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The Bible Uncensored

Lauren Hunter

Build a Simple Foundation
Consider what the key truth is that children of any age need to learn from any Bible story. Keefer asserts, "I wonder if a better question to ask-rather than 'What stories are age-appropriate?'-might be 'What truth does God want these children to discover from his Word?'"

For many, removing unnecessary and overly complicated details from stories is one tried-and-true way to get the story to the child's level. Greg Baird is the founder of Kidmin360 (kidmin360.com), an organization that provides equipping and leadership development for children's ministers. He says his trusted approach to tough biblical topics is to share the truth-without sharing all the facts.

"Keep to the truth and the essential message of the passage, but be careful not to raise disturbing and distracting elements of the story," advises Baird. "For example, we can say that Rahab was a woman who didn't obey God rather than that she was a prostitute. As kids get older, we share more details. In fact, later on those details sometimes lead to more relevant, life-impacting discussions."

Children's minister George adds that teaching young children is an organic process, meaning she inserts story details to kids' learning as they're appropriate to the kids' age and development. "If I'm going to teach my child to swim, I'm not going to throw him into the deep end and hope he 'gets it.' I'm going to introduce him to water in an age-appropriate and organic manner. This way, children learn in non-threatening and easy ways. And that's your goal for teaching children the Bible. By the time they get to the more difficult details and stories, there's not trauma."

Don't Turn Truth Into a Fairy Tale
While simplifying biblical accounts to make them appropriate and palatable to children is beneficial, experts agree that there's a risk of over-sanitizing the stories: The stories risk being stripped of their inherent meaning and value.

"Children's ministers need to be willing to push the envelope a little," says Brolsma. "Many times it feels like we've watered down these stories so they're the equivalent of fairy tales in an effort to not frighten or offend. No wonder so many young adults who grew up in the church don't believe the Bible is true. We need to be willing to help children experience God's Word, to let the emotion and power of God's Word take root in a child's heart. That's life-changing. Again, I'm not talking about showing The Passion of the Christ to a class of fourth graders, but it's okay to talk about how painful it was for Jesus to die."

Providing kids with just enough detail to identify and relate to the people or situations involved in the events is extremely valuable. Ask: What traits or themes do you want to teach? How do you want your children to relate their personal experience to God's Word? And, advise our experts, don't be lulled into sticking to the tried-and-true stories kids have heard hundreds of times.

"Why have we limited the awesomeness of God's Word to a select number of 'safe' stories?" challenges Brolsma. "Recently we talked to VBS leaders about our upcoming Babylon VBS, which has the subtitle, 'Daniel's Courage in Captivity.' I was astounded that a negative comment was, 'How are you going to make the story of Daniel in the lion's den last for five days of VBS?' Daniel did so much more than face lions! If we could look at things through the filter of 'what truth does God want these children to discover from his Word?' I think we'd be shocked by the lesser-known Scriptures we could bring to life for kids."

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