The three keys to telling children stories of wonder and amazement are these:
Keep suspense in every story, move slowly and tell the details. Read Genesis 12-15 again and really think about telling the story as it’s told in these chapters. Tell it over 1-2 weeks time. I ended one night with the story of Lot’s choice of the Jordan land and parting of ways because their field hands were squabbling and they needed their own space for all the flocks and herds they’d acquired from Abram’s deception in Egypt. I ended by saying, “Tomorrow night I’ll tell you how Lot got carried off by four kings…and about the mysterious tar pits.”
If you’re like me, you’ve sometimes whitewashed the Bible stories for your children and churches. Consequently, Bible stories can even be boring for them. That’s bad. I wrote earlier about a fellow Christian parent who told me after a class that her daughter didn’t want to hear a Bible story one night–she wanted to hear a “fun” story.
That comment set my mind racing. While I don’t think the point is making the Bible stories fun, as a child would describe it, I do believe we must keep the interest God’s story by telling them in their full glory and humanity and suspense. Jill and I have witnessed a dramatic turn around in the way our children respond to Bible stories as we have built in suspense each night.
We try not to carve off all the rough edges, as some tellings do. We try to include important earthy details that send children’s imaginations spinning with important questions such as, “Why did God tell Abram to leave his home and didn’t even tell him where exactly to go?” and “Why did Abram lie and tell the Egyptians Sarai was his sister? That’s not right!” To which we answered, “He was looking out for his own hide, afraid they’d kill him if they thought the beautiful Sarai–and was she ever beautiful–was his wife.” My wife doesn’t think the detail about Sarai’s beauty need such emphasis from me. And, we often answer to such questions that we don’t have the foggiest…
…seems some answers just get stuck in those pesky tar pits…but that’s tomorrow.