In The Bible Story Handbook, John and Kim Walton offer a handy resource for youth group leaders, Sunday School teachers, and parents on how to teach a selection of 175 stories in the Bible. The Waltons leverage their extensive scholarly expertise and teaching experience to illustrate how the focal points in each story connect to God’s story. The premise of the book is that many teachers may unintentionally encourage kids to emulate a certain Bible character or create moral lessons that are not explicitly found in the text. Instead, the authors continually remind the reader (teacher) that teaching a Bible story is to draw the audience to focus squarely on the grand story of God. Furthermore, those who teach the Bible, regardless of the age of the audience, should be careful and diligent in both interpreting the original intent (i.e. exegesis) and drawing appropriate implications from the text. Thus, the authors spend time breaking down each lesson to show how each biblical narrative is intended to display who God is and how He relates to His creatures. The book itself begins with an introduction on how and why we are to teach Bible stories along with a broad overview of the grand picture of the Bible. Afterwards, each lesson is split into the following sections: Lesson Focus, Lesson Application, Biblical Context, Interpretational Issues in the Story, Background Information, and Mistakes to Avoid. In essence, the authors point out the common pitfalls that most curriculums often endorse and how the teacher can put the focus back on God in the lesson.
When I first decided to review this book, I was slightly hesitant as I knew it was a teaching handbook so reading it from cover to cover may end up being quite dry. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that each story in the book allowed me to reflect on my own experience both attending and teaching Sunday School through the years. Many times, we try to squeeze out some form of moral teaching to ensure that our kids are able to go home and tell their parents that they learned something. In an effort to do that, we often stretch details and move away from handling the narrative with the care that the Waltons stress throughout the book. I definitely appreciate the reminder to put more effort in studying and teaching God’s Word faithfully. As a youth group leader, I often succumb to the temptation of teaching the Bible passage with a simple moral lesson instead of drawing the youths’ attention to what God is trying to reveal about Himself in the story. Thus, I encourage those who teach, may it be at church or at home, to read this book and ruminate on how we can encourage our kids to connect Bible stories and their own life stories to God’s grand story.
In compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I was provided a free review copy of this book from Crossway.