Teaching Bible Stories to Preschoolers


Are some Bible stories
off-limits for preschoolers?

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“Don’t teach preschoolers about sin. And don’t teach them that
Jesus died for them until they’re much older,” the instructor told
her roomful of children’s ministers and Christian education
directors. “They just can’t handle those concepts yet.”

I couldn’t believe my ears!

Was this instructor right? Should we shield preschoolers from some
Bible stories? Are we representing the truth accurately if we mince
the facts and fail to tell children the “unsightly” aspects of
Bible stories?

Bible stories are part of our faith journey. As Christian
educators, we want children to know and love Bible stories so they
know who they are and whose they are.

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But how can we teach Bible stories to preschoolers so they truly
understand them?

Children understand stories in their own way. Preschoolers may not
fully understand Bible stories until they’re much older. In
Christian Child Development, Iris V. Cully writes that
children shouldn’t be expected to understand as adults do. Neither
should they have to wait to hear Bible stories until they’re mature
enough to understand them on an adult level. Present Bible stories
in their entirety, and don’t feel that you have to apologize for

Because some Bible stories rely heavily on symbols in their
telling, they may have symbolic meaning for adults but not for
children. Determine which symbols children understand before you
tell stories. For stories with more abstract symbols, use the tips

1. Be aware. Know how well your children can
relate to the symbols in the stories. Then use that information to
guide you over the cognitive bridges to understanding. Kids who
have an experience base to understand the story well may need fewer

For example, most children have experienced the beauty of a
rainbow. So it’s easy to tell the “rainbow story” from Genesis 9
and say, “When we see the rainbow, it reminds us of God’s promise
to take care of all people.”

However, much-loved parables that rely on symbols may not be so
easy to use with children. One hard-to-understand image is that of
the sheep and shepherd. Most young children will not be able to see
the parallel to Jesus and us, especially if the children live in a

Begin with the familiar–pets children have–and talk about how
they love and care for their pets. Then proceed to other animals
and their keepers, and finally to the sheep and shepherd image. By
crossing these “cognitive bridges,” you’ll integrate a solid base
of understanding into the child’s life.

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