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Should we teach kids the ultra-violent stories of the Bible? David Wakerley gives his opinion.

It’s time.

Time for something serious.

I don’t do too many posts like this, but I hope this opens up some serious discussion in the comments, because controversy is what gets lots of comments in the blog world, and I am unlikely to write something truly controversial like…suggesting that we produce a VBS based on the Twilight series of books.

So we are in the middle of creating our next children’s ministry curriculumHillsong Kids Big: Supernatural. I have been writing scripts like a madman, and one of the weeks includes the story of Jericho. I send the scripts off for a little theology inspection (as usual) to one of our lecturers in our Bible College, Duncan Corby…it comes back pretty good, a few tweaks here and there, but I haven’t yet become a heretic. Yay.

But we start a discussion about something I hadn’t really expected. Here is the question:

Should we be teaching/telling our kids the ultra-violent stories found in the Old Testament?

When you get to the end of Joshua’s army walking around Jericho, the walls have fallen, they then proceed to kill every single man, woman, and child in the city and burn it to the ground. This is all apparently sanctioned and encouraged by God (rinse and repeat for many other OT stories).

Now he was really thinking out loud and not endorsing the idea, but I need to (even if for my own sake) investigate this idea.

Let me present two perspectives as precisely as I can, because I don’t want this to be an essay.

YES: We should be teaching the whole counsel of God, and we can teach these stories in an age appropriate way. As children grow in understanding, they can then begin to explore these issues further. We have to present the Bible as a narrative, the story of God dealing with his people over thousands of years so that our children grasp the big picture of faith. After all, the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.

NO: Exposing our kids to these stories has aided in creating our violent culture. Where Christians quite happily support capital punishment and can justify war in a heartbeat. In much the same way that it is said that Jewish young men would not be allowed to read the Song of Songs until they were 30 years old, our kids should focus on the life of Jesus, who was a non-violent figure, until they are able to reconcile a jealous God in their hearts and minds.

I would love for you to post a pro/con thought in the comments, keep it short, focused, and don’t try to present dozens of ideas in one go. Especially if you can point me in the direction of some resources/books that cover this thought.

David Wakerley David Wakerley is a respected children’s ministry thought-leader and frequent conference speaker on the topic. David and his wife Beci serve as children’s pastors in Sydney, Australia and founded the popular KidInspiration blog. Both of them have a passion to see children’s ministries around the world flourish and thrive.

More from David Wakerley or visit David at

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  • kidminchris

    My automatic response is YES! Kids, especially boys, love the excitement. It seems obvious to me that we don’t have to teach every detail to every child, but if they are curious and old enough to read it, they eventually will. I think a stock response to questions about violence and death in the Bible should go something like this. “According to Hebrews, without the shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness of sin. According to Romans, we have all sinned and what we deserve for that sin is death. Adam and Eve brought death into the world when they sinned and only the death of a perfect sacrifice can pay the penalty for that sin. The good news of God’s story is that He loves the world so much that He provided a way out. He gave us His one and only son Jesus to be that perfect sacrifice. God decided that He should die in our place to pay the penalty for our sins. In His mercy, God has kept us from dying so that we could hear the gospel and choose to trust and follow after Jesus. But for everyone who doesn’t choose Jesus, they have chosen death instead. When God called for people to be killed in the Old Testament, He stopped holding back his wrath and allowed the people of God to be the instruments of judgment and death. Those instances are rare and are the exceptions to the rule. Today God calls all of us to be instruments of grace and salvation, sharing the Good News of Jesus with all who will listen.”

  • JeffA

    In reading the Bible with my children (my son is now 17 and my daughter is 9), we covered several of the ‘hard’ stories and I didn’t want to gloss over the gory details. The story of Esther, which my daughter seemed to enjoy, showed the danger in which the Israelites constantly found themselves and how they needed protection. Others, like the aforementioned walls of Jericho, were hard lessons in obedience. I also tried to be open in saying I didn’t understand why these things were necessary, but that it was a very different world from what we know now.

    It also shines light on how radical Jesus’ teachings were at the time, particularly to those who adhered to the letter of the Law, but who missed its spirit.

  • darkangelights

    violence is entertaining

  • Dianne

    I don’t think children who go to church and hear these violent stories are the ones out in the world causing all this chaos. So many young people these days have never gone to church, with or without their parents, so do not know about God. Therefore they belong to Satan. This would be the main reason why the world has so much hate and violence.
    Age appropriate teaching like anything else is what we need to concentrate on.


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