15 Bible Stories Not for VBS

15 Bible Stories Not for VBS

Twelve-year-old Jimmy wore wounded eyes. A Huckleberry Finn lookin’ kid with a loud mouth and language that fried air. Angry should-a-been his nick-name. His mama was an addict who lived with men who weren’t Jimmy’s father. The boy’s life was a volcano waiting to explode. But Jimmy needed Jesus.

God’s Word tells the good, the bad, and the ugly concerning events and people. Nobody can predict the impact that these harsh reality stories might have in the heart and mind of a grade school boy or girl—Especially kids who don’t have a clue about God, Jesus, or The Holy Spirit. Vacation Bible School is a place where kids—church kids and never-been-there kids—should hear the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But what about those other stories?

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  • 1. Jael's Story

    1. Jael's Story

    I arrived home to find a mess of kids battling on my front lawn, a kid named Jimmy being the ringleader. Words I’d never heard splintered the quiet afternoon. I called the police when Jimmy turned his anger on me. And when the officer arrived, he shook his head. “Been to his house many times, ma’am. There’s no one to help him.”

    In Judges 4, Jael, Heber the Kenite’s wife, encounters Sisera, commander of King Jabin’s army, as he fled in a failed attempt to defeat Israel. The commander searched for a place to hide and Jael invited him to hide in their tent. She covered him with a rug, gave him warm milk, and soothed him to sleep. She then took a tent peg and smacked it through his temple, killing him. 

    If Jimmy agreed to attend Vacation Bible School and heard Jael’s story, would this account justify his penchant for violence? VBS is one event neighborhood kids and unchurched kids attend to learn about the love, mercy and grace of God. While Jael is a biblical heroine, her story is not for children who don’t understand the rest of the story.


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  • 2. Jacob's Lies—Essau's Anger

    2. Jacob's Lies—Essau's Anger

    For weeks after the fight, Jimmy rode by my house every day, zinging angry eye-darts at me. Great. I’d made an angry kid even angrier. What should I do about this boy, Lord?

    If Jimmy had listened to Jacob and Esau’s story as told in Genesis 27, his twisted mind might latch onto Jacob’s lies and surmise that God rewarded liars. Esau’s anger might have been excused. VBS doesn’t allow time to present God’s purpose and plan in one story. Can grade school children comprehend what’s taken us years of Bible study to wrap our minds around? They need to learn about the foundation of faith.

    Many children attending VBS have never heard the name of Jesus. A fifth grade boy visited our Sunday School one morning. In the middle of the lesson, he interrupted, “Who is this Jesus? Some kinda superhero or what?”


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  • 3. David and Bathsheba

    3. David and Bathsheba

    To multiply my annoyance, a neighborhood cat stalked our new cat, and soon after we learned she was going to have kittens. This old gray Tom strutted by the front porch each day trumpeting his triumph. Then disappeared before I could grab a hose.

    Had Jimmy gone to VBS and heard about King David’s lust, adultery, and Bathsheba’s pregnancy—which led David to commit murder, recorded in 2 Samuel 11—this kid who lived in the middle of lust, lies, and licentiousness might consider David’s behavior acceptable. Could he understand that God’s mercy, through the blood of Jesus, could cleanse and heal even a King? Or would Jimmy’s angry spirit overlook God’s forgiveness?

    Perhaps there’s a boy like Jimmy in your neighborhood. Have you asked God what He wants you to do about those Jimmy types in your life?


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  • 4. Abraham and Isaac

    4. Abraham and Isaac

    Jimmy often pedaled by our house and I noticed his shabby appearance. His clothes were dirty—they looked like he slept in them. His hair was unkempt. His expression? Tired. Worried. I wondered, who takes care of Jimmy? God poked His finger in my heart. The world is full of kids like Jimmy with mothers whose lives are a mess. They need Jesus, but you condemn them. 

    If Jimmy were seated in a VBS class listening to the Genesis 22 account of Abraham binding his son, building a fire, willing to slash his throat and sacrifice the son he loved to a God he couldn’t even see—would Jimmy long to know this God who tests those who believe in Him?

    We must consider the conceptual abilities grade school children lack, and their inability to draw conclusions when sometimes even we, as maturing children of God, don’t understand.


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  • 5. Jephthah the Gileadite and His Daughter

    5. Jephthah the Gileadite and His Daughter

    What should I do? I knew God was dealing with me. The idea of a basket of cookies and a visit to Jimmy’s house raced through my mind. But I was afraid. Finally, God said, this is the day. Bake cookies for Jimmy. 

    The story of Jephthah, during the period of the judges, should never be used with children or teens. Adults have enough difficulty with this one. Judges 11 records the story of this man who God called a valiant warrior—one of the judges who delivered Israel during this very dark time in history. Jephthah made a vow to sacrifice the first thing that came out of the doors of his house, if God would give him the victory. The first thing out Jephthah’s door was his only daughter!

     If adults and scholars struggle with this, how do you think a kid like Jimmy would react?


