Atheists and agnostics who later become Christians often mention that one of the contributing factors in their decision was the realization of how well the pieces of a book written by different authors over thousands of years fit together in the Bible. Part of fitting those pieces of scripture together is recognizing the patterns in the Bible. These patterns also reveal themes that continually remind us of important concepts God wants us to remember.
It is the rare Bible class teacher of kids and teens who introduces them to the concept of patterns in scripture. Taking the extra time and effort to explore some of these patterns can help young people make important connections, better understand the overarching story in the Bible and help them remember important principles God wants them to know.
A fun way to help young Bible students explore patterns is to create special theme classes. For example, you might have a class where the theme is God creating and separating dry land and water. Have students think of every story in the Bible where God somehow separates water and dry land. They may easily remember the creation or Noah and the Ark. Trying to think of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea and the Jordan River, might also give you a chance to teach them how to use resources to find things in scripture or review less familiar Bible stories. It is highly unlikely anyone will remember that God separated the Jordan right before Elijah was taken to Heaven in the whirlwind, giving you an opportunity to teach them all a new story.
After you have listed every occurrence of a pattern in the Bible, ask students why they believe God created the pattern. Why did God time after time separate land and water? What is so important about it that He creates repeated instances to better help us remember it? Were the repeated examples merely foreshadowing of something important in the life of Christ or Heaven or were they meant to teach us something else? As students put forth their ideas, ask them if their idea fits with what they know of God and scripture. Have them give verses that may back up their theory or actually provide an answer. Your class may not always agree on the lesson from the pattern, as there may be more than one possibility. Be careful, however, to correct any theories that would go against what we know about God or scripture.
Other patterns to consider analyzing might include water/being saved by God, repeated use of numbers like 7, 12 and 3, disobedience/God’s patience turning to holding those who disobeyed accountable, the use of donkeys in key stories, God providing food/water, people being raised from the dead. There are more patterns, but these should get you started. Have fun with it. Encourage your students to find their own patterns with which to challenge the class. It’s a great way to help young people explore scripture on a deeper level.