Kids Make the Road by Walking, Too: On Progressive Christian Families and the Bible

Kids Make the Road by Walking, Too: On Progressive Christian Families and the Bible July 1, 2014

Brian McLaren says we make the road by walking, that we discover and build our faith by living it. My wife and I agree with this. But we never thought our kids would be making the road with us. Our children are 12, 9, and 2, and we’d planned to have the road nicely paved by now. Instead, we have something more like a more-or-less visible footpath through the woods. There are spots in the path where you sink into mud up to your knees. There are rock faces that require climbing ropes. There are creek crossings with slippery rocks. In other words, what we have is a path we’re not entirely comfortable walking with little kids.

But it’s the only path we’ve got. And we’re the only parents they’ve got.

Our parents had the Bible figured out. Our children’s parents don’t. We gained our childhood training in Scripture through a well-ordered curriculum of Bible stories, charts, and memory verses. Not our kids. We don’t have a pre-packaged boxed set of doctrines to give them in the safety and comfort of a Sunday School room. What we have is a library of ancient texts which are complicated and bewildering. Just like the real world. The texts are peopled by violent, greedy, horny apes who are relentlessly loved by God. Just like us.

Our scriptural tradition is not a safety-certified playground with padded railings and rubberized flooring. It is not a place we will send them off to play in. It is a wild place with real risks, a place they will explore with Mom and Dad at their side.

Of course, the kids are loving it. Given the choice between a safe playground and a muddy adventure hole with Mom and Dad, they are jumping face-first into the mud. So we have begun, second thoughts be damned: The Stonecyphers are making a road.

The path we’ve got so far fits reasonably well with what McLaren outlines in We Make The Road By Walking, so we’re using that as our initial roadmap. The book is organized around a year of weekly Bible readings. So for the next year, every Wednesday evening at our house will feature an extended dinner conversation around that week’s texts and Brian’s comments on them. In preparation for each Wednesday, we are going to experience each text as deeply and diversely as we can. We will YouTube like crazy, finding every wonderful and awful Bible story video out there – from cinematic masterpieces to low-budget puppet shows. We want to dig in and embrace the full-orbed weirdness of each text.

We will explore the themes through non-biblical sources as well. Our Genesis 1 week, for example, will involve re-watching choice segments of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s COSMOS series, and when we get to Noah, we’ll re-watch the bits about mass extinctions in Earth’s history. When the Israelites are slaves in Egypt, we will watch scenes from Alex Haley’s ROOTS and do research into modern human trafficking. When Joshua storms Jericho, we will explore violence in nature and history and cinema – lions taking down antelopes, tribal warfare, Native American genocide, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and of course, Luke Skywalker destroying the Death Star.  When we join Israel in exile, we will spend extra time with homeless friends who live near us, so we can get a sense of what it’s like to live at the very bottom of the social hierarchy.

You get the idea. We are going to get inside the text, so the text will get inside us.

We’ll be chronicling our family adventure week-by-week on my blog at, so other families might benefit from our experiment.

We’re not sure how this will turn out, but we’re doing it anyway, because we know God travels with us. If our kids learn nothing else, we hope it’s that.

John Stonecypher is a theologian/blogger/speaker living in Denver with his wife, Karen, and their 3 sons.  John’s other endeavors include The Jesus Benyosef Project, a 4-year interactive social media drama of Jesus’ ministry years, and Geeked-Out Soul, a blog exploring geek spirituality.

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