

by Jody Noble (M.Div. 2009)

One of the significant challenges for people who want to help children and youth read the Bible is making the stories appropriate for their ages, understandable, interesting, and applicable to their lives. At LEAD 2010, McCormick alumnae Lindsey Anderson and Emily McGinley, with Professor Ted Hiebert, presented an educational session on how adults working with children and youth can accomplish all of these things in several relatively easy steps.

The presentation was based on a project undertaken in a class at McCormick co-taught by Hiebert and Professor Lib Caldwell in the fall of 2009. Students chose a Bible story to focus on and then, throughout the course of the semester, studied the context of their story on a variety of levels and added their storytelling perspective to the Biblical accounts. The outcome of the project was a book entitled Beginnings: Children’s Stories from Matthew and Genesis, which presents several stories written by class members and whose layout and overall design was handled by McGinley, a professional graphic designer by trade.

The advice of the presenters for anyone wishing to help children and youth read the Bible involves just four basic steps. First, write down the Bible story as you remember it, including the meaning of the story you remember and the meaning you would communicate to children/youth. Then, read two different translations of the biblical story and see if there are any differences between your recollection and the texts. Do the differences raise any new questions for you?  Third, do just a bit of outside reading using sources like a good study Bible, the web site or a concordance in a church library to learn something about the historical and cultural context within which your story was written. Are there important issues that the historical or cultural settings played in the meaning of the story?  Are there clues in the language or words used by the writer that were supposed to communicate something to the reader? 

And, finally, consider what the contemporary applications are for the children and youth you are working with, how the story might resonate with them, and in what ways their lives might intersect with the story. Four simple steps may yield surprising insights on otherwise familiar texts.

Beginnings: Children’s Stories from Matthew and Genesis is part the first book of Transforming Traditions, a new series produced by McCormick Seminary. Each volume of Transforming traditions represents the work of McCormick students done in the course of their studies. Volume 2 is due out in the Spring and will be funded by Dr. Robert Cathey's course on Religious Pluralism and Ministry in Chicago.

For more on LEAD, McCormick's Geoff Ashmun has this report as well as photos from the event