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The Power of Narrative in Parenting

From the series:

by Chelsey Gordon

 

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).”

Godly parents are tasked with the weighty responsibility of daily discipling their children in the commands of God. There is much for children to know and internalize about God and the world He’s created. Additionally, children must also grow in understanding the state of their own souls, as they learn to identify and wrestle with their own unique set of strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, and susceptibilities. Ultimately, we long for our children to recognize their need for a Savior and to submit themselves wholly to Him. The responsibility of facilitating such growth and understanding can be, understandably, overwhelming, sometimes to the point of parenting paralysis.

What should we do? What should we say?

How can we confidently enter into gospel conversations when an opportunity presents itself?

How might we initiate such conversations if our children aren’t?

How can we incorporate discipleship into normal family rhythms in a way that isn’t forced or contrived?

If you have asked yourself such questions, I hope you will consider one simple launching point for regular discipleship interactions with your child: Take advantage of the gift of story. Narrative is one of the simplest and yet most powerful tools parents have to teach their children biblical truth. During His earthly ministry, Jesus, the teacher of teachers, taught not only in propositional truth statements but through narrative parables. Following His example, we can also use story to engage the hearts and minds of our children in uniquely compelling ways.

Stories open-up communication.

Children, who may not easily engage in one-on-one conversation, are often eager to point-out and discuss what they see and hear within the pages of a book. As your child reflects on the words, illustrations, plot, characters, and actual or potential outcomes of choices made, take full advantage of this opportunity to listen to your child and learn more about how they think and what they value.

Stories offer parents and children a level opportunity to learn together.

When we read stories with our child, we aren’t standing over them as all-knowing experts imparting knowledge to an ignorant novice. Instead, we are, quite literally, sitting with them and inviting them to journey alongside us as we explore all that can be imagined, enjoyed, and discovered within the world of a particular story. This dynamic of humbly navigating these new worlds and ideas together can depressurize conversations that may otherwise feel lopsided or loaded. Moving through a story in this way provides a relaxed opportunity for parents and children to read, consider, and understand together, hand in hand.

Stories instill a love of reading.

A child’s general literacy will affect their biblical literacy. As we encourage our children to prize God’s Word, we should also teach them to value the written word as a form of communication, which God has chosen to specially reveal Himself and His ways. If we do not model for our children the value of reading in general, it will make it more difficult to compel them toward Bible reading specifically.

While I believe parents can have meaningful gospel conversations surrounding practically any book, I have listed below a handful of my favorite gospel-explicit titles.

“The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name” by Sally Lloyd-Jones

This children’s bible weaves together snapshots of scripture in a way that highlights the heroics of the Author of all things rather than the individual characters who occupy its pages. God’s “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love”[1] is clearly and widely displayed as each story (as the subtitle denotes) points toward the real hero, the Rescuer of our souls, Jesus Christ.

The “Tales That Tell the Truth” Series

In these wonderful books you’ll find retellings of individual biblical narratives that point readers toward the even greater, over-arching biblical metanarrative of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. Written by a variety of Christian authors and all vibrantly illustrated by Catalina Echeverri, these books are a pleasure to read and full of gospel hope.

The “Good News for Little Hearts” Series

This series of books written by CCEF authors is full of practical, heart-level application of biblical principles, all taught through engaging stories. Through the trials and triumphs of various woodland creatures, you and your family will have the opportunity to apply God’s word to topics such as anxiety, anger, failure, sadness, and loneliness.

Stories, whether overtly or intentionally Christian in theme or authorial intent, provide countless opportunities for readers to enter into situations, both familiar and fantastical, in which they can learn, connect with, and practice applying biblical truth. Next time parenting paralysis begins to set in, simply grab a book, sit down with your child, and read. Your next gospel conversation may be only a story away.[2]

 

 

 


[1] The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones, Page 227

[2] To learn more about the power of narrative in the one another ministry of biblical counseling visit https://www.ccef.org/video/winston-smith-how-chronicles-narnia-helped-him-through-anxiety/