One of the great things about reading robust theological books to my kids is that I get to learn theology along with them. Concepts that seem vast and incomprehensible transform, in the hands of the right author, into something simple, accessible, and yet still mysterious when I read them in a picture book for my daughters.
The Trinity, the theology of the Church, who Jesus is and what he came to do—these are topics that learned theologians spend volumes on, and yet a skillful children’s author can distill them down to their essence in a way that swells this tired mother’s heart to worship even as I rush through the readings and send my kids off to bed. The very best authors distill them but don’t scrub them too clean: they leave the hard questions in, don’t over-handle the mysteries, and avoid the pitfall of making theology “cute.”
We’ve accumulated a library of books like this, but I thought I’d share a few of my very favorites, the ones that have helped form my own understanding of God and that press me into the works of those learned theologians because I want to know more. But they don’t leave my daughters behind: they whet all of our appetites for more of God, for a better understanding of what he’s done.
3 IN 1, by Joanna Marxhausen
This simply illustrated book captures the wonder of the Trinity while explaining it clearly and concisely. Not only that, but it delves into the Gospel as well, giving a picture of the different roles God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit play in our salvation. That is a lot to tackle in a picture book, but Joanna Marxhausen does it gracefully. (Read the full review.)
THE BOY AND THE OCEAN, by Max Lucado
A young boy and his parents discuss the attributes of God while pondering the world around them. This is a beautiful, meditative look at what creation can tell us about God, and the illustrations are some of my favorites in any book anywhere. (Read the full review.)
THE OLOGY, by Marty Machowski
We recently finished reading The Ology with our girls, and I cannot say enough about how much I love it. Marty Machowski’s systematic theology for children is deep, rich, nourishing—a true feast for readers big and small. He takes immense concepts—the holiness of God, the theology of the end times—and pares them down to the essentials, pulling in metaphors that clicked for our children and for us.
Machowski illuminated verses that I had fought with for years in such a way that I had absolute peace with them when we finished his three-paragraph interpretation, and our daughters asked excellent questions as we read. I’m looking forward to rereading this one again and again as our family grows. (Read the full review.)
WHAT IS THE CHURCH?, by Mandy Groce and Bill Bell
This is a simple book written in rhyme, but it encourages young readers to see the church not as a building but as a collection of people—not a where, but a who. I loved sharing this little book with my daughters and talking about why we go to church and why our involvement in it doesn’t end begin and end on Sunday mornings. (Read the full review.)
DOES GOD KNOW HOW TO TIE SHOES?, by Nancy White Carlstrom
This book walks through a young girl’s questions about God in a way that many young readers will connect with. She wants to know the sort of things most four year olds want to know: Does God have to clean his room? Is God sad when he doesn’t get mail? Her parents answer thoughtfully from the Psalms and create a dialogue both charming and deep. (Read the full review.)
Okay, this isn’t technically a book. But the DVD series What’s in the Bible? has been one of our favorite ways of introducing our children to the whole of Scripture, and my husband and I have learned a lot about the Bible while watching it with our kids (in fact, he quoted it to me the other day in conversation). Created by Phil Vischer, one of the original minds behind VeggieTales, What’s in the Bible? brings a creative eye and childlike joy to this study of what is, in fact, in the Bible—from Genesis to Revelation. (For more on where to watch it, read the full review.)
QUESTIONS WITH ANSWERS, by Songs for Saplings
This isn’t a book either. But songwriter Dana Dirksen adapted the Westminster Shorter Catechism and put it to music so that kids can take theology to heart while stuck in a car seat or having a really great dance party. These CDs are among our very favorites. You can download them all for free or very cheap here. (Read the full review.)
See also: Songs for Saplings’ Family Journal