Tag: what is the church?

10 Living Books About Church History

We sit at the table so long that my tea grows cold. With my left hand I sprinkle Josie’s tray with smashed popcorn, one salty shard at a time; with my right hand I hold a book open, one of the stack piled in front of me. The older girls shell pistachios or poke each other or stare dreamily into middle distance as I read.

We call this time “elevensies”—we eat like hobbits while it happens—and it is a part of our home school routine. By the time we sit down, everyone who is of age has practiced piano; everyone has bumped fists with math and Latin. That stack of books at my seat holds everything from a biography of Tchaikovsky to a picture book about constellations to a systematic theology for kids.

But the core of our reading has two main threads: Scripture and history. I want my daughters to understand their context, to know that the world was an interesting place before they were born and that they have a particular role to play in this part of it. I want them to be able to trace the thread of God’s redemption through Scripture and to recognize where he is still working in the world. Sitting down at the table each morning is an act of trust in the Lord who knows what my daughters will question, what will touch their memories and dissolve, and what they will retain.

10 Living Books About Church History | Little Book, Big Story

The aspect of history I find most fascinating is the history of the church. I have compiled for you a list of my favorite church history books here. They’re written for children, but if you find that they just whet your appetite, never fear! I’ve also included some recommendations for you.

The Church History ABCs, by Stephen J. Nichols

The Church History ABCs | Little Book, Big Story

What better way to learn the alphabet than by using key figures of church history to illustrate each letter? No, I’m kidding. This isn’t an alphabet primer, but a biography sampler: A is for Augustine, Z for Ulrich Zwingli. This is, and probably always will be, my favorite picture book about church history. (Read the full review.)

The History Lives Series, by Mindy and Brandon Withrow

History Lives Series, by Brandon and Mindy Withrow | Little Book, Big Story

This series offers a great introduction to church history for kids or adults (confession: my husband and I both read these. For ourselves, not for the kids). Spread over five volumes, History Lives tells the story of the church from the first century to today, by introducing a new key figure each chapter and telling a slightly fictionalized story about some moment in their life. I use these in conjunction with our history curriculum and my daughter loves them. They’re a bit like Story of the World, but about church history rather than world history. (Read the full review.)

For Grown-Ups

Church History in Plain Languageby Bruce Shelley


Lily, The Girl Who Could See, by Sally Oxley

Lily: The Girl Who Could See, by Sally Oxley | Little Book, Big Story

This simple, lovely biography of missionary Lilias Trotter is a keeper: a great fly-over view of a woman who loved and served God, no matter what the cost. And while many missionaries are wonderful to read about but hard to relate to, Lilias’s story resonates with me. Not many of us here are called to be martyrs, but we’re all called to lay down our lives and desires to serve the Lord whole-heartedly. Lilias Trotter, who set aside an opportunity to become “the greatest artist of her generation” in order to place her gifts in the service of the Lord,  is a beautiful example for child and parent alike. (Read the full review.)

For Grown-Ups

A Passion for the Impossible, by Miriam Huffman Rockness


Stories of the Saints, by Joyce Denham

Stories of the Saints, by Joyce Denham | Little Book, Big Story

This collection introduces readers to a handful of saints from the early days of the church. Joyce Denhem’s beautiful language pairs nicely with the illustrations, which suggest stained glass windows, but the most beautiful part of the stories is the way they glorify not the saints themselves but the God they served. (Read the full review.)

The Tinker’s Daughter, by Wendy Lawton

The Tinker's Daughter, or "Why is it so hard to find strong Christian characters in fiction?" | Little Book, Big Story

Lawton’s exploration of the life of Mary Bunyan, John’s daughter, is lovely. This is historical fiction at its best, and it’s one of a series of books about young Christian girls throughout history. (Read the full review.)

