Long stories for long summer days

I love using the seasons in our faith at home. This is fairly easy in the run up to Christmas and Easter, and in the Autumn we celebrate the Biblical feasts. However, between Pentecost and October, there’s a dearth of significant markers. However, the natural ‘calendar’ is often useful, and in the summer our days lengthen significantly, perhaps seemingly even more so during the holidays, when we have more flexible time than during term time. I like to think of faith-growing activities which we couldn’t do as easily at other times of year.

One thing to do is to plunge into Bible stories, reading or listening to much longer stories or Bible chunks than we might usually attempt. By reading large chunks of the Bible, we get a better idea of the BIG story of God’s relationship with His people. It helps us cover parts of stories which our children might not have heard or read in their children’s Bibles. It’s easier to spot themes and explore what God is like as we discover how He interacted with His people.

Read or listen?

I’ve come across the idea that listening to the Bible isn’t reading it. Well, it’s not, is it? But I’m not sure that the actually activity of reading the Bible is what I’m aiming at. I’m aiming for getting familiar with it, letting the words penetrate and affect my life, memorising it so I can meditate on it and use it in prayer and affirmations. I’d like to study it, the big story, the themes, individual words and verses, so as to better understand and apply it. None of this actually requires me to read it. This is good as it creates openings for lots of people to explore the Bible for whom reading is impossible or difficult due to age, ability, learning style or personal preferences. I’m not against reading the Bible, just pretty passionate that it’s not the only way, and I’m pretty sure hearing the Bible was the way people accessed it for hundreds of years. It’s a way of experiencing God’s word which goes back to our roots, and enables us to focus on the meaning in a different way.

For many people, listening also enables us to explore the Bible while doing something else. For children, this might be playing with lego or drawing while listening. I find stories can hold our  attention for loads longer if our hands are busy doing other things. For adults, this might be listening while driving or while cooking the dinner. Perhaps we are not giving the words the attention we might if were sitting in a chair reading, but for many of us, this is time when we will listen to something and listening to the Bible is a great way to top up on ‘whatever is pure, whatever is right’ and fill our minds with ‘such things’.

We love listening to the Bible. We often listen to David Suchet reading the NIV on the YouBible app or Audible, where I got the whole Bible with one credit! Usually I wouldn’t recommend the NIV as a child-friendly version, but I’ve found as an audio book it works well, especially at David reads it so well. There are lots of audio options, including buying or borrowing CDs perhaps for the car, or downloading apps or podcasts. Ask around friends (or on Facebook!) to find ones people recommend. Worth noting is do you need to be online to listen or can you download the tracks? Is it possible to search by Bible book and verse (I can’t in my Audible one which can be tricky!)?

I asked for recommendations on Facebook and here are some which were recommended:

Read Scripture App looks lovely and is free.

Dwell Scripture App looks be beautiful and has a range of four voices reading the verses, but it’s not free.

The Passion Translation Audio available on Amazon or Audible (the whole New Testament plus Psalms and Proverbs for one credit).

What to read?

This really depends on your family, how old your children are, how familiar you all are with the Bible, and what you’re used to reading. If your family is fairly new to the Bible you could read the story of Jesus by reading a whole gospel. My personal favourite is Luke, and Mark is the shortest. If you’re quite familiar with the Bible, you might like to choose an Old Testament book such as Joshua (lots of action!) or 1 Kings or Exodus (much longer). Or shorter options could be the books of Esther, Ruth or Jonah. If you’re more familiar with the Bible, how about reading the minor prophets (this will actually only take 3 hours to read all of them!)?

If most children in your family are under 5 years old, you might choose to read from a Bible story book where the stories are re-told in an age appropriate way. My top favourites are

  • the recently republished Big Bible Storybook, where the ‘puppet’ artwork always seek to show the ‘God moment’ in the story, and the stories are carefully selected and told to be appropriate for the developmental and spiritual stages of children of this age, as well as making sure not to ‘teach’ things they will have to unlearn later.
  • the Children of God Storybook Bible written by Desmond Tutu. The African artwork is varied and beautiful, and the story style is fresh, with a different slant from your normal western approach.

For children age five and up, I would recommend at least trying out using a normal Bible. There are so many options, but my favourites are the Contemporary English Version which reads out loud really nicely so if you’re reading it, this is a good one. The New International Reader’s Version is a simplified version of the NIV, the New Testament of which is available in large print, perfect for early reader, with shorter sentences and simpler vocab. I often also use the NIV with my children, occasionally omitting or explaining words which I think they will struggle with (I edited the ripping open of pregnant women in one of Elisha’s prophecies). You can look at all these and loads of other Bible versions at www.BibleGateway.com

There are also fabulous books like Dear Theo produced by Biblica, which has the books of Luke and Acts written without the verses marked so it reads more smoothly and it’s easier to get engrossed in the story. This would be good for children age 7 up to teens and adults as you could all read the same book.

How to read?

I love the chance to explore a whole Bible story, either in episodes or in large chunks. You know your family and how often and for how long you can read a story together. If you start reading a book or story and find it’s not working, feel free to switch and try another one! Don’t feel like you’ve failed – you’re trying things out. There’s plenty of time to come to that story another time, another year, another season.

When to read?

Read when it’s a happy time to do so, when it ‘works’. Try doing it with a drink and a snack (I find the smell of fresh biscuits from the oven and hot chocolate gathers people quicker than any shout could!). Try doing it before bed, over breakfast, after dinner, at the park, in a rest break on a bike ride, at the beach, in the car. Be creative and find ways which work for your family.

What long story could you explore with your family this summer?