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  • 6. Phinehas, the Son of Eleazar

    6. Phinehas, the Son of Eleazar

    I baked the cookies, prayed, and trudged down the street to Jimmy’s where I met his mom and that annoying cat who fled upstairs when he saw me on his turf. Jimmy’s mother asked, “Whatdaya want?” I introduced myself. “I know who you are,” she replied. “What’s he done this time?” I offered the basket. “I hoped to let Jimmy know I care about him.” She refused the cookies. “I’ll call ‘im home. Give ‘em to him yourself.”

    How do you think Jimmy would react to hearing the account of Phinehas, son of the high priest, Aaron, as told in the 25th Chapter of Numbers? Enraged when he saw a Jewish man having sex with an idol-worshipping woman in front of the temple of God, Phinehas picked up a spear and pierced them through the body, in front of everyone. His immediate action stopped God’s anger and checked the plague. But how could Jimmy relate to God’s holiness? Or would he conclude that there was no hope for him?

    Elementary-age children wouldn’t think beyond the blood and guts.


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  • 7. Job's Testing

    7. Job's Testing

    Jimmy ran in the front door, looked at me, then at his mom. For a moment I thought he might run up the stairs with the cat. “I—I’m sorry for my harsh words to you.” I held the cookies out to the boy. The cat peeked through the stair rails. I nodded toward the stairway. “Is that your cat?” Jimmy looked up. “Yeah, that’s old Murphy.” I smiled, still holding the cookies toward him. “Well I’m afraid old Murphy’s going to be a father.” Jimmy blinked, then laughed out loud. His face transformed—like a boy oughta look. And my heart melted.

    God isn’t limited by anything when He chooses to reach a heart. But Job’s story, recorded in the Book of Job, while a great lesson to adults, would be beyond elementary aged boys’ or girls’ abilities to understand. They wouldn’t be able to move beyond the ten empty places at the dinner table each night.

    Job’s story is best studied while we, as adults, move through raging-water trials. 


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  • 8. Solomon's Folly

    8. Solomon's Folly

    Hungry for affection, Jimmy no longer flung angry darts at me. He’d ride by the house, wave and smile. ‘Til I walked into the garage one morning and found four newborn kittens snuggled in the box with mama kitty. Three of the kittens were calicos, like mama, but the fourth was the spitting image of Murphy! I heard the clank of Jimmy’s old bicycle and lifted the garage door. “Hey kiddo…” I motioned him inside. Jimmy turned his bike into the drive, hopped off, and peeked into the box. He whooped! “It’s Murphy Jr.! Can I have him? Please?” A tiny tear escaped his eye.

    God promised David the Messiah would rule from his throne. The genealogy listed in the first chapter of Matthew records that fulfillment. David’s son Solomon ruled after David died. 1 Kings 1 records Solomon’s wisdom and marvelous beginning. But 1 Kings 11 records Solomon’s downfall. He ended up with seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, and God was angry because these foreign wives turned Solomon’s heart from God.

    Kids like Jimmy would think, so what? The brief time in VBS must be optimized teaching truth—the gospel of Jesus Christ and what salvation means to each child. 


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  • 9. Jezebel's Lie

    9. Jezebel's Lie

    Jimmy became a regular visitor. His mom appeared at my door one afternoon, thanking me for being kind to her son. As we talked, I heard loneliness in her words, and the need for a friend. I later learned that this was a rare sober moment. Addicted to alcohol and drugs, her life was a train wreck.

    A long string of evil rulers followed the Kingdom’s division, and among the worst were Ahab and his wife, Jezebel. 1 Kings 21 tells of the events sealing their doom. Ahab coveted a certain vineyard that wasn’t for sale. Jezebel said, Don’t worry, honey—I’ve got it covered. She arranged to have the owner of the vineyard accused of cursing God and the king. The men of the city drug the framed owner outside the city and stoned him to death.

    The prophet Elijah told Ahab, “where the dogs licked up the blood of the vineyard owner, they would lick up his blood,” and to his wife, “the dogs would eat Jezebel in the District of Jezreel.” Kids must first hear about the love and righteousness of God.


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  • 10. Amnon, Tamar, and Absalom

    10. Amnon, Tamar, and Absalom

    Jimmy’s mother stopped by and we visited. I explained that God wasn’t surprised about the drugs, and I shared Jesus’ love for her and told her how He paid for her sins on the cross. She listened, but said nothing.

    2 Samuel 13 records two sordid events in the lives of three of King David’s children: Rape and murder. The Word pulls no punches. God teaches that we are all sinners. And while The Word convicts, because we’ve offended and rebelled against God—elementary kids don’t have the mental or emotional capacity to separate the actions and apply the lesson to their lives. 

    VBS Bible time is short. Complicated issues are better dealt with in Sunday School or counseling. Kids like Jimmy may be trapped in a web of sins that five days of VBS can’t uncover.


