Posted by: alisonwalley | 31 May 2009

Telling the stories

Our church held a children’s holiday club this week. We usually use the Scripture Union programme and this year was no exception, so the theme was ShowStoppers.

Each day had a Bible story, which for the younger children (4/5s-7s) was told by our own resident Sammy the Scarecrow (yes, I know churches don’t usually have one, but our Sammy is a lovely lady who is very good at communicating to the younger ones). For the older group (7/8s to 11s), each story was told via a DVD.

Sometimes in holiday clubs we’ve had cartoon versions of Bible stories, which I’m not always very keen on, but this year Scripture Union had filmed five actors creating each day’s story as it were spontaneously. The stage where these plays were set was bare apart from a large chest, which always produced just the props they needed for each day – and could be sat on, stood on, hid behind, and even opened (to throw Daniel into the lion’s den).

To communicate Bible stories to children, you need a bit of imagination, and these short plays certainly had that. But it got me thinking about where imaginative presentations end and stretching the text begins. So, you tell the story of Jesus’ birth (Day 4: “The New Beginning”). Often, when you see this illustrated on Christmas cards the angels are quite cute. Even some children’s stories or Bibles show them as happy smiling feminine people. Actually angels are quite scary and usually described in masculine terms. Mary in the Showstoppers DVD was very scared of the angel, who stood on top of the chest proclaiming his message.

And then there’s the wise men. Do you call them kings? The Bible doesn’t. Admittedly one did wear a crown, but the others didn’t. But the hardest part of this is really the gifts. As one 10-year-old said afterwards in our small group: “I don’t get why they gave him myrrh if that’s for dead people.” (We then all decided what we’d have given him: clothes, nappies, a teddy bear, some clean straw…)

You do have to explain, but you have to explain in a way that fits with the Bible and doesn’t stretch the text. So as each wise men in the play gave a gift, he said what it was:

  • Gold: because Jesus is a king
  • Frankincense : because he will help people to worship God properly
  • Myrrh: because his death will be as important as his birth

It’s tempting to add things when we teach children the Bible, but we shouldn’t. Let’s be as biblical as we can.

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