A new kind of Bible resource for teaching children

An interview with Sally Michael about "More Than a Story"

December 8, 2021

More Than a Story is a new kind of Bible resource for children — taking children on a chronological journey through the Bible with a God-centered, gospel-focused, discipleship-oriented, and theologically grounded perspective. Though the Bible is full of stories, it is more than a story; it is the authoritative Word of God that, throughout its pages, proclaims and magnifies the majestic character of God, his work in this world, and his plan of redemption for sinful men through his Son, Jesus. 

Truth 78 is releasing the New Testament volume of More Than a Story just in time for Christmas 2021. The book’s author, Sally Michael, answers a few questions about this helpful resource below.

More Than a Story has a different feel from other Bible books written for children. Why is a book of this type and tone so important? 

Sally Michael: We have many children’s Bible resources consisting of collections of key Bible stories written in an engaging manner. But what seems to be lacking is a comprehensive overview that covers the breadth and depth of the message of the Bible. The More Than a Story Old and New Testament volumes attempt to fill in those gaps, giving children a solid foundation of the manifold character of God, the plotline of the Bible, and key Bible doctrines in a child-friendly, engaging, yet respectful manner. It also incorporates many of the non-narrative portions of the scriptures. Children need to be exposed to the wisdom of Proverbs, the comfort of the Psalms, the warnings and promises of the prophets, the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount, the reminders of the gospel and instructions for Christian living in the letters, and the Revelation of the glories of the Coming King who will make all things new. Children need a solid foundation of truth to develop a strong faith. 

While the Bible is full of fascinating and exciting stories, we must not lose sight of the fact that it is the authoritative, clear, necessary, sufficient Word of God. So, the tone of the book, though appealing to children, is also respectful and honoring of the Bible. There is an appropriate sobriety regarding the seriousness of sin as well as glorious, exalting joy in the redemption bought by Jesus. I have tried to treat the truths of the Bible in a manner worthy of God’s Word while still being engaging with children, interactive, and creative. Many actual texts from the Bible are included so that children can experience the power of the Word of God and become familiar with the text of the Bible, God’s actual words. 

How does your experience as a Bible teacher determine the tone and focus of this book?

SM: In my experience of teaching children who grow up in the church, I have often seen a sketchy knowledge of the Bible and a simplistic understanding of its teachings. I have also noted that it is not unusual for children from Christian homes to have head knowledge without heart engagement. One of the most frightening verses for me in the Bible is Romans 1:21: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

I am at heart a teacher, not a writer. Writing is just a medium to expand the scope of my teaching. So, when I am writing to children, I am intent on teaching them solid, life-giving truth. I am very intentional to teach a logical scope and sequence, to present accurate knowledge, to ask the hard questions; to teach children to think and draw conclusions, to see themes and patterns in Scripture, and to accurately interpret the text. But good teaching is not just dumping information in the minds of children — it is helping them to interact with that knowledge so that they see the connections between the Bible and their own lives; it is helping children to wrestle with the hard truths and the glorious truths to engage their hearts.

And I think that the prayer of every good Bible teacher is that the will of the child is influenced to trust in God. So, when I write, I am actually teaching. I intentionally try to inform the mind, engage the heart, and influence the will.

You’ve noted that one of the goals of More Than a Story is to teach children Bible study skills. Have you found that parents don’t feel equipped to do that? Is this difficult for churches, too?

SM: I think we underestimate children, and we certainly underestimate the work of the Holy Spirit. Children can be taught to look at a text, ask questions of the text, define words, wrestle with the meaning of a text, draw conclusions, and discern truth. The simple skills of observation (What does the passage say?), interpretation (What does the passage mean?), and application (How does the meaning of this text apply to me personally?) can be learned through prayer and practice. Children can make amazing connections when they are taught the Bible, and the Holy Spirit works through the Word of God and is faithful to bring forth fruit.

In my former church, a little 2-year-old girl learned the verse, “No one can serve two masters.” At 3 years old in the preschool department, the teacher was teaching about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. She asked the class, “Should they bow down to the statue of gold?” This little girl became very agitated, and she jumped up and said, “They can’t! They can’t! Because of that verse.” She was pointing to a card with the recognition symbol for “No one can serve two masters.” 

As to the question, “Are parents and the church equipped to do that?” Absolutely! They can ask who, what, when, where, why, and how questions. They can help children to apply Scripture by answering the questions: “What should I think? What should I be? What should I do?” The question is not one of equipping but of intentional exposure to the actual words of Scripture. Are we intentionally teaching our children to be Bereans who are “examining the Scriptures daily”? How often do we actually ask children to read a text and answer questions about it?

In More Than a Story, you aren’t afraid to ask children to look at sin and its effects. How do children process a topic like that? 

SM: Children are pretty matter of fact. They don’t have the emotional baggage adults have to cloud their thinking. They more readily accept hard truths than adults do because suffering and difficulty are not usually personal for children but rather academic.

That said, I think it is good for children to feel uncomfortable, even concerned about the right things. As my former pastor John Piper once said, “[I]f we don’t know what our real plight is, we may not recognize God’s rescue when it comes.” Randy Alcorn agrees. He writes, “Fear of Hell serves as a merciful call to repentance.”

We want children to feel the discomfort of being a sinner, of deserving the wrath of God. The cross is meaningless to a person who does not understand that he is under the just judgment of God. To minimize sin is to minimize Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on the cross. So, More Than a Story does present the essence, pervasiveness, and problem of sin. We are serving our children when we teach the seriousness of sin because their eternal souls are at stake. 

But we must also pair that sober news of judgement with the gloriously good news of the gospel. The goal is for children to treasure the Savior, run to him for rescue, and put their trust in his work on the cross. Yes, More Than a Story presents the bad news, but it also surely portrays the glories of God’s mercy, the incredible forgiveness for sin paid for on the cross, and the glorious message of the gospel. The good news of a merciful God permeates this book. It presents the good news as GOOD NEWS! 

Which biblical events in More Than a Story hold particular meaning for this very difficult year? 

SM: Rather than just pick a particular event I would say that the message of God’s providence, his faithfulness to his people, the pervasiveness of sin and the effects of the Fall, and the reality of future glory are the truths that hold fast our hope in these difficult times. I want children to know that God is sovereign and good, to know that all his promises are “yes and Amen in Jesus,” to know that weeping endures for the night, but joy comes in the morning, to know that this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory steadies the soul and informs our emotions for the difficult times.

A story in the Bible that particularly illustrates this for children is the story of Joseph. The truth that God is always at work accomplishing his purposes and that what others meant for evil, God intended for good is so easy for children to see in the story of God’s faithfulness to Joseph and the offspring of Abraham.

What are your hopes for More Than a Story?

SM: My hope is that More Than a Story will impassion parents to take the spiritual nurture of their children seriously and that it will be a good foundation for them to understand how to do that.  My prayer is that this book will ignite in children a desire to seek God and that this book will lead them to the Book — the inspired, trustworthy, precious Word of God.

Editor’s Note: On Nov. 16, Truth 78 featured More Than a Story on their Zealous podcast. The Truth 78 leadership — David and Sally Michael as well as Jill Nelson — let us listen in on one of their recent conversations at the Truth 78 staff retreat. The end of the podcast includes a call to action for men from David and an explanation of the More Than a Story vision and how the resource is a great tool for families to begin with in their homes.

Sally Michael

Sally Michael is a co-founder of Truth:78 and has authored curricula and books that are all marked by a passion for developing God-centered resources for the spiritual development of children. For 16 years, Sally served as minister for children at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, under the leadership of John Piper … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24