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Bible, Bible stories, Christian, faith, grandchildren, storytelling

6 Ways to learn Bible Stories (and Why!)

You may be an “old Christian.” That is, someone who has an awareness of the Bible, and what Bible stories are in it. Deep in your heart, you have a desire to share the Bible stories. Yet your stomach churns, and you become anxious when you think about telling your children or grandchildren about the beliefs of the Christian faith.

As a “new” Christian, learning the stories of the Bible seems overwhelming. Where do you start?

As a grandparent, you are not sure how to share God’s love with your grandchildren. It is hard to talk about traditions, values, and being a Christian, no matter what your age is. We have an uncanny ability to evade these conversations. Even when the opportunity to share is right in front of us

How can we learn God’s Word, the Bible, so that we can share our Christian faith with our grandchildren? We also don’t want to stumble through them. Uncertainty and apprehension hijack our desires to talk about religion, faith, God, and the traditions of the churches we are a part of. We need to tell Bible stories and stories of faithful Christians confidently. I am flooded by thoughts my listener won’t understand, get frustrated, or walk away.

I often worry that someone will ask me a specific question about the Bible. Will I be able to give an immediate response? I hope that what I say will make sense. I hope I don’t need to explain my answer. Yet I need to be ready.

I have found that a major factor is the comfortability we each have with our Bibles. Perhaps you learned some of the stories in the Bible years ago. Or you were forced to hear the stories, so you weren’t really listening. New believers may be unaware of the many actors and stories in the Bible. You know the Bible has a lot of information in it, but ohmygosh, where do you start?!!

HERE ARE SOME WAYS YOU CAN LEARN THE STORIES IN YOUR BIBLE:

Go to a Bible Study at your local church. This is helpful if you’d like to learn in a group.

Set aside some time each day to read the Bible and pray. It will deepen and strengthen your relationship with God.

Pick any section, or “book” that is in the Bible, and simply read it. I suggest that you start with the Book of Luke. This tells the story of Jesus, from his birth to his death. Then read Matthew, Mark, and John. This will fill in more details about the man Jesus.

Pick a topic to study. Many Bibles have a list of topics in the back. The list will give specific references to Bible verses to study. Another way to study a topic is to visit a Bible bookstore and look for a specific booklet on that topic.

Pick a person to study. Again, some Bibles have lists in the back, this would be a good place to start. You could also check what your local Christian bookstore has on its shelves.

For those of us who like electronic access to the world,
www.biblegateway.com This site provides a search engine that will take you to a specific verse, topic, or person in the Bible. You can adjust the search so that you can find a way to read the verses so you can understand.
www.sermoncentral.com/free-online-bible-scripture-search/ Another search engine that will take you to a verse, topic or person.
http://www.biblestudytools.com/ Another search engine that I like.

There are many types of Bible readings (often called devotionals) available on the Internet. These typically have Bible reading, a short reading about the verses, and a prayer.
Here are some of my favorites:
Our Daily Bread – https://odb.org/ – https://www.josh.org/resources/sign-up-for-daily-devotions/?mot=J79GNF&gclid=COXw8Jbl4tYCFYsdgQodo1QH1A
Josh McDowell ministries – https://www.josh.org/resources/youth-family/daily-devotions/
The Upper Room – http://devotional.upperroom.org/

Because we are all different and because each of us has a unique relationship with God, no one devotional pattern will work for everyone. And one way may not work for anyone all of the time. Experiment until you find the time of day, content, and length of time spent that helps you feel connected with God. By reading and understanding the Bible, you will have resources to draw from as you tell Bible stories to your grandchildren.

The Bible tells us
“He decreed statutes for Jacob
and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
to teach their children,
6 so the next generation would know them,
even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children.
7 Then they would put their trust in God
and would not forget his deeds
but would keep his commands –Psalm 58:5-7

We must learn the stories so that we can tell our grandchildren about our faith!

