Q I want to tell my kids Bible stories, but are there some that are not appropriate for little children, like David and Bathsheba?

A It is great that you want to share Bible stories with your children. A rich knowledge of Bible stories is important in their faith formation. But we recognize your dilemma. And it isn’t just stories with sex in them that people have difficulty sharing with children. Many Bible stories are filled with violence and people who abuse power—and sometimes those are the “good guys.” Let’s acknowledge that there are some stories or parts of stories a young child is not ready to hear. These stories can wait until the child gets a little older.

Does this mean that any story that includes sex or violence is out of bounds for children? Not necessarily. When we tell stories—any stories, not just Bible stories—we decide what to include and what to leave out. Every telling of a story is edited. The question is not should we edit but how.

Recently we heard of a teen who slammed his Bible down and said, “I’ve been lied to!” He’d been told in Sunday school that after the people of Nineveh heeded God’s warning and repented, everyone, including Jonah, was happy. When he read the book of Jonah on his own, he was stunned to find out that the story ends not with a happy hero but with the title character irritated with God.

We can leave out the end of the story of Jonah, but we should not imply that, once God sends a big fish to correct Jonah, everyone lives happily ever after. The difficult stories we tell young children don’t always have to be complete—but what we tell should always be accurate.

About the Author

Laura Keeley is a regional catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries in the CRCNA and director of childrens ministries at 14th St. CRC in Holland, Mich.

Robert Keeley is professor of education at Calvin College and director of distance education at Calvin Seminary.