We’ve all see them: Noah’s ark toys, Noah’s ark nursery bedding, and of course Noah’s ark books depicting cutesy animals trotting by in their characteristic two-by-two fashion. It’s a curious choice, really, for an introduction to the Bible. It’s not exactly a feel good tale, and if I had to choose one story that was representative of the overarching biblical narrative it probably wouldn’t be that one.
The Noah Problem, as I like to call this particular pitfall, extends beyond the ark. Many Bible storybooks also focus on stories like Joseph’s coat (Look at all of those colors! Let’s learn the names of all the colors!). There are other examples, I’m sure, but you get the point: they’ve entirely missed the point. When we try too hard to make the Bible relevant to very young children, we risk emphasizing the wrong things in the name of biblical literacy. Good goal, poor methodology.
My point is not that we shouldn’t tell children certain Bible stories. Rather, it’s that when we tell children Bible stories they should be faithful retellings. I want my children to grow up hearing all of the Bible’s individual stories, but only if after hearing them they understand what they’re really about. I want them to know the overarching story and themes of Scripture – creation, fall, redemption, restoration – and how the individual stories fit in to the bigger picture. In short, I want them to learn to read the Bible theologically. If our kids are too young to understand the point of the ark story or of Joseph’s life, rather than trying to find something fun and appealing in the storyline and improperly emphasizing it, let’s just wait awhile until they’re ready for the full story.
On a hopeful note, I’ve recently come across a few good resources on this topic. This 4-minute Tim Keller video is a good reminder for all of us on what the Bible is basically about, but it also has much application for how we teach the Bible to children. And just yesterday I spotted an hour long presentation by David Helm, author of the Big Picture Story Bible, on how to teach children the whole story of the Bible. I haven’t watched that one yet, but I’m planning to do so very soon. I’m so thankful for great resources such as these!