Ben White's Adventures with softened hearts

What Do I Do With My Kids and the Bible?

Let’s Have a Bible Class

Since we’re all basically part time teachers this school year my friend Bryce had the idea that one of the subjects he ought to teach would be the Bible. I was quite taken by the idea. It hit me when I was washing my hands the other day that I better help them know some Bible by heart.

We all wash our hands so often during the pandemic that I have had this amplifying memory that I keep talking about. Whenever I wash my hands at the kitchen sink and the water is running while I sing the ABC’s twice like the good virucidal citizen I am, I remember to turn it off because the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles told me to when I was about seven. I grew up in Southern California where human life is basically unsustainable without great feats of engineering to pipe water hundreds of miles. So water is a premium that we ought to conserve. The Ninja Turtles taught me in a PSA that would come on at the end of the show to turn off the tap. I know this by heart. How do i know I know this by heart? Because I remember it daily!

We are influenced by so much, wouldn’t it be a nice gift to my kids to plant some words of comfort and truth from the book that testifies to the Word of Life right there in their hearts next to the cartoons?  If we are too laisez faire about this, the Ninja Turtles and their media ilk will plant some less beneficial messages that will win the day. Raising kids who grow into an adult faith is super difficult in this day and age. Maybe a Bible Class during Pandemic School 2020 is what they need?

Oh But Wait, Maybe We Shouldn’t

We say in Circle of Hope that the Gospel is better caught than taught. That is to say, teaching the Bible is not the best way to reveal the person of Jesus to people. That’s why we organized our church around this organic metaphor of cells. We want people to be a part of a living body that does the Bible. We are Bible people in that we organize our common life around the life and teaching of Jesus who showed us what it means to be human. Teaching a class to my kids could rip all of that up, right? Well, yeah… maybe.

We say in our Children’s Plan:

The difference between school and cell-like groups of children [which we try to create in our non-pandemic Sunday meetings].

  • A cell is the church. Sunday school is a program the church does.
  • People are a cell. People go to a Bible study.
  • Cell Leaders facilitate the life of the cell. School teachers help people learn the subject.
  • Jesus is the agenda of a cell. The Bible tends to be the agenda of a Sunday school.

Even though children have less capacity to engage in adult conversation, we still do not intend to create a classroom atmosphere for them to experience.”

Is there a way to give my kids some content without abandoning this novel project? Is it clear what we’re going for in making these distinctions? Let me know in the comments.

Owning the Project But Still Trusting the Spirit

Really I just want to try something since my normal means of helping my kids connect, life in the community, is a little tattered at the moment. I hope that my partners rely on the community connection as much as I do in their project of raising kids who know they are loved by God so they can respond to Jesus’ call on their life when they are ready. I think they do. But let me say it for everyone: making your family’s life around a local expression of the gospel is the best way for your kids to grow into adult faith. Your faith, your action because of it; your disciplines, and how you talk about Jesus; your rituals, and God’s presence in them — these are the best ways for kids to see what faith really is and receive it themselves. BUT it’s not just your faith and etc. It’s OUR faith. Humbly recognizing the need your child has for more than you can offer is a reason to regularly include them in the life of the body. Relying on that body for your life of faith and for your child is what I desire for all of us.  (And that’s what we call Village Parenting)

But that is harder to do right now when most of our relating is mediated through screens. This makes our ownership of the project all the more important. Doing what we do with our kids on purpose is the moral of the story. Having a plan and adapting the plan — that’s the trick. I think that if you have a plan adapting the plan is not as hard. It’s having a conscious plan that might be a bigger hurdle. Those who are recovering from an overly dogmatic experience or a brittle fundamentalism might have the hardest time. I feel you, but don’t give up. The faith you have is worth sharing, and that takes a lot of intention, and a lot of trust in the Holy Spirit. Remember, nothing works, only God works.

