The Jesus Storybook Bible & Curriculum Kit

Oh how unfortunate it is that so many children's Bibles are loaded with colorful pictures and moralistic stories but fail to tell the story of God's redemption!  Through these Bibles, many children learn about the people of the Bible but often fail to see how they are intertwined in one great story, The Story.  These children's books miss how all of the stories point to the salvation brought only by Christ.  Even more tragic is the reality that for many children, a bridge is never built to take them from a book of moralistic, colorful stories to an understanding of The Story.  Instead, they are stuck with memories of tales that tell them very little about Christ.  Even worse, they may only be able to conjure up images of cucumber and tomato characters when they think of the God's Word, the Bible.  Then as teens, they mentally push aside the Bible along with their other children's books.  Finally, as adults, they don't know the Bible and remember it only as a book of disconnected stories or even rules about life.  As parents and Bible teachers we must combat this tragedy.

Choosing a good children's Bible is a great start.  The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones is a well illustrated children's Bible that tells of one interconnected story (made up of 44 selected "chapters") that is constantly pointing to Jesus.  Lloyd-Jones writes every event with Jesus at the center, not a moralist principle or other misguided focus.  It's about Jesus, just as the Bible is.  Each individual chapter is written on two or three pages and can be read to a child in three to four minutes.  The illustrations are memorable and fun.  It's perfect for Bible reading at breakfast with the kids or for bedtime stories or any other time you can read to your children.  In addition, the story is organized in chronological order and every chapter comes with a Scripture reference so an adult can explore the passage in greater detail in an adult Bible. 

My wife and I (but mostly my wife)  read the Jesus Storybook Bible to our children every morning at the breakfast table.  It's fun and easy, but more significant is seeing how my boys (3 and 6) are able to articulate the larger story of Jesus.  They see Jesus in every story.  And having gone through it a couple times now, my oldest is no longer regurgitating the story but actually demonstrating great comprehension of his understanding of God's story of redemption.

But the Jesus Storybook Bible is not just for kids.  As a pastor at Risen Life Church, I've recommend this Bible to many adults.  Some of the people I meet are approaching the Bible for the first time (or maybe coming back to it with only warped pictures of their not-so-great childhood Bible lodged in their memory).  Or they, like many Christians, have never read the Bible in chronological order and fail to see how it all fits together.  I always encourage getting a chronological reading list and start reading; but I also like to recommend that students of the Bible read the Jesus Storybook Bible first. This offers a quick read with a great overview of God's story of redemption.  "Every story whispers his name," Lloyd-Jones correctly writes.  And this is not limited to non-believers and new Christians.  I came around the corner one morning to find my wife sobbing as she was trying to read "The Servant King" story to my boys.  She'd read the biblical narrative many times but there was something in the simplicity of the Jesus Storybook Bible that tapped into the her child-like faith.  God stirred her heart through the pages of a children's Bible! 

The Jesus Storybook Bible is great for children and adults alike.  I highly recommend it.  But a word of caution: just because this is a great children's Bible does not mean that children (and adults for that matter) should not be graduated up to other age appropriate Bibles as they grow in their walk with Christ and their understanding of God's Word increases.  The Jesus Storybook Bible is most appropriate for children in early to middle elementary school. 

The Jesus Storybook Bible has been discussed before on as well as in the podcast, "Salty Believer Unscripted"; therefore, it should be no surprise that I highly recommend it.  But there's more!

The Jesus Storybook Bible now comes complete with curriculum.  Sally Lloyd-Jones (the author of many children's books) has teamed up with Sam Shammas (who works at Redeemer Presbyterian Church and has co-written other curriculum with Timothy Keller).  These two ladies have taken the wonderful illustrations by Jago and the theatrical audio recordings by David Suchet and developed 44 lesson plans (50 weeks of lessons) for children to pair with the 44 individual stories of the Jesus Storybook Bible.  These lessons include three to five-minute animated videos of The Jesus Storybook Bible as well as incredible print curriculum.

