When I moved overseas, deciding what books to bring, leave behind, or store away was a tough call to make. Some books I couldn’t part with. I even added to my collection, but it wasn’t commentaries or books on cross-cultural living. It was a selection of theological books for children. As the church, we should care about the quality of teaching and writing presented to children. The voice on good Christian publication for children is not limited to parents, teachers, or writers. Reliable sources for kids should be in your selection of books, even if you’re like me – a single in your mid-30’s, no children, and not working with children full time.
As a student in seminary, God’s word came to life in remarkable ways. I needed that kind of academic rigor to train my immature mind and heart to grow in my understanding of God. As growth took place, my love for the Lord deepened and matured. I was excited about God’s word. I wanted to share what I was learning with people of all ages. I became confident that teaching God’s truths to young minds was entirely possible. The church should focus on training young minds if we’re serious about raising a generation of Bible-literate disciples. Here are some reasons why I have found books for children beneficial.
1. It gives me a working language. I learned a lot of new vocabulary while studying theology. Because a lot of the terms were unfamiliar to me, I needed a simple, uncomplicated working definition I could understand and communicate with others. In the church, I interacted with people of different ages and levels of education. Now that I am in a cross-cultural setting and learning a new language (and culture), using vocabulary that is not difficult to translate into another language or culture is valuable when making disciples.
2. It gives me resources I feel confident recommending. As I began soaking up solid teaching, I grew dissatisfied with and disheartened by the bulk of unhelpful material in the Christian market. Regrettably, the majority of Christian material for children was weak. Bible stories were shallow, did not often connect to the Bible as a whole (if they did so at all), and boiled down to moral lessons. When I learned about some gospel-based resources for kids that taught the overarching narrative of Scripture, traced themes throughout the Bible, and helped people grow as disciples, I began telling others about it. (A few people bought or checked out the material based on my recommendations.) I was able to recommend them because they were already in my book collection.
3. It aids my personal spiritual growth. Feeding the hearts and minds of children should be on the same level of importance as feeding hearts and minds of adults. It’s a good, healthy stretch to think of illustrations that are age appropriate or suitable for someone with a lower-level education. Can I find examples suitable for my elementary-school-aged niece? Am I limited to using big words I don’t feel confident explaining? That’s my litmus test. This challenge in learning how to communicate God’s truths without overcomplicating language helped me to grow, too.
So, what books do I recommend?
The Gospel Story Bible by Marty Machowski. I appreciate how Machowski treats the Bible as a whole in this easy-to-follow book. He handles tough passages of Scripture rightly. I mean, how many children’s story Bibles have the story of Achan’s sin from Joshua 7? Not many, I’m afraid.
The Ology, also by Machowski, is another one I personally own. This is one of the most helpful books I have found for teaching profound, theological truths. It is incredibly readable, and it would go along wonderfully with something like New City Catechisms.
Prepare Him Room is a fun, family-friendly Advent devotional, but I found it delightful with or without a family. Yes, it’s another one by Machowski. He handles Old Testament prophecies on the coming of Christ in a way that adults and kids alike can enjoy and learn from. It’s also concise, so it’s great for busy families and short attention spans.
New Growth Press also has curriculum to go along with some of these sources. By the way, check out the fantastic music that accompanies these works! I am hooked. It’s been aunt tested, niece approved. Most of the music for Machowski’s works is by Sovereign Grace. You can’t beat New City Catechism’s catchy music, either.
(Sorry this is so heavy on one author! If you know others who are equally reliable, feel free to comment. I’d love to hear your recommendations.)
I also include a list of a few recommended podcasts:
The Gospel Coalition’s Help Me Teach the Bible podcast by Nancy Guthrie is one of my go-to’s. She has a helpful episode on how to Raise the Bar When Teaching Children in her interview with David and Sally Michael. Listening to it is worth your time!
The Village Church in Texas has a great podcast called Knowing Faith, featuring one of my favorite Bible teachers, Jen Wilkin. They raise more than a few thought-provoking questions in the episode “Can Kids Be Theologians?”.