This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Melanie Simpson Co-host 00:00
How on earth do you go about choosing a children’s Bible? Hmm, you get on Amazon, you go to the bookstore. There are so many options. Well, in today’s episode, Heidi and I are going to walk you through some of the steps that we used as we made those decisions for the kids in our lives. We hope that you’ll find it helpful as you decide what sort of Bible you need in your own home.
Heidi Franz Host 00:21
Welcome back to Parenting to Impress. Your go-to podcast, to learn practical ways to love God and love others and impress this on the hearts of your children. I am your host, Heidi Franz, and I am joined by my dear friend, Melanie Simpson. Two moms who have made a lot of mistakes but have found grace and truth along the way.
Melanie, I think one of the hardest things about finding a children’s Bible is that there’s so many types.
Melanie Simpson Co-host 00:48
It’s not just which one’s the best, but which type is best for my child now, and which age group. Even I’m thinking about teachers who want to have a Bible in their classrooms. Each stage and age really could require a different kind of Bible.
Heidi Franz Host 01:04
Exactly. So we’re just going to dive right in and we’re going to start with the Picture Bible. This is the Bible that I suggest for toddlers to age about four. These Bibles include large illustrations with stories that are shortened, but the main points are provided in childlike terms. Most of them include scripture references and some even add in some comprehension questions and memory verses. The condensed stories do not add to the Bible except for basic understanding. The Beginner’s Bible Timeless Children’s Stories is an example of this and that’s my absolute favorite picture Bible. It’s the one that I suggest with the ABCJesusLovesMe curriculum and the one that my children used. I think we’ve gone through three copies.
Melanie Simpson Co-host 01:57
Okay, moving on to the next age group. So this would be preschoolers through early elementary, and they might use a story Bible. It’s similar to the picture Bible but there are more words now so you’re kind of transitioning into the early reader group. It adds a little bit more dimension to the characters. There’s a little more vibrancy in the stories that are told. One popular one is the Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name.
Heidi Franz Host 02:24
Veggie Tales would be kind of the animated example of a story Bible. The next level are what I call beginner Bibles, and the Bibles in this category contain books and chapters and verses like a real Bible, but the verses which are not relevant to the story or not age appropriate are skipped. These Bibles, such as the My First Hands-On Bible, are a cross between the Picture Bible and the Children’s Bible and are best for ages four to six.
Melanie Simpson Co-host 02:54
The next appropriate age group would be for the elementary age, and a Children’s Bible is what we recommend. They have the actual books of the bible with chapters and verses, just like an adult Bible, but they’re often in translations that are easier for kiddos to understand. So this would be a great Bible for a child who is taking off reading and they want a Bible of their own, something that you would be comfortable handing them to let them sit down and read it themselves. The Investigators Holy Bible, is one of these, and what’s really interesting is in these, you’ll see, the writers have begun to pull themes out, so children are getting to see larger pictures of themes that are introduced throughout scripture.
Heidi Franz Host 03:35
So those are the four types and based upon where your children are maturity wise, age wise, and even their understanding of the Bible you can decide which one you want. But, Melanie, I think there are hundreds and hundreds in each type, so how do you choose? So here are a few of the points that I’ve used and Melanie has used to consider when we’re looking at the children’s Bibles. So number one decide how is this Bible going to be used. Will it be the child’s? Will it be the child’s main Bible or is it for supplemental purposes? And the reason for that is a story Bible and a picture Bible are very different. A story Bible is great for listening to stories being read, while a picture Bible is fantastic for looking at what is the Bible actually say, what are the words, what are the stories in the Bible without the added information?
Melanie Simpson Co-host 04:39
I think the next point to consider would be once you get into one that does have words, is it an accurate paraphrase? And this is a challenge, right? I mean scripture, when we come to it as adults, sometimes can be confusing, and so it is a challenge to find one that appropriately paraphrases scriptures without adding or taking away. Obviously, age appropriate is important. There are certain things that we would deem appropriate to leave out of a children’s Bible, but we also don’t want to diminish God’s word by moving unnecessarily from thematic elements or from character development or from God’s providential hand and things. So just being mindful of that.
Heidi Franz Host 05:21
Good. A third one is the added information in the stories to help the child understand the Bible story, or does it provide unbiblical additions? And this goes along with the one before it. It is amazing how many times I have reviewed Bible’s and I think, this is not biblical.
Melanie Simpson Co-host 05:41
It is, I think, a great challenge for any person to endeavor to present or to provide a child’s Bible. I don’t envy that person. How do you determine what is enough and what’s too much?