Which type of Bible reading or devotional works best for you?

faith, grandchildren, Grandparents, storytelling

Story-telling: Link Between Past and Future

In my childhood, my own grandparents lived a mile and a half from us. During the summer, my folks would “have coffee” once or twice a week The smell of fresh coffee and cookies reminds me of those days. My grandfather would pour some coffee into his saucer, and swirl it around to cool it. He would slurp it down, while us kids would each help ourselves to a cookie or some other goodie that my Grandma had made. The adults who sat around the table would visit about what was happening with themselves, the crops, things that the neighbors said and/or did. When I wasn’t paying attention, Grandpa would steal my cookie, then laugh at me.

At some point, Grandpa would lean back in his chair and say, “I remember when…” We kids would roll our eyes, and asked to be excused to go play. I am sorry now, that I didn’t listen more closely and carefully to what he had to say.

Grandparents, whether they are creative, humorous –or not– are connectors to the past generations. They each have different styles of teaching and sharing. Grandparents provide connection between at least four generations: My grandparents were the first generation. My parents are the the second, Third; my children,, and my grandchildren are the fourth generation. I am the center link who knows all four generations.

Our world has changed so dramatically in the last 100 years. Our grandchildren will find it hard to understand the world of our parents and grandparents unless we tell stories and provide connections to the past. Our stories give grandchildren a sense of connection to past generations and provide awareness of family roots, which in turn provide security and strength. These family roots help them shape an identity.

Storytelling happens in many situations. You may hear stories at the meal table of what happened in school today or what happened at work. You may overhear a story being told in the line at the grocery store, while you are riding in the car or on the bus, or while you are walking down the sidewalk.

A three-year old may tell you a story that you may not completely understand, but you know it is a story because it has a beginning, and his voice gets excited in the middle, then calms down at the end.

Some storytelling situations demand informality; others are highly formal. The Christmas, Hanukah, Passover, and Easter stories are told at specific times of the year. And we tell stories in religious rituals, such as Baptism or Holy Communion. Some demand certain themes, attitudes, and artistic approaches, and the expectations about listener interaction and the nature of the story itself vary widely.

People around us may speak, at the same time encouraging the listener’s imagination. Storytelling is interactive; if we are listening, we may nod our heads, jump in with comments, and ask questions. These responses influence how the story is told. In fact, storytelling emerges from the interaction and cooperative, coordinated efforts of the speaker and the listener.

Different cultures and situations create different expectations for the exact roles of storyteller and listener—who speaks how often and when, for example—and therefore create different forms of interaction. Storytelling uses words whether they are a spoken language or a manual language such as American Sign Language.

Storytelling uses physical movements and/or gestures. These actions are the parts of spoken or manual language other than words. Their use distinguishes storytelling from writing and text-based computer interactions. Not all story-tellers use hand or body movements. Instead, they rely on their voices.

Storytelling involves the presentation of a story—a narrative. What is recognized as a story in one situation may not be accepted as one in another. Some situations call for spontaneity and playful digression, for example; others call for near-exact repetition of a revered text.

Storytelling encourages the active imagination of the listeners. The storytelling listener’s role is to actively create the vivid, multi-sensory images, actions, characters, and events—the reality—of the story in his or her mind, based on what the teller says and on the listener’s own past experiences, beliefs, and understandings. The completed story happens in the mind of the listener, a unique and personalized individual. The listener becomes, therefore, a co-creator of the story as experienced.

Many times we don’t realize it, but we tell the same story over and over again. Details may change from person to person, as we remember things each time. A few months ago, I was in the check-out line at the grocery store, and saw a crowd at the door. I passed the group on my way out. At the center of the group was a man with a macaw perched on his shoulder. This majestic animal flapped his wings and bobbed his head when I went past. When my grandchildren were visiting the following week, I told them about the macaw. I was pretty sure that they didn’t know what a macaw was, and I was tempted to say “parrot” in the story I was telling. But this unusual animal and its size was a key part of the story.

When my daughter came to pick up the kids, they -told the story to their mother. Naturally, it got changed, into their perspective. The macaw now had a wingspan that was “this big!” – about twelve inches bigger than what I had indicated! I told this same story to my husband, my sister-in-law, my son, and to a checker in the store that I initially saw the bird. Each time I told it, I remembered different details.

