In this Faith at Home series, I will be sharing some of the ways Jonathan and I have intentionally parented our kids (currently ages 7, 9, and 11) in a way that centers our Christian faith and faith-based values. My philosophy of pastoring and parenting is “That church would be an integral part of the life of the children, and that children would be an integral part of the life of the church.” Each article will focus on one way we strive to embody that philosophy.
Walk in any Christian bookstore or Google “Bibles for kids,” and you’ll quickly see that
there are dozens of options! The last Faith at Home post was about encouraging your kids to read the Bible, and where in the text to start. If your child doesn’t have their own Bible, now is a perfect time to buy one! But there are so many on the market, how do you know which to choose? I’ve spent my entire life learning about different translations and interpretations, so with the glut of Bibles marketed toward kids on the market, here are my top recommendations…
FOR TEENS/OLDER KIDS: FULL BIBLES
A note on translations: I prefer the Common English Bible (CEB) for kids and teens. It is written at an easier-to-understand reading level, and it uses inclusive language more than other translations (example: “humanity” instead of “mankind”). For older readers and adults, I suggest the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV); it is a higher reading level, and also uses inclusive language (the way the original text would have been read!). I am not opposed to the New International Version (NIV), but it is not what I recommend.
For graduates/ older teens, I prefer not getting anything labeled “youth” or “student.” Get them a Bible they will want to use into adulthood – any NRSV or CEB would be great!
For younger teens: CEB Student Bible There is helpful explanatory material in this, designed for youth who are using Scripture to help navigate school, friends, and everything else that goes along with being a teen in the US today! The feel is of a transition from a children’s Bible to a study Bible – it doesn’t feel juvenile and does a good job of being age-appropriate.
For older kids: Spark Bible (NRSV) The margins are nice and wide, and the feel of it is very “clean” looking; it encourages kids to underline, write in the margins, and interact with the text themselves! The explanatory material is minimal, but what is there is helpful.
For younger kids: Deep Blue Bible (CEB) This one is my absolute favorite – I wish I had this Bible as a kid! There are illustrated characters who lead the kids through the Bible, making observations and asking questions. There is more explanatory material in this than the Spark Bible, which is very helpful for younger readers who might have a hard time digesting Scripture.
FOR YOUNGER KIDS: STORYBOOK BIBLES
A note on storybook Bibles: I always start out by looking at two things that are both dealbreakers for me:
- What language and illustrations does it use around the death of Christ? (I avoid anything that uses overly violent language and pictures)
- Are all the illustrations of white people? (The Bible takes place in the Middle East, so I immediately distrust illustrations of white people!)
Growing in God’s Love: A Story Bible Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Buy this immediately. I have never seen a storybook like it. The language used throughout the book is invitational, welcoming kids into the stories themselves. It takes great effort to be gender-inclusive and diverse (which not all kids’ Bibles are!). It includes suggestions to engage with each story that would be useful for pastors, teachers, parents, and caregivers to use! I found myself wanting to post pictures of ALL the pages, because they are each so thoughtful! As I read the stories, I envisioned the author cuddled up on the couch with kids, a cup of hot cocoa in her hand as she shared the love of God. The book is arranged thematically, with notes between each section.
Deep Blue Bible Storybook This one is also good. It’s set up more like a Bible, with each book color coded. It contains the stories of the Deep Blue Sunday School curriculum, so if your church uses that, it is a nice transition to home!
Children of God Storybook Bible What I love about this is it is a “global edition,” meaning it includes illustrators from all over the globe. This one is more of a book and less of a Bible than the other two storybook Bibles I recommend here; it is more like a bedtime story book. This one has more violence in the story of Jesus’ death than I am super comfortable with, but the opening line “In the very beginning, God’s love bubbled over when there was nothing else…” is lovely. I appreciate the illustrations far more than the content of this edition.
You’ll note that I did NOT include the Jesus Storybook Bible. It is often recommended because it was one of the first illustrated Bibles to not feature white characters! Unfortunately, the tagline of “Every story whispers his name” is not a good way to interpret the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), and the emphasis problematically reads Christ into the text when he is not there – every story in Scripture does not, in fact, “whisper his name”! We have a copy of this and there are some things I appreciate about it, but not enough to recommend it to others.
When do I give my child a Bible? Many churches do this as a “milestone gift” – maybe at baptism or confirmation. I got my first study Bible from my parents on my 10th birthday (and because I turned 10 in the early 90s, it was BRIGHT TEAL). We got each of our kids their own Deep Blue Bible when they were old enough to read chapter books, and that’s worked well for our family. It could be for a milestone, or for a Tuesday – but either way, talk with your kids about how we can learn about God through the Bible, and it is an important part of being a Christian!
I recently heard a suggestion from Rev. Heidi Heath that I plan to use in the future and wish I would have with my own kids, and I’ll be sure to do it for church kids from now on! Before gifting a Bible to a child or teen, ask their parents, Sunday School teacher, mentor, or other people close to them to mark their favorite verses in the Bible, along with a note in the margins of why it is so meaningful to them. What a great way to model our faith stories with kids!
Cultivating a love of Scripture in kids can influence the rest of their lives. Today is a good day to start!
*These are non-affiliate links; I make no money off them! Though I linked to each publisher’s direct site, they are also all available on Amazon.