…but remember that each Bible story centers around Jesus.
Think of the story of Noah’s Ark. What comes to mind? Maybe you thought about animals marching to the ark two by two and seven by seven. Perhaps you thought about the rain that fell for over a month. Or, maybe you imagined a dove with a branch in its mouth. Did you think about how the story of Noah’s Ark connects to Christ’s redemptive work? Most people familiar with the story do not, and I think the cause of this can be found in how we were taught.
In admonishing a group of Jewish leaders, Jesus explained:
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:39-40)
Christ revealed that he is the interpretive key of all Scripture. He, not the Bible, is life. The Bible is life-giving inasmuch as it speaks to us about Jesus and helps us navigate our relationship with God and other people. From cover to cover, the Bible focuses on the God revealed by Jesus and his loving interaction with humanity. Jesus is the path by which we find understanding of Scripture. However, children’s discipleship curriculum resources often do not connect with the life, teaching, death, and resurrection of humanity’s Savior.
If we are not careful, we can present biblical stories like Noah’s Ark as if they are somehow separate from Jesus’ story. Noah’s Ark is a great story by itself, but more importantly, it says something about God’s character. He is righteous so he must judge and address human evil, and his love for us causes him to move heaven and earth in order to save us. The ultimate demonstration of these aspects of God’s character can be found in Jesus, so Noah’s Ark can be used as a way to understand God’s overwhelming love, as shown in Christ. That love is still at work in our lives, and he cultivates Christ in every Christian. Every lesson we teach children and youth should bring them to Christ.
Many Christians have observed that every story is a subplot of the story God is telling. Each of our stories is a part of Jesus’ story, from start to finish, whether we know it or not. This truth should make us feel included, important to God, and part of something greater than ourselves. It should also bring us humility, causing us to view everyone’s story as important and worthy of our attention. Additionally, it shows the Bible as a unified whole — showing how God, through Christ and throughout all ages, worked to make himself known to people. It helps us see the different ways God worked with human beings in order to rescue and redeem us. Highlighting Christ helps them understand that God is at work with us today and we are a continuation of the same story.
This can be a challenge. As a former youth minister and camp director, I know how hard it is to find a curriculum that does not conflict with GCI’s doctrinal stance, let alone one that recognizes Jesus as the center in every lesson. Generations Ministry (GenMin) is working on supports for our congregations.
In July 2021, a group of local experts on children and youth were gathered to form the GenMin Advisory Council. The group was charged with helping to discern God’s will for the children and youth served by GCI. The members of the council include the following: Eula Doele, Reuel Enerio, Tamar Gray, Ceeja Malmkar, Desiree McKinnon, Carrie Osborne, Ruth Phillips, and Hazel Tabin. Part of the role of the council is to help collect best practices and curriculum resources for those serving young people. We aim to release a list of resources by the latter half of 2022. Please pray for the council as we seek to help our congregations make much of Jesus. We hope that we will better learn how to tell God’s story.
By Dishon Mills, Generations Ministry, GCI-USA