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Once Upon the Bible

Misty Anne Winzenried

Making The Connection

Not all stories or movies in kids' culture can be used in the same way to teach biblical truth. Some stories don't directly follow the Bible but make great lead-ins for the Bible stories you're teaching. Other stories powerfully illustrate a biblical point you want to emphasize. What's the difference? Here are four ways to use stories to teach the Bible.

• Attention-Getters -- Some stories share objects or characters with Bible stories but don't teach the same point or have the same plot; these reappearing objects or people can introduce your Bible story. You can point out how the whale that swallows Pinocchio is similar to Jonah's fish and how Jack and David each had a giant to defeat.

For kids ages 8 and up, use stories, movie clips, or fairy tales to introduce your Bible lesson. In the Disney movie The Jungle Book, the characters encounter an antagonist seemingly lifted straight out of the pages of Genesis. Kaa, the deceitful snake who seeks to trick Mowgli, can remind kids to watch for Satan's deceitfulness. After showing a clip of Kaa, say, "How does Kaa try to trick Mowgli? What does it feel like when someone tries to trick you? How can you remember what's true?" Then turn to your Bible lesson by saying, "The Jungle Book is just a story, but in the Bible, Satan disguised himself as a snake just like Kaa and deceived Adam and Eve."

• Character-Connectors -- Many stories have characters similar to Bible characters who experience similar trials. Amanda Deramus, Sunday school superintendent and teacher at Central United Methodist Church in Detroit, Michigan, uses the character of Cinderella to help children who've never heard of King David to become familiar with him. Amanda tells kids, "David, like Cinderella, was always left behind to do the hard work. Both David and Cinderella spent their lives being overlooked and underappreciated. But God is faithful! In the end, their faithfulness made them shine, and they became the heroes of their stories. In God's eyes, it is not the oldest, strongest, or most wealthy person but the one with the truest heart who makes the best hero." Amanda helps kids understand David's situation better because they connect with a similar story about someone else.

• Plot-Followers -- The Cinderella-Esther connection is an example of a parallel story. Similarly, the "Sleeping Beauty" (or "Briar Rose") tale parallels the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Issac. Each set of parents wishes for a child and finally conceives after much hoping and praying. Then, although due to vastly different forces -- one evil, the other good -- the parents are compelled to sacrifice their children. Both sets of parents have a test of faith related to their children.

For preteens, use this type of connection to get kids to experience the feelings of the characters in the Bible story. Have kids form groups and talk about the feelings and actions of each character in the fairy tale who also parallels a character in your Bible story. Then assign each group a character in the parallel Bible story. As you read the Bible story, pause to give the groups time to respond with actions and words about the feelings their characters may've experienced. Since kids know the fairy tale, they should be able to follow the Bible story even if they've never heard it before.

• Point-Makers -- When guided with age-appropriate debriefing questions, kids ages 5 and up can talk about characters in stories as they explore how they might feel or what they might do in specific situations. Talking about "Hansel and Gretel" can teach kids to not be greedy. "The Red Shoes" can be a lesson about vanity. For older kids, check out the "Reel Time" and "Tuned In" sections of "Keeping Current" in Children's Ministry Magazine for clips from recent movies and songs that you can use to teach biblical points.

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