For Grown-Ups

Pilgrim’s Progressby John Bunyan


MOSESby Carole Boston Weatherford

Moses, by Carole Weatherford | Little Book, Big Story

Through an imagined conversation between Harriet Tubman and the Lord, Carole Boston Weatherford paints a portrait of a woman who relied upon the Lord for every step of that first journey from slavery to freedom. The illustrations are moving, depicting Tubman’s travel in a way that captures both the beauty and the hardship of that first flight. Knowing how difficult that first trip was makes the knowledge that she went back (many times) to rescue others from bondage even more amazing.

The Light Keepers Series, by Irene Howat

The Light Keepers Series, by Irene Howat | Little Book, Big Story

This series is like a sampler platter of Christian biographies. There’s a set of biographies about men, and a set about women, with five volumes apiece. I’d be willing to bet that your favorite historical figure is in here somewhere. (Read the full review.)

For Grown-Ups

Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God, by Noel Piper



Martin Luther, by Paul L. Maier | Little Book, Big Story

This is a powerful, detailed biography of Martin Luther. It is a picture book (and a beautifully illustrated one), but the text is weighty and rich: more suited for independent reading than for reading aloud.  Maier writes about not just who Luther was, but about why his work still matters today.

For Grown-Ups

Luther on the Christian Life, by Carl R. Trueman


What is the Church?, by Mandy Groce and Bill Bell

What is the Church? | Little Book, Big Story

Through a sweet rhyme and simple illustrations, the authors explain not just what the church is, but who. This book is great for young readers, but it’s also a nice, succinct look at the church itself for older kids and even adults. (Read the full review.)

Saint Valentine, by Robert Sabuda

Saint Valentine | Little Book, Big Story

This beautifully illustrated, moving story about Saint Valentine is my favorite Valentine’s Day read. Yes, we eat chocolate hearts while we read it, but Valentine’s story reminds us why we give each other notes and gifts on the holiday while painting a picture of sacrificial love given at a great cost. (Read the full review.)

Which books about church history would you add to the list?

5 Great Books on Theology for Kids

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.”

5 Great Books on Theology for Kids | Little Book, Big Story

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

3 in 1: A Picture of God, by Joanna Marxhausen | Little Book, Big Story

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 | Little Book, Big Story

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

A systematic theology for children? Yes, please! Introducing The Ology, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

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

What is the Church? | Little Book, Big Story

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.)

See also: What is the Gospel?, by Mandy Groce

DOES GOD KNOW HOW TO TIE SHOES?by Nancy White Carlstrom

Does God Know How to Tie Shoes? | Little Book, Big Story

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.)



What's in the Bible? DVD series | Little Book, Big Story

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 Dana Dirksen: music and theology for families | Little Book, Big Story

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

What is the Church? | Mandy Groce and Bill Bell

What is the church? If church is a place that we visit once a week—to see friends, sing favorite songs and listen—then we don’t need a book to tell us what it is. Even the smallest of us can discern that the church is a physical place that exists to meet our needs—even when our need is, simply, God.

But if the church is a part of something broader, something global that doesn’t terminate at the outer walls of our own church, something that wasn’t given to entertain and serve us but that we are meant to participate in and give ourselves fully to—well. A deeper explanation might be in order.

What is the Church? | Little Book, Big Story

What is the Church? is an unassuming book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, really. It’s rhyme-y and cute, with fun illustrations by Tessa Janes, but at its heart is a deep truth: the church is a family of folks who serve Christ together, who get into each other’s lives and are unified not by our own blood ties, but by our ties to the blood of Christ.

The church is a body of missionaries and servants, who go out into the world or across the street to find folks who need Christ and to share Him with them. The church is full of learners and worshippers. But more than anything the church is a living building. A thriving body of disparate parts brought together and made whole.

What is the Church? | Little Book, Big Story

The church, as this book so aptly puts it, is not a “what” but a “who”: not a building, but a set of believers whose lives are intertwined. That’s the sort of thing that is tricky to explain to little ones, but this book does it so well that I’m looking forward to reading the other books in the series, What is the Gospel? and Our Home is Like a Little Church.

What is the Church?
Mandy Groce and Bill Bell, Tessa Janes (2011)