God is the main character

In children’s ministry, you’ll find that Bible lessons are typically designed to teach children what to do—“Be joyful!  Be courageous!”  But this is rarely the main point of a Bible story. The Bible was written to show us God. He’s the main character.

One of my responsibilities as a pastor over children’s ministry is to observe our volunteer team as they teach kids each week.  I like to peek into the classrooms and hang out. One week, I observed a class learning about Israel crossing the Red Sea. I sat down with the kids during their snack. I asked, “Who was your story about today?” One child answered, “We learned about God!” I dismissed it as a typical Sunday School answer, and I followed up, “Yes, but didn’t you learn about Moses? What did Moses do?” The child was brilliant. “Moses didn’t do much,” he said. He just prayed and lifted his stick. But God dried up the sea so the people could cross. Then, he drownded all the Egyptians! God was awesome!”

That kid got the lesson’s point better than I did. Where is God in the way we typically teach kids? We may focus on teaching kids godly character. But this is rarely the Bible’s main point.  The Bible shows us God—who He is and what He has done. So how can we keep the main thing the main thing in our Bible lessons?

I’ve found using summary statements helps me keep God as the main character in my teaching:

  • First, I find the lesson’s summary statements. At the beginning of most children’s Bible lessons, you will find a one or two sentence summary of the lesson. Sometimes these are called the “key points” or “main ideas.” The summary for a study of  Joshua 2 might be, “God conquers Jericho. But He spares one family by his grace.” 
  • Second, I ensure God is the subject of the lesson summary. Before I teach a lesson, I review the summaries. I ensure God is the main topic of these key points.  If not, I reread and ask, “What does this passage show me about God? Who does it say He is? What is He doing in this story?” Once I’ve answered these questions, I rewrite the summary ensuring God is the subject.

  • Finally, I put the summary to memory and repeat it often. If you are like me, you find it’s easy to stray from your lesson’s main point. It helps me stay on track if I’ve memorized these key ideas. When I know them by heart, I can come back to them throughout the class time. I use the summary during the welcome to preview the lesson. I say it again after the story to summarize what we’ve just learned. I even review the summaries during the craft and while our kids are eating their snack.

What helps you keep God the main character in your Bible lessons?

Check out my Bible storybook, The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible from New Growth Press. Every story contains one big truth about God you can teach to toddlers and young readers.