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Once Upon the Bible

Misty Anne Winzenried

However, kids under age 8 tend to think literally. You can still use hooks to introduce Bible stories, but it's best to save abstract connections for older kids. Help kids around ages 6 to 8 make simple comparisons. Ask, "How do you think Pinocchio felt in the stomach of the whale? How would you feel if you got swallowed by a whale? Even though Pinocchio's story is pretend, there's a true story in the Bible about a man who was swallowed by a big fish."

What Kids Know

It's easy to take what kids know and help draw them closer to God because certain stories and themes are ingrained in their culture. Take for example the story "Cinderella." Throughout the whole world, various versions of "Cinderella" share similar thematic elements. In China, there's "Lin Lan"; in France, they have the story of "Donkeyskin." In these stories, especially in the Grimms' version of "Cinderella," the story follows a plot similar to the book of Esther. Both Cinderella and Esther greatly need friends and mentors. They're both left virtually alone and deemed culturally inferior, yet meeting their Prince Charmings dramatically redeems their situations. Each woman went from unvalued to invaluable and from ashes to glory -- a vivid picture of Christ's redemption of each one of us.

"Cinderella" can be used to introduce the Bible story of Esther and reinforce Psalm 40:2-3: "He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord."

Literary scholars often look for the Christ figure in literature. And they find that figure in literature from cultures and countries all over the world. Why? Perhaps because writers have borrowed from the Bible. Or perhaps the very essence of our need for salvation is written into the fiber of our souls. Perhaps the gospel is written on our hearts. The point is not which came first; the point is that inherently, the story of the gospel contains something familiar, something we know we need -- and it's repeated in thousands of ways in hundreds of cultures and languages.

Fairy tales can introduce children to biblical truth just as other culturally specific media, such as books, movies, and personal stories, can contain elements useful for teaching truth. God can redeem the culture for his kingdom. Jesus used stories that first-century Christians could understand in the context of their culture, and we can do the same.

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