The stories of our lives, people we encounter, and things we do are kept alive by being told again and again. The material of any given story naturally undergoes several changes and adaptations during this process. Elements of oral storytelling include visualization (the seeing of images in the mind’s eye), and vocal and bodily gestures. In many ways, storytelling also draws upon acting and changes in the voice.

What are some stories that you tell? And how do your listeners react?

faith, grandchildren, Grandparents

6 Tips to Build Stronger Relationships with your Grandkids

6 Tips to Build Stronger Relationships with your Grandkids

When our grandchildren are small, it’s easy to hold them on our laps and read books with them. They are a captive audience for Bible stories. We know that we are planting seeds, and hope that they will have strong faith in God.

St. Paul refers to our lives as being in a race. In Hebrews 11, he lists off many people who are in the Bible, and reminds us that not one of the people in the list got their hands on what was promised, but lived lives that were great examples to others.

Paul asks: “Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)

If you read this, and consider your grandchildren, think about the fact that their ancestors are cheering them on! That’s US!

Paul continues, “Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.”

We want them to keep their eyes on Jesus. So, we take them to church with us. When they are little, they are usually fun to take to church. Everyone oohs and ahhhs over them. They may make a bit of noise, so we take them to the nursery.

As they grow up, the grandchildren sit pretty well during the church service and pay attention when there is a children’s message. Then after a donut and some orange juice, you drop them off in a Sunday School class, and go to the adult class.

When they get a little older, you realize, “Hey! My grandkids have never received Holy Communion,” and “maybe they should be in Confirmation class.” So you urge your adult children to get the kids into these classes and activities. You encourage attendance at youth activities, service projects, and mission trips.

Attending church and going to Sunday School are important things, and so is reading your Bible. But when you are gone, will your grandkids remember things they have been taught? Will they remember some of the things you did? Will they want to carry on the same things that you have done? What will happen when they stumble over some problem? Will they turn to the God you taught them about?

Here are a few things to keep in mind about your time together.

1. Invest your time and involvement in your grandchildren; it will pay off in significant ways that have eternal value. When you are making decisions regarding your time and energy, it is easy to become complacent. It is really challenging to stay connected, emotionally engaged, and personally involved in your grandchildren’s lives. If you find yourself struggling, talk to the other grandparents around you. They may have similar experiences and advice.

As a Christian grandparent, you may see some of the great potential that God sees in your grandchildren, particularly when they are misbehaving, argumentative, and just plain contrary. And if you ever wonder where your grandchildren stand in their relationship with God, then ask. You might be surprised at the answers that you get. Talk with them regularly, and encourage their desire to do good, like Lois, the very influential grandmother of the pastor and evangelist Timothy. (Timothy 1:5)

2. Don’t argue with your children (your grandchildren’s parents) especially in front of the grandchildren. Although it may be tempting, don’t take sides; let them work things out. Show respect for, support, and hold up your grandchildren’s parents. Arguing with your son or daughter creates confusion on the boundaries grandchildren are supposed to live by. Instead, talk to your adult children away from the kids. Mutually agree what things are appropriate that will give grandchildren stability, accountability, and clarity.

Praise your grandchildren when they honor set boundaries, and lovingly correct them when they don’t.

Acknowledge the fact that your adult children may feel stretched beyond their limits as parents, or that they worry about being too strict or not strict enough.

3. Play with your grandchildren. Spend special time with each of them. It may be true that the grandchildren often come to your house so they have a place to be safe after school, before school, and during summer vacation. They may spend a lot of time with you. You don’t need to entertain them the entire time, but they will remember later that you played together. Drag out your favorite toys – you know, those Lincoln Logs in the back of the closet, the Hula hoop that’s in the garage, the Barbie dolls and G.I. Joe figures.

My daughter who now has children of her own, fondly remembers the times that her Grandma would stretch out on the floor and play “Husker Du?,” and “CandyLand.” All three of my children fondly remember the “walks” that their Grandma took them on. Usually a walk was to the nearest stop sign, half a block or so.