It seems that the most common outcome from that desire to have a plan is to make a class. And now I am thinking about doing just that. Am I just as uncreative as my spiritual ancestors who thought it was best to boil down the Bible into third grade mouth sized bites and hope the information magically transformed into faith?  I admit that it could so easily go that way, but I want to do a class mostly in name only. Really I’m just adapting my plan and finding ways to engage my kids in the thing I have set my life up to do.

Some Idea That I Am Going to Try

It’s not really a class. It’s YouTube videos. I’m going to watch youtube.com/thebibleproject everyday and talk about it with them. my kids are six and nine years old and they love learning things. They love stories about history (Thanks Hamilton) and really anything that is a cartoon. They also love taxonomies like the various types of dragons they can spawn on their phone app and, of course, the perennial Pokémon (gotta catch’em all). Why not get the Tribes of Israel and the 12 disciples up in there too?  We’re also going to memorize some scripture as we are able. We are starting with the Lord’s Prayer. That’s it.

I don’t think it is really a class. It’s more some concerted energy toward this 18 year project I have with them. I want to show them who Jesus is to me and what a life with God is like in real life. If I reduced it down to just the class, I think I would be in trouble, and much of my siblings in Christ have done that to some degree (I probably have too), but I’m hoping it can be done. Want to join me and Bryce?  Let’s talk about it. Shoot me an email.

2 Comments

  1. Krista Dutt

    I am reading March with my 8 year old by John Lewis – he talks a lot about faith and its really amazing how just reading 20 minutes a night with Ben turns into a bible lesson for both of us.

  2. David Michaux

    I love where you land on this! With Ephraim (he’s 5), many nights for bedtime I’ll sing the Lord’s Prayer by the Psalters. He’s starting to sing it with me too … with little regard to key 🙂 He also has the Children of God Storybook Bible by Desmond Tutu, which I highly recommend (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8571920-children-of-god-storybook-bible). I don’t want to overwhelm him so we only pull it out once or twice a week right now. Every time he says “Oh, not that one!” but at the end of each tiny story he says “One more! One more!”

    I said I love where you end on this because, to be completely honest, I’m not content with Circle of Hope’s attitudes regarding the bible – not necessarily yours, but our church in general. Don’t get me wrong – I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church where the trinity was implicitly “Father, Son, and Holy Bible” and my friends in school often had to memorize part of the bible as a form of punishment. That had to be damaging … However, Circle of Hope – as an explicit project in alternativity – is especially susceptible to being a pendulum swung too far. CoH occasionally reminds me of the Reformation where so much beauty, depth, and unity were lost when the Protestants rebelled against all the very bad stuff. In some ways, they “threw the baby out with the bathwater.” In an effort to live out the saying “the gospel is better caught than taught” I think we’ve gone too far. In our culture, if not teaching, the bible is like a leper we love but want to keep at a ‘safe’ distance.

    Ironically (or perfectly) I’m reminded of a bible story – one of the few bible stories where the subject is the bible itself. Some millennia ago, Israel had grown so far from God that not even the priests knew God and the bible had been physically lost, misplaced for years. During a renovation project, someone busted down a wall and found parts of the bible stashed away behind the stone. When the priests took it to the king (Josiah), he read it and was so heartbroken at having drifted far from God that he led a religio-political revolution to bring everyone back to God. Without the people, the bible is utterly meaningless, but without the bible we risk losing ourselves over time. We’re just not that good with Oral Tradition these days.

    Also, I love your heading of this blog: “Today, if you hear his voice.” How often does God speak to you by reminding you of a small piece of the bible you read 5-10-20 years ago? By diminishing the bible – even by accident! – we diminish our ability to recognize God’s present voice of hope, healing, and redemption in our daily mundane lives. As you point out, you remember to turn off the tap because of the TMNT when you were 7. God does the same, but more actively.

    Again, I’m not critiquing you, but I see danger for our church as we swing the pendulum.

    This is a looooong comment, and probably should’ve been my own blog post 🙂 – but, again, I love where you land on this. I’m totally going to check out those youtube videos. Thanks Ben!

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