Because of the messages our society often sends, many kids and teens believe the Bible is just a book of old stories – fairy tales even. They believe the commands are suggestions for them to follow if they happen to agree with them. Truth becomes subjective because they are often not even taught God and therefore the Bible are THE sources of ultimate, unchanging truth.
One way to change that dynamic is to help your students understand the Bible contains many real stories about real people and real events. The Flood, all of those kings, queens, “bad guys”, and even Jesus, really existed and the stories told in the Bible about them really happened.
Of course, you can tell them that over and over and they may or may not understand what you mean. There are some fun ways though, you can reinforce on a regular basis you are telling historical stories (one exception of course would be the parables of Jesus which were told for other reasons) when you teach them from the Bible. Here are some of our favorites.
- Think like a master history teacher. Did you have great history teachers in school? What did they do to help you understand they were teaching you about real places and people? They may have brought in maps, photos, and other objects to show you where things happened or what people looked like and what their lives were like. We don’t have photos of people in the Bible, but we do have engraved images of some of them. In fact, many of these images are on artifacts in some of the world’s most famous museums. This means it’s easy to find online photos of them. Many of the place names in the Bible have changed over the years, so showing students that Persia is modern day Iran, for example, can help them understand where things happened.
- Involve the senses. Bring in foods eaten in Bible times like figs, dates and rustic breads. You can even find edible locusts for students to eat like John the Baptist! Let students smell the spices used in recipes in that region. Listen to historical music from Israel. We’ve even grilled a cheap piece of beef in another room to let kids smell the aroma of burning sacrifices to God.
- Bring in replicas or real artifacts. Some Christians collect artifacts from Bible times and would be happy to show them to your students. Things like ancient clay lamps, shofars and more can be found online for little cost – especially if you are willing to use replicas.
- Have immersion experiences. This takes a little more work, but having students attend a “real” Bible wedding will help them better understand all of those wedding parables. We’ve even rented a donkey for the day so students can see what it would have felt like to ride a donkey like Mary, Jesus and other people in the Bible.
- Go on a field trip. Most museums have areas that include artifacts from Bible times and cultures. They won’t necessarily advertise them that way though. Look for exhibits on Egypt, Assyria, Palestine, Babylonia, Greece, Rome and more. If you live close to Washington, D.C. consider a field trip to the Bible Museum.
- Have special guests. If someone has gone to Israel, have them bring in photos and souvenirs. Although some of the sites origins are questionable, some like the tomb of the Patriarchs have been there since antiquity. Knowing that someone they know actually went to Jerusalem or some other city and saw the ruins of things mentioned in the Bible is great. (Don’t forget Rome, Greece and Turkey also have many New Testament ties.)
- Share archaeological discoveries. Not everything has been found, but much has. Many people doubters maintained never lived have since been “found” by archeologists. The most recent were the prophet Isaiah and a figurine of one of four kings mentioned in the Old Testament. A shift in an inaccurate time line of Egyptian dynasties has even helped archeologists find evidence of many of the things that happened in Egypt. (They weren’t finding them before because they were looking in the wrong time period.)
Ultimately, faith is just that…faith. Yet, sharing the evidences you have that the Bible tells real stories about real people and places, will help students begin to build that strong faith foundation.