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A Child Sees God: Children Talk About Bible Stories

Author: Howard Worsley
Published By: Jessica Kingsley (London)
Pages: 173
Price: £14.99
ISBN: 978 1 84310 972 3

Reviewed by Terry Hinks.

Following a previous book on a child’s hermeneutic of Scripture, Howard Worsley develops the theme in a book that aims to allow us to hear the child’s voice in response to 21 stories from the Bible. His research project involved sending stories to a group of families who agreed to record conversations arising from reading a Bible story to their child or children.  

Influenced by Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots (2004), he divided the stories he sent to the families into seven categories: texts of wonder (such as the creation story); of adventure and leadership (e.g. Paul’s shipwreck); of terror (Abraham and Isaac); of justice and judgement (e.g. Noah’s Ark); comfort and hope (David and Goliath); of comedy (Unjust judge); and of mercy and forgiveness (e.g. Zacchaeus), giving three stories for each category.

The project involved varying ages (from pre-school to teenager) and each story (told from the NRVS - not the easiest version for small children!) is followed with a record of discussion between parent and child and a comment. Inevitably the quality of the story telling and the discussion that follows varies and several times the discussion becomes totally sidetracked.

In conclusion, Howard draws out the implications for children, parents, school teachers and ministers. He explores what makes good storytelling and underlines the value of Bible story telling: “When read aloud to children, Bible stories create a world of imagination and wonder where faith can grow. If this is done in a way which allows questions and doubt as well as affirmation and confirmation of thoughts, the resultant faith will be well-founded, neither diseased by the need to be certain nor choked by the fear of using a creative imagination.”

This is an interesting research project and, despite the limitations of the research material, we are enabled to hear the responses of some children to some specific stories and more importantly encouraged in our own context to listen more carefully to children’s voices in response to scripture. This is an important task, motivated by the words of Jesus (used at the beginning and end of the book): ‘Unless you become like a child you cannot enter the kingdom of God’.

Terry Hinks

United Reformed Church Minister and Ministry Today Board Member

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You are reading Issue 46 of Ministry Today, published in July 2009.

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