Help with homework, if you are asked to. Make sure you check with your son or daughter, regarding their opinions regarding homework. Parents may know better what the teacher is expecting. (Does your granddaughter just need to provide the math answer, or does she need to show how she arrived at that answer?).Do they want homework done immediately after school or wait until after dinner? What are the rules about video games and electronics? If a child has homework to do, be available to help if needed.

4. Even though it may be complicated spending time with the grandkids, limit electronic connections with friends and playing electronic games when they are with you. Whether it is a phone, a tablet, or a gaming system, ask them to turn it off. Be an example and turn yours off too.

Really, it IS worth bothering the kids to turn the electronics off. It is easier to have conversations, play games, or do something together in the kitchen or outdoors without an electronic tether.

I really struggled with this issue. I like my Cell Phone. A lot! And my Kindle Fire is wonderful. I can do so many things on it. Why should I ask my grandkids to give theirs up, if they like theirs as much as I like mine?. I want my grandkids to be connected with other people. I am very introverted, and I value these electronic ways to know what is happening with other people.

At the same time, I do not appreciate feeling that I am in competition with a little electronic box! In a good faith effort to at least provide some electronic-free time, I made a little sign for the dining room table. “We really enjoy the time we spend with you, and would like you to enjoy that time too. Please do NOT bring your electronics to the table. Charging cords are available in the living room.” I set the sign out when a group is gathering, and so far have gotten about 99% compliance. Set a boundary and stand by it. At home they may be allowed electronics anytime, but at my house they can find better things to do.

If you have chores to do, include the kids. I know this is a hard thing to do; it seems to make more work for you. But how will they learn the value of hard work, unless they see you doing it, and work alongside you?

If my grandkids can’t find something to do, they know I will find something for them. It is amazing how many times the windows need cleaning, or there are dishes that need to be washed! (Never mind that they get to play with the water sprayer or in the sink of water.  )

I have learned to limit personal electronic time when other people are around. With just a glance, I know who is calling me just to talk, and which calls are truly important.

5. Pay attention to your teenage grandchildren. You may have days when this tall, lanky creature greets you, and his voice has suddenly deepened. Or she whispers in her ear, asking if you might have an extra tampon. Suddenly you don’t know what to say. It’s as if they’ve changed overnight!

Know that you can still enjoy close relationships with your grandchildren even when they become teenagers. Just keep in mind to accept them for who they are, be patient with them, find out about what’s going on in their lives (such as by asking them thoughtful questions) Get to know their culture so you can engage in discussions that are relevant to them.

6. Treat all grandchildren equally. You may find that one child reminds you of yourself as s/he grows up, or is the easiest to care for. It is a complicated thing to work through these relationships, make sure you try to give each child equal time.

Love step-grandchildren and adopted grandchildren. Ask God to give you His perspective and view your step-grandchildren and adopted grandchildren as vital parts of your family. Give your new grandchildren plenty of time to figure out where you fit into their lives, and be gentle with them. Speak respectfully about the other adults in their lives. Pray for each of your grandchildren often.

Next to their parents, you are quite possibly the greatest influence that your grandchildren will ever have. They will see your faults and imperfections. If you admit this to them, kids can see that it’s okay not to be perfect and to admit it when they are wrong. I want my grandchildren to know that I was never perfect, but the Lord that I trust in is. (Hebrews 1:1-3)

Your grandchildren are watching you. What are they learning?

faith, grandchildren, Grandparents

Investing in our Grandchildren

Investing in our Grandchildren

 When my daughter first announced her pregnancy, I was not ready to be a grandmother.  My husband and I had raised three children, but this idea of “grandparenting” was different.  What exactly was this going to mean for us?  I had just completed my Master’s degree in Youth and Family Ministry, and was serving in a coalition of churches. I hoped eventually to find a position that I was passionate about.

I knew that I would become invested in working with children.  Sharing stories, and helping them grow in the Christian faith.  What would that look like?