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  • 11. Sons of Moab and Sons of Ammon

    11. Sons of Moab and Sons of Ammon

    VBS approached and I asked Jimmy if he‘d like to attend with the neighborhood kids. He was excited. After VBS ended, the church gave him a scholarship to Church Camp. While at camp, Jimmy accepted Jesus as his Savior and came home a changed kid.

    Genesis 19 not only reveals God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah, but this account also reveals the destruction of a family who abandoned the Word of God. Abraham’s nephew, Lot, fled Sodom with his wife and two daughters moments before God’s fiery judgment fell. But after mama looked back and turned to a pillar of salt, her daughters feared this was the end. They took preservation of the family into their own hands by getting their father drunk and each one lying with him, producing two sons who became the fathers of the Moabites and the Ammonites.

    This account is a warning to adults—not a teaching tool for children. We must miss no opportunity to teach our children and reinforce the goodness, mercy, and forgiveness of God because of Jesus’ love for them; but not with this story.


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  • 12. Beheading of John the Baptist

    12. Beheading of John the Baptist

    Life was difficult for Jimmy, but his mother was thrilled and I prayed she would come to Jesus. God provided another opportunity to assure her of Jesus’ love and forgiveness. I read the promises of the Word. and she asked Jesus to forgive and change her. But her brain had been fried by drugs and alcohol. 

    Many biblical accounts don’t end in the way we think they should, and the accounts in Matthew 14 and Mark 6 of the beheading of John the Baptist proves to be one of those examples. As a mother,  I find it disturbing that any mother could abuse her daughter. But what is more confusing, even to me, is why God would allow this evil family to behead this forerunner of our Lord Jesus. I’ve come to understand that God’s ways are not my ways. He is sovereign—I’m not.

    But that understanding has only come through years of trusting, studying, and believing in God’s will—not mine. Once again, we don’t know how much time we have beyond the current moment to help these children reach for Jesus. Make those moments count.


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  • 13. The Woman with the Issue of Blood

    13. The Woman with the Issue of Blood

    Less than a week later, my phone rang. A neighbor who had been praying for Jimmy called to tell me that during the early morning hours, his mama drove her car off the road, hit a culvert, and died. We couldn’t find Jimmy.

    Luke 8:43-48 gives an account of a woman with a twelve-year hemorrhage who could not be healed. She came up behind Jesus in the midst of a crowd and managed to touch the fringe of His garment. Her hemorrhage immediately stopped. Yes, this was one of Jesus’ miracles. But how would you explain what her hemorrhage was to a class of elementary aged boys and girls?

    There are enough Bible stories they need to hear. Why choose to include this one in VBS?


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  • 14. The Woman Taken in Adultery

    14. The Woman Taken in Adultery

    A car turned into our driveway. Jimmy hurried up the walkway and before he could knock, I flung open the door, wrapped my arms around this broken boy, and we wept together. “Jimmy? Is that your father?” He nodded and blew his nose. “I’m going to live with him.” It was my turn to sniff back tears. “May I write you?” He slipped an address into my hand. “I’ll miss you.” He gave me a hug, turned and ran down the walkway, leaped into the car and waved g’-bye ‘til they turned the corner.

    A vivid account of Jesus’ interaction with a woman caught in the act of adultery is recorded in John 8:1-11. Can you imagine what the first question an elementary kiddo would ask? Perhaps fifth and sixth graders might have parents committing the same sin, and you’d lose them to a quagmire of misplaced guilt.

    I’m so glad Jimmy’s VBS teacher focused on biblical accounts that reached the longing in his heart. VBS teachers need discerning spirits to determine appropriate scriptures.


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  • 15. Balaam's Disobedience

    15. Balaam's Disobedience

    Grateful describes my time with Jimmy and his mama. Grateful I listened to the voice of the Spirit’s urging. Grateful God’s mercy and grace saved Jimmy and his mama. I received a letter from Jimmy’s grandmother, he had been too much for his father and would be living with her. I pray you’ll allow the Spirit of God to love the Jimmy’s in your neighborhood and pray for them, while there’s time. 

    Numbers 22 recites the account of a diviner by the name of Balaam. The king of Moab sought his help in cursing the children of Israel. God appeared to this false prophet and told him not to have anything to do with them. But Balaam decided the money was more important than obeying God. 

    God prevented Balaam’s mouth from cursing Israel, but a heart bent on disobedience will find a way. Balaam’s teachings were so repugnant, we find Revelation 2:14 mentioning his sin. While parts of the story are interesting, the lessons taught are far above the mind and reasoning abilities of elementary children.


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    DiAne Gates writes for children, young adults, and non-fiction for adults through her blogs, http://dianegates.wordpress.com/ and www.floridagirlturnedtexan.wordpress.com. She writes monthly articles for Christian online magazine, Crosswalk.com.
    Freelance artist and photographer, she also facilitates a GriefShare support group.
    She has written numerous books, including ROPED and TWISTED. She is a wife, mother, and Mimi, whose passion is to share those hard life lessons God allows to conform us to the image of His Son. Find DiAne on Facebook