Heidi Franz Host 05:55
I had a Bible that I reviewed one time and typically when you review a Bible you don’t read through the entire thing because it’s just too much. But what you do is you just choose some key Bible stories and then you choose some not as popular Bible stories and you read through those and I read one of them by a very prominent Christian organization and I wrote the company and I said I cannot support this Bible. What is written in here on this one story in particular is not what the Bible says. And they came back and very graciously said you are correct, they made the change in the Bible. But we need to be very careful that we don’t take it as oh well, it’s a children’s Bible, so we know it’s true, so we just read it. We need to be knowing the scriptures ourselves so we can compare them or, if we don’t know the scriptures ourselves yet, that we go with trusted Bibles that other people have suggested and we’ll add a bunch of these to the show notes so you can see ones that we personally have reviewed multiple times ourselves.
Melanie Simpson Co-host 07:05
I think another point to consider is, particularly as your child gets into the elementary age, are there scripture references for those stories? In other words, if I opened this child’s Bible, would I be able to then go to my translation, my adult Bible, and find the place where the story occurred. It’s really important, as a child begins to transition into an adult Bible, that it’s a seamless transition.
In other words there isn’t a discordance. It could feel like a story book versus the word of God that was just changed in a way to make it more easily digestible for a child. We want that to be a seamless transition.
Heidi Franz Host 07:45
Absolutely. And it sounds like I’m picking on Veggie Tales because I love especially those core Veggie Tale stories. But Rack, Shack and Benny are not the names of Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego. Yes, they’re shortened down, but we want our children to know the truth of what God says, not what somebody has written for entertainment.
Melanie Simpson Co-host 08:11
It is important that from an early age they know that God’s word is sufficient and that nothing need be added to it or taken away. And with that then goes this next point, which is the illustrations in a children’s Bible. Are they distracting? Do they do something or add something to the story in a way that does not line up with what is being shared and what’s being told? Or is it too much information? Sometimes the picture just totally overwhelms and the kid has no interest in reading or hearing God’s word because the picture is just so much fun.
Heidi Franz Host 08:41
And with the pictures, the younger the child, the less details you want in the illustrations. That goes across the board in all reading. So in those younger books, in those picture Bibles, those pictures should be very simple. I also look at the illustrations to see if they add pragmatics? Do they show the emotion when we’re talking about the disciples? Do they show the fear in the disciples’ faces? When we’re talking about Noah and seeing the rainbow, do we see the peace in Noah’s face? We want to make sure the illustrations are matching the Bible stories.
Melanie Simpson Co-host 09:19
I think the last couple of points are so key. One is we want our children to learn through repetition. We know this is fundamental to a young child’s learning process, so we want it to be such that they develop easy recall of the Bible story. In other words, the details are to a minimum but the story remains with them. And with that said, then as they age, more is being introduced, more words, more details, and then, ultimately, we want to see those themes of restoration, salvation, redemption the great overarching themes of scripture be introduced when they’re in those elementary years. Because those are fundamental to understanding God’s story.
Heidi Franz Host 10:06
Okay, Melanie, I’ve got just a few words of caution that I think it’s so important for us to cover here. Story Bibles have a great place, but I would caution you in using them as the child’s main Bible. Let’s talk through why that is and the danger that can happen with it.
Melanie Simpson Co-host 10:30
First of all, we never want to give the impression that God’s word needs anything It alone is sufficient to teach our children about who God is. With that said, I think that Story Bibles, young Bibles, beginner Bibles are wonderful companions that are an on-ramp for our kids to owning their faith. You know the joy when you hand that child a Bible and tell them that this is your Bible or this is a book that’s going to help you know the Bible. Their faces just light up. But we need to adhere to the scripture as is. If you’re not sure if something is factual, check your adult bible. Don’t be afraid to do some digging on your own.
Heidi Franz Host 11:16
I think of the Christmas story as an example. You know, the wisemen weren’t even in the manger, they did not visit Jesus as a baby. Even though that’s the Christmas story that we hear year after year. So that is something to check for and make sure. Are these Bibles actually accurate, or is it something that we’ve turned into stories that sound very similar to fairy tales?
Melanie Simpson Co-host 11:47
And you made such a good point, Heidi, in that the company that sent you that Bible is a well-established Christian company and well-meaning. But we are fallible human beings, and so it is up to us, as parents, to steward the resources that we put in our kids’ hands, and that includes children’s Bibles.
Heidi Franz Host 12:06
The last point that I want to talk about is that a Bible is only as good as it is read. If you don’t pick up the Bible, it doesn’t matter that the child has one. If you don’t read it with joy, it doesn’t matter if your child has one? Our kids sat on the couch behind me and spent hours and hours and hours flipping through the pages of their Picture Bibles, because they had been read those Bibles over and over and over, and it was a joy for us to read those to them. So I encourage you to one, be in the Word yourself and then two, lead your children to learn the truth of who God is and what God does.
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