Enter James.  The first grandchild.  One day, when he was very tiny, I was giving him a bottle, and he intently studied my face.  I fell in love with him at that moment.  The world around us seemed to fade away, and it was just the two of us.  I heard in the background, “Look at the two of them.  I’m so glad that we asked your mom to provide childcare.”

I invested a lot of my time and energy in building this relationship.  The initial outlay was to spend as much of my time as possible with him.  I wasn’t sure how to share faith when he was tiny, but had to trust that our time together would yield positive results.  I eventually recognized that my job was to provide stability for James and share stories with him.  As he grew, I prayed about how I would share my faith with him. My daughter usually worked on Sundays; James was often with his father on the weekends, and did not attend church.  I felt the responsibility of building  his trust in me, and to teach him the stories that are in the Bible.  Friends and family members said it was neat that I had Seminary training and passion – and a grandchild that would benefit from it.

My daughter moved back in with my husband and I when James was four, creating a three-generation household.  Things got a little more complicated a few months later, when Eliah was born.  She had a very different temperament.   When it was naptime, she was awake.  When it was bedtime, she was awake.  She wasn’t really “just awake,” she was really awake!  She did not walk, she ran. I found I had to be two steps ahead of Eliah because she was one curious girl.  She got into one thing after another.  By the end of most days, I was exhausted.

James is now eight, and he is “my favorite  (and only!) grandson.”  We love to be together, and I am always looking for something new to do with him. Eliah is now four, is articulate and requires  investment on my part.  She has not lost her curiosity and my stake in her is as deep as it is for James.  She keeps me on the move as she flutters from one thing to another.  .

I am not the only one trying to keep up with my grandchildren.  The baby boom of the 1960s-1970s has become a grandparent boom.  Today, there are 70 million grandparents in the nation, and 1.7 million new grandparents are added to the ranks every year.  Grandparents lead 37% of all U.S. households in this country — that’s 44 million households nationwide. And that number is increasing at twice the average annual rate of U.S. households overall.[1]

The U.S. Census Bureau published these statistics in a report released in 2015:

  • 2 million grandparents had grandchildren under 18 years old living with them in 2013.[2]2.7 million grandparents were responsible for the basic needs of one or more grandchildren under age 18 living with them in 2013, 1.7 million were grandmothers and 1 million were grandfathers. [3]
  • 569,251 grandparents were responsible for grandchildren under age 18 and had an income below the poverty level in the past 12 months
  • 1 million grandparents were caregivers had income at or above the poverty level.[4]
  • $48,016 was the median income for families with grandparent as the head of the house, and responsible for grandchildren under age 18. Among these families, where a parent of the grandchildren was not present, the median income was $35,685.[5]
  • 9 million grandparents were married and were responsible for caring for their grandchildren. (This number includes separated couples. )[6]
  • 6 million grandparents were working, and also responsible for their own grandchildren under age 18. Among them, 354,464 were 60 years or older.[7]
  • 666,686 grandparents had a disability and were responsible for their grandchildren.[8]
  • 7 million children under age 18 were living with a grandparent as the head of the house in 2013. Nearly half, 47 percent or 2.7 million, were under age 6.[9]
  • 1 million children were living with or without one or both parents, and with both grandmother and grandfather in 2014. [10]

The responsibilities of raising grandchildren have become tougher as we try to provide structure and support for their different needs.

In September, 2012, MetLife Mature Market Institute and Generations United released the results of a joint study titled “Grandparents Investing in Grandchildren.”  According to this report, 74% of grandparents who are caring for their grandchildren, are doing so on a regular basis.  Almost one-third are caregiving on a regular basis five or more days per week — a substantial commitment of time. The largest segment (42%) is caregiving fewer than five days/week on a regular basis. Another 10% are regularly providing other types of care, and 1% are regularly caring for grandchildren with special needs.[11]

The reasons for providing care for grandchildren range from “because I want to” or “I enjoy doing it” (58%); “So their parents can work” (53%); to “the grandchild(ren) don’t have parents.” (4%).  Most notably, 22% of grandparents are providing care so that they can “pass down family values.”[12]  A large percentage of grandparents (41%) hold heritage and ancestry to be very important, and the same percentage felt religion or religious observances were very important. Highest in this area was preserving family ties at 67% of grandparents. More than one-third (36%) of grandparents felt cultural beliefs and customs are very important to pass down to generations following them.

