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The Power of Reading Narratives in the Bible

Updated: Oct 18, 2022

In Bible Quest, we've included Scripture references each week that can be used as parents and teachers see fit. Many of these references are Biblical narratives. Narratives have an incredible power in teaching: they are inherently dialectic, meaning that they help connect bits of information together and formulate understanding. Because of these incredible connections, they also help with speedier memorization and recall. After hearing a Biblical narrative (or any story), students are better able to recite the primary characters, surrounding circumstances, and even the events that follow. In addition, children learn powerful, bigger spiritual and character-forming lessons in the midst of narratives. These are probably some of the reasons why stories are integral to all cultures throughout the world and were used by Jesus himself while teaching! Thus, they make for excellent opportunities to review.

For these reasons, I recommend working on Equip Phase material before reading Scripture directly. Doing this allows for an easy, incremental approach, and supplies little minds with a context with which to engage the passage(s) that you read. You can then use each time that the individual answers to the four big questions come up in your reading to further reinforce them. For example, in week 1 of the New Testament (John the Baptist as a Baby), students learn the following facts:

  • ZACHARIAS and ELIZABETH were OLD and childless when they had a baby named JOHN.

  • ISAIAH and MALACHI PROPHESIED that John the Baptist would come.

  • JOHN the Baptist was Jesus’ RELATIVE.

For this particular week, I'd personally go with Luke 1 as my Scripture of choice (the others listed don't deal with John's birth, only prophecy about him and his ministry). Here's Luke 1 in the WEB or KJV through (where you can easily use whatever version works best in your context). Take a look at verse 7: "But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they both were well advanced in years." Right after reading that, I might say something like, "'Advanced in years' means that they were old. What did we learn about Zacharias and Elizabeth? Say this with me, kids:  ZACHARIAS and ELIZABETH were OLD and childless when they had a baby named JOHN. Good! Let's see what happens next..." Weaving review into your reading is an excellent practice that leverages the natural power that narratives offer.

When younger children are present, some families may find that smaller bits of Scripture are more mentally digestable. There's no harm in spreading out Scripture reading over several short sessions, and leaving them wanting more is FAR better than over-feeding them in a single sitting. Encourage them to fall in love with the Word by bringing it to them in kid-sized pieces rather than overwhelming them with too much of it at once. "We'll find out what happens to John tomorrow!" is a great way to leave it. Then, you get the added bonus of being able to ask, "So, who remembers what happened last time?" It's even more review to help them retain the information.

When working with older students, I still read relevant Bible passages after we've all completed our memorization practice in the Equip Phase. This gives students a ready context for whatever we're talking about in the Bible during the Empower Phase. Exercises like "Retell Bible Narratives" or "Summarizing a Passage" and Explorations such as "Scripture Explorations with Discussion" all work better after reading the Bible passage. However, sometimes the Bible reading takes place in the midst of our Empower Phase activity, like when we use the "Hands-on Bible Story" Exploration.

Of course, Scripture is not limited to only narratives. While the power of story isn't present in other parts of the Bible such as epistles or poetry, the same principle of reading after the Equip Phase is complete can still be helpful because the material that students memorize helps to foster great reading comprehension... of the Bible!

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