Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Children
Author: Jack Klumpenhower
Star Rating (out of 5): *****
For: parents, teachers, anyone who considers the Bible their guide for life.
This is a life-changing book that put into words so many things that have nagged at the back of my mind about the way we teach the Bible to children. It seems far too many picture Bibles, Sunday school curricula, and parenting books boil the Bible down to “This Bible character did this. You should do/not do this.” You could completely remove God and Christ from some of these books/methods and the application would not change: be good. Likewise, as a parent it’s too easy to simply use Bible stories as a way to try to manipulate our kids’ behavior.
To begin with, trying to “be good” without understanding our new life in Christ and the Holy Spirit’s enablement is completely futile. This focus on morality apart from the Gospel also helps explain why many church kids grow up and leave the church. If all church gave them was a list of how to behave, but they never truly fell in love with Jesus and understand all he did for them, why stay in church?
Klumpenhower maintains that “The cross of Jesus—not principles of good living—is the engine of the Christian life.” The gist of this book is that more than anything, kids need to be shown God’s character, Jesus’ work, and the Holy Spirit’s enabling. This, more than any moral lesson, will be what transforms them. “We make a mistake if we think kids are saved by hearing the good news and trusting Jesus, but then grow as Christians some other way.” While the Bible does give useful examples, if kids “get Samuel the good listener without first appreciating God the Great Speaker, they’re liable to end up relating to God only in an anxious, what-I-must-do way.”
The book gives practical advice for how to teach the Word in a way that points to Jesus and not our own efforts. For example, when teaching Old Testament stories he recommends asking:
“1) What is God doing for his people in this story? 2) Good News! How does God do the same for us—only better—in Jesus? 3) Believe it! How does believing this good news change how we live?”
Here is an example from teaching about Moses:
“What is God doing for his people in this story? He arranges events to protect baby Moses and give the Israelites a leader who will rescue them from Egypt. Good News! How does God do the same for us—only better—in Jesus? He has provided a Leader and Savior who rescues us from sin and death. Believe it! How does believing this good news change how we live? Even when it’s hard to see, we can trust that God is working out his plan to complete our salvation.”
Another great example is how he recommends addressing sin: the surface sin we can see (example: dancing to lewd music), the selfish fear underneath (ex: afraid friends won’t like or accept me), and the root unbelief (ex: not believing Jesus gives me God’s approval).
I’m just scratching the surface of this book. Chapter after chapter is filled with wonderful truth about how the grace given in the Gospel impacts every area of our lives and about how our identity in Christ is what transforms us. I recommend it to anyone who wants to use the Bible as their foundation for living, teaching, and parenting. It’s that good. Go read it! If you’re intrigued but not sure you can read the whole thing, download the free Kindle sample and at least read the introduction and first chapter; it will give you a good overview. And then you’ll probably want to read the rest!