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Four New Ways to Make Scripture Come Alive

What can you learn from teaching fifth-graders the Bible. According to Kat Armstrong - A LOT!

Elisa





Four New Ways to Make Scripture Come Alive

By Kat Armstrong


I’ve started teaching the fourth- and fifth-grade Sunday school classes at my church, and it’s revolutionized my Bible reading in the best ways. Even though I’m a seminary graduate and have been teaching the Bible for twenty years, nothing has brought the Scriptures to life for me as much as my lesson prep for forty wiggly, curious ten- and eleven-year-olds.


Several months ago, I was teaching about Jacob’s manipulative scheme to get his brother Esau’s birthright, and I asked my students what Jacob gained. Their answers were what you would expect: Jacob secured for himself money, a title, and land. But then I asked what Jacob lost. They said that Jacob lost his dignity, the trust of his family, and his closeness with his brother. I stood motionless before the class, frozen in my appreciation for their insights.


They are brilliant theologians, and they are challenging me to see things in the Scriptures from a different perspective. Plus, they have an extra measure of faith in God. There’s simply nothing as endearing and pure as the faith of a child.


Even though I am their teacher, I think they’ve taught me much more than I am teaching them. They’ve taught me four new ways to make Scripture come alive, and I hope their investment in me blesses you.


1. Read the passage in a kid’s Bible. I’m pretty attached to several Bible translations, like the NRSV, CSB, and NIV. But ask a kid what kinds of Bibles they have, and they will show you their adventure Bibles, their illustrated Bibles, and many other new editions of Scripture. Now when I open my Bible to study a passage, I make sure to consult a kid’s Bible too. Just like looking up parallel versions of the verses, I’m incorporating children’s Bibles into my sources. They have a way of simplifying the text and getting the point across without confusion. Next time you need to study a verse, look up that verse in a kid’s Bible. Notice the clarity and simplicity of God’s Word.


2. Read imaginatively. Thanks to the children’s curriculum at our church, I’m starting to see just how powerful it is to act out or narrate the Bible in my study time. Whenever I invite a kid in Sunday school to act as a character in a Bible story, I’m amazed at how their rendition illuminates truth. Sometimes you need to see a little boy kneeling and pretending to wash feet to feel the power of Jesus’ foot-washing moment with his disciples. Sometimes you need to see a little girl pretending to pour out oil and anoint Jesus’ feet to understand the weight of that moment in Scripture. If you want to enjoy your Bible reading more, get up from your chair and act out what is happening in the story. Involving your body in your study will be a game changer.


3. Watch a video about the passage you’re studying. The Bible Project has mastered using visual art to explain what is happening in the Bible, and I’m their number one fan. We’re using some of their videos in Sunday school, and they’re showing me just how memorable a two- to three-minute video can be compared with some of my ten-minute explanations. If you’re going to study a Bible passage or topic, go see if the Bible Project has a video on the subject. You’ll save yourself some time gaining context for the passage, and you’ll never be able to unsee the images that illustrate God’s truth.


4. Draw what you see or hear. I’m starting to use the whiteboard in Sunday school a lot more than I’d ever imagined because it keeps the kids’ attention longer. But it can also involve them in the learning process. If I ask them to color or build something with their hands to bring the text to life, I’m always shocked at their attention to detail and the creative ways they envision what is happening in the stories. Kinesthetic learners, this one is not just for you. All you auditory learners and visual learners, you’d be amazed how well a point is driven home when you listen to someone present their art on the topic or display how they’ve experienced the text.


Catch me on a Sunday afternoon, and you’re sure to get an earful of gushing about the fourth and fifth graders at Dallas Bible Church. I’m so humbled to be their teacher. These little disciples have a lot to teach us about enjoying our Bible reading and increasing our faith.



Kat Armstrong is a sought-after Bible teacher and innovative ministry leader. She holds a master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, is the author of No More Holding Back and The In-Between Place, and is the cofounder of the Polished Network. You can find her at katarmstrong.com. Her newest devotional series, the Storyline Bible Studies, recently released from NavPress.


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