What the Bible can teach us about telling stories that endure to our children

Bruce Feiler, an author and columnist for The New York Times, has some valuable lessons about telling stories to children with help of the Bible.

Bruce Feiler, an author and columnist for The New York Times, has a simple parenting tip: use the Bible’s storytelling power to connect with your children.

During his keynote address to the RootsTech Conference in Salt Lake City this week, Feiler told audience members the Bible’s storytelling ability is unparalleled by any other body of work and may prove as a good example for parents sharing advice and family history with their children.

Mainly because those stories have stood for generations, something that family stories should aim to do, too.

In his keynote speech, he retold the story of his travels around the world during his 20s, specifically his journey through the Middle East. During his time there, he decided to go on a type of walkabout — one where he retraced the steps Moses took in the Bible, and eventually learned valuable lessons about being a parent.

One of the lessons he learned was that simple stories can help family members understand the greater importance of family relationships. And how knowledge of previous family members, the bad times in particular, can inspire youngsters to learn from failure and aim for success.

“The character building moments don’t happen in the best of times, but in the worst of times,” he said.

Feiler suggests keeping Bible stories in mind when telling your own. That is to say, tell these famous stories like they are meaningful and everlasting. He said there were thousands of stories from throughout the history of time, but only a select few made the Bible — showing that meaningful stories need to be powerful and should connect with listeners.

Feiler’s theory isn’t far off from what many religious families already do. Biblical stories often teach certain lessons that parents will later use for teaching their children about a certain topic.

This is something that David M. Carr, a writer for OnFaith, does with his children. He explained recently that he uses the Bible to teach his children about trauma because the Bible was likely written by people who were traumatized by some of the darker historical events that inspired the work.

People can learn that trauma is a part of life from the Bible, he said, as there are a number of stories that include characters failing only to be uplifted by God later on.

Suffering and trauma also offer believers a chance to transform and change the way they live. They can learn from trauma and come out stronger because of it, he wrote.

“This is one of the up-and-down struggles of the trauma survivor,” Carr wrote. “Those around a trauma victim can be impatient with the survivor’s failure to put it all in the past. The Bible recognizes the abiding impact of traumatic events.”

But as you might expect, the Bible teaches many lessons from its stories. Jack Wellman of Patheos recommends The Prodigal Son story, as it teaches children about understanding parental love.

The David and Goliath story is also a good one for children to learn since it will teach them about overcoming the odds. The story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den can also be good for children since it’ll get them more in touch with their spirituality.

“Every one of us will have to face our giants in this life, we will all be treated unfairly at some point, we’ll all be put into positions that look impossible to get out of, and God desires that everyone repents and trusts in him,” Wellman wrote.

Herb Scribner

Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret Digital Media.