How will our grandchildren learn what our values are – our heritage, ancestry, religion and religious observances?  “Some folks say “It’s something their parents should teach them!” There are parents who believe that heritage and history should be taught through the school systems, and that parents are not responsible for these things.  After all, character education programs are available.    Other folks believe children will receive religious training and will learn about religious observances in a religious educational setting.” They trust that religious teachers are trained and equipped. Often, defining “trained and equipped” means “read the material and figured out how to do the craft.”  (I have nothing against Sunday School teachers, by the way.  I was one for many years. )  These volunteers do the best they can, and are usually genuinely concerned about the children.

There are 168 hours in a week, and if your grandchild receives Christian or any other religious education for two hours on Sunday mornings, is it really effective?  There is some serious competition for a child’s or teen’s attention, the main ones being- sports and electronics.

Common Sense Media put together a report, the first large-scale study to explore tweens’  and teens’ use of the full range of media, which is based on a national sample of more than 2,600 young people ages 8 to 18.  The report is based on a national sample of more than 2,600 young people ages 8 to 18.  When it comes to consuming media on screens, including laptops. smartphones and tablets, teens, on average, spend more than six and a half hours DAILY on screens and tweens more than four and a half hours, the report found.[13]

These statistics demonstrate that our youth live in this massive 24/7 digital media technology world, and it’s shaping every aspect of their life. They spend far more time with media technology than any other thing in their life.

The biggest challenge for grandparents is how to lay a foundation for faith, when the grandchild does not‘grow up’ in the church?

Rather than waiting to figure it all out,  I made a decision.  I needed  to take baby steps towards sharing my faith with my grandchildren.  I call it “The 3 Minute Lesson.”  When they are visiting, I use The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes by Kenneth Taylor.  This Bible has a picture for each story, a basic Bible story, and 3 or4 questions.  Often, the story will come up again as we play together.  This is a good way to begin to lay the foundation for what lies ahead – no matter what that will be.

As they grow, I hope to use the Arch Bible story books – available  at Concordia Publishing House, https://www.cph.org/c-246-arch-books.aspx?REName=Books%20%26%20Bibles&plk=240  They can also be purchased on-line at Amazon https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Arch+books  There are many other children’s books available, but these are my favorites for my grandchildren who are still very young.

What does it mean to you that you are a grandparent and you value heritage, religion, and religious observances?  How can you take a baby step to teach your grandchildren about Jesus?

[1]http://www.grandparents.com/food-and-leisure/did-you-know/surprising-facts-about-grandparents

 

[2] U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey, Table B10050
http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/13_1YR/B10050

 

[3] U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey, Table B10056[3]
http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/13_1YR/B10056

 

[4] U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey, Table B10059
http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/13_1YR/B10059

 

[5] U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey, Table B10010
http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/13_1YR/B10010

[6] U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey, Table B10057
http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/13_1YR/B10057

[7] U. S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey, Table B10058
http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/13_1YR/B10058

[8] Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey, Table B10052
http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/13_1YR/B10052

 

[9] Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey, Table B10001
http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/13_1YR/B10001

 

[10] Grandparents investing in Grandchildren:   The MetLife Study on How Grandparents Share Their Time,Values, and Money  https://www.metlife.com/assets/cao/mmi/publications/studies/2012/studies/MMIGrandparentsStudy_Web.pdf

 

[11] https://www.metlife.com/assets/cao/mmi/publications/studies/2012/studies/MMIGrandparentsStudy_Web.pdf

[12] https://www.metlife.com/assets/cao/mmi/publications/studies/2012/studies/MMIGrandparentsStudy_Web.pdf

 

[13] http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/03/health/teens-tweens-media-screen-use-report/index.html