Before I continue this review, I should share that I was intrigued by the idea of the videos and curriculum for adults, even if that is not the intended purpose of the material.  As I pastor adults and am always seeking ways to better teach the Bible, I am most often looking for ways to get the Bible in front of busy grownups (even it they use reading to their kids as an excuse).  The Jesus Storybook Bible works well for this purpose; so I wondered, How much more might the videos and curriculum work to this end?  I requested a reviewer copy of The Jesus Storybook Bible Curriculum Kit in exchange for a review and was granted my request.  (Thanks Sally; you are a blessing!  But honestly, had I been able to purchase the kit, I would have been discussing it on anyway.  It's too interesting not to talk about!)  In addition, unaware of my exploration Kerryn Talbot, the children's pastor at Risen Life Church has selected The Jesus Storybook Bible Curriculum for our children's church.

The Curriculum Kit includes one copy of the Jesus Storybook Bible, three CDs of the audio recordings by David Suchet, and a DVD that includes 44 animated videos and curriculum for print.  The print curriculum includes some promotional material, a guide on teaching the material, and the curriculum itself.  I'm not a children's pastor, but I am impressed with the curriculum.  It's designed so nearly anybody can teach a children's class.  There is a guide for leading a class with detailed instructions and information about the biblical text.  A game or activity is included as well as a memory verse and a colorful lesson handout.  At the bottom of the handout, there are further tips for parents so they may continue teaching the material throughout the week.  It really couldn't be easier.  But this is not to say that the material is lite; it's solid and teaches the Bible.  Even the memory verse has additional tools for learning because under the verse is a line with about five books of the Bible in canonical order.  The book where the verse is found is bold and in the center of the other books.  Even this will help children (and adults) learn the books of the Bible and where they are in the story.  (It might be nice to also have a timeline of The Story but that might be a little advanced for children.) 

The videos are remarkable.  Fancy they are not, but the quality of the audio recording and artwork makes them mesmerizing.  The videos are not flashy but simple, keeping the focus on the narrative.  Jago's art for the videos comes straight out of the artwork from the book so children will have a greater connection and reinforcement as they see the video, hear the words, and read the story.  The audio CDs can be used in the car  on the move to further reinforce God's Story with kids. (You can see a sample video of "The Servant King" without the title package above.)

Unfortunately, it is in the area of the videos where I have criticism.  Every video starts with a 45 second title introduction to give credit the publisher (ZonderKidz), author (Sally Lloyd-Jones), and the reader (David Suchet).  While I greatly appreciate the work of these individuals and I realize they should receive credit, it is troubling to think that a three or four minute video needs this much introduction. I could see it if the video were longer, but consuming 23% of a four minute video with this material is unfortunate.  As I imagine the teacher in the classroom--trying to keep things moving along smoothy--I see a man or woman in the room early setting up the DVD player in advance in order to bypass the title piece so the kids can get right into the video.  Why create this additional step?  The curriculum kit has already been purchased and the credits are on the box, the curriculum, and the DVD packaging.  Why continue to push the publisher and credits in ways that distract from the teaching of the material in the classroom?  I am also a little disappointed that there is not a "play all" feature for the videos.  It was my hope that I could have new believers over to my home with their kids and we could watch a movie of The Jesus Storybook Bible.  As the DVD presently works, a new video would need to be selected every three to four minutes and a 45-second title piece would need to be forwarded over every time.  This seems extremely distracting.  If I were to make a single suggestion, it would be a "play all" feature where after the first title package, no more are shown.  This would create a wonderful 2-hour movie of God's Story of redemption that few adults would want to miss.

Apart from my minor criticism of the way the videos are presented, I find The Jesus Storybook Bible Curriculum Kit extremely useful to teach the Bible.  The Curriculum Kit is a fresh and exciting approach to a timeless story and it works extremely well with The Jesus Storybook Bible. It's my hope--for the sake of children who will grow up to be Bible-knowing, Bible-believing, God-loving adults--that churches take a good look at The Jesus Storybook Bible Curriculum Kit and parents invest in a copy of The Jesus Storybook Bible for their kids (and for themselves!).  If you are still unclear about how The Story all fits together and how it all points to Jesus, or you just want to see the Bible through child-like eyes The Jesus Storybook Bible is for you!

*Zondervan provided this reviewer a free copy of The Jesus Storybook Bible for review purposes.  While it was done in exchange for a review, the free gift influenced the content of this review very little.
** Photos and videos are shared for the purposes of providing samples and examples and are not intended to serve solely as marketing for The Jesus Storybook Bible.