The presentation of a Bible to a child in the presence of their family and the church congregation can be one of the most memorable milestones in a child’s life. It can also be a moving experience for church members, reminding them of their congregational commitment to the child and perhaps evoking memories of their own Bible presentation.
Many churches designate a Sunday in the fall as “Bible Sunday.” A simple and sweet “Order for the Presentation of Bibles to Children” may be found in this worship liturgy. When woven into an entire service centering on the importance of God’s Word, the annual Bible presentation to children can become an even more treasured church tradition for all those involved.
There are several meaningful ways to celebrate this important milestone. Perhaps even more importantly, there are opportunities to build upon the experience with a time of intentional instruction for the children during which they learn how to use their new Bibles. More and more churches have felt a desire to do more than give the children a beautiful gift Bible that may end up sitting on a shelf in the child’s room. It is important for children to know that the Bible is not just a book of history full of God’s word and Jesus’ stories from long ago. We want children to know the Bible is still relevant today, filled with wonderful stories to discover and apply to their lives.
Encourage your pastor to sign each child’s Bible. It will be meaningful for the children to look back one day and remember who the pastor was the day they received their Bible. You may also consider choosing a Scripture to highlight in the Bibles and refer to in the presentation service. At our church, we use Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” We highlight it in each Bible and place the bookmark ribbon there.
Ask older members of the congregation if they would be willing to be matched with the child receiving the Bible for the Sunday school year. Their first interaction is writing a short note of introduction to congratulate them on their new Bibles, describing what the Bible means to them personally, and sharing their favorite Bible verse. The note is then placed in the front of each child’s Bible to be discovered on Bible Presentation Day. As you lay all the notes before you, pray over them, and randomly insert them into the Bibles. You will be surprised later at the amazing stories you will hear of the connections between children and their Bible Buddies. You will hear how the Holy Spirit moved in the pairings and discover it was not so random after all. The Bible Buddies are encouraged to pray for their assigned child throughout the year and send them a birthday and Christmas card if able. Some churches ask the Bible Buddies to cover the cost of the child’s Bible.
Throwing an afternoon or evening event for families to help their third grader learn how to use their new Bible through playing games can be, well, “a blast”! Set up stations to include Bible drills, art activities, and more. Make it fun!
The weekend after Bible Presentation Sunday, consider having a one-night overnight retreat. The retreat focus is dedicated time learning Bible basics and creating community among classmates.
Learning to Use My Bible
Consider using this curriculum from Abingdon Press as a resource in teaching children how to use their new Bibles.
Involve children and parents in a two-week offering during the Sunday school hour to help both learn how to use the new Bibles. This class can be especially helpful for parents who do not feel as knowledgeable about the Bible. They can learn along with their children in an environment that won’t make them feel intimidated.
Look for opportunities throughout the year for these children to use their Bibles. It can be a wonderful acknowledgement of their commitment to learning to know and use their Bibles, as well as a reminder to the congregation that they are a part of this meaningful and significant tradition in the lives of the children of the church. Seeing the children reading from the Bibles they’ve been gifted from the church can help church members feel they are part of both a faith legacy and a church legacy of passing the stories from one generation to another.
Whether your congregation presents Bibles to third graders or first graders, and whether they choose to honor them as a small part of worship or devote the entire service as a Bible Sunday, is not what is most important. What matters most is that the children know the Bible they are receiving is a gift of love from the congregation. Giving this annual time some new prayerful thought and focus can add to the children’s learning that this is not just a book – it is the Book, and that the study of God’s Word is meant to help them on their journey to a deeper connection with God.
Amy Jo Alspaugh
Myers Park UMC