I once reviewed for WORLD a whole slew of “Christian” videos for children and found that very few of them had any true Christian elements. They were mostly just moralism, with little mention of Christ and the Gospel. This is also true of much SUNDAY SCHOOL curriculum, especially the “generic” variety designed to be used by all denominations and thus intentionally void of theological or spiritual content.
According to this story in USA Today, no less, this is even the case with children’s Bible story books! It quotes Ted Olsen, editor of “Christianity Today,” on the difficulty he has in finding books about Jesus for his son Leif:
“Most Bible stories are told like Aesop’s fables, refitted to a moral lesson that is almost always, ‘Obey! Obey your parents! Obey God! Oh, look how good Noah is — he obeyed God!’ ” Olsen says.
“Sure, we want Leif to understand obedience, repentance and forgiveness. But we’re more concerned that he get to know Jesus is the grand arc of the Bible story. We’re like a lot of young parents who don’t want to be talked down to. We’re not afraid of encountering theology. We want to be intellectually and spiritually engaged when we read to Leif.”
I was so proud, just coming back from a board meeting of Concordia Publishing House, to see that company lifted up as an exception, with stirring quotations from publisher Paul McCain (see his Cyberbrethren site on my blog roll):
“The more seriously a church body regards the Bible, the more seriously they will present it, in a child-friendly way, but not water the content. We don’t throw the King James Bible at them, but we don’t turn it into Mother Goose, either. We don’t avoid the s-word, for sin; the G-word, for God; or the J-word, for Jesus,” McCain says.
Concordia has compilations such as A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories that have sold steadily since 1948 and a 40-year-old series of 105 pamphlets known as the Arch books. They feature scores of stories, from the Nativity to obscure stories such as Zerubbabel Rebuilds the Temple, from Ezra 3:6.
“I grew up on these books,” says McCain, 45. “We update the illustrations regularly, but we’re much less prone to waffle with the culture. We don’t make the Bible what it’s not. But the booklets are a neat way to inculcate Bible literacy.”
CPH has a huge list of children’s books, including God Made It For You by Charles Lehmann and What Happened to “Merry Christmas”? by Robert Baker, both readers and commenters on this blog. And the brand new Growing In Christ Sunday School curriculum is beautifully Christ-centered all the way through.
What other resources for children would you recommend that parents either consider or stay away from?
UPDATE: See this for an account of Paul McCain’s interview with the reporter and how she liked one particular Arch book, saying, “I notice that no matter what Bible story you are telling you always end up coming back to talk about Jesus!”