A fun-filled explorer’s guide to the Bible

Part 2 of an interview with Champ Thornton,
Author of The Radical Book for Kids:
Exploring the Roots and Shoots of Faith

Click here to read part 1 of the interview.

The Radical Book for Kids by Champ Thornton is a fun-filled explorer’s guide to the Bible, church history and life for boys and girls ages 8 and up. Along with examining some of the most exciting realities in the universe, the handbook is vibrantly illustrated and chock-full of fun facts and ideas. Deep truths are communicated to elementary and middle-school aged kids while stimulating their curiosity and sense of adventure within a gospel-centered framework.

Chock-full of charts, design elements and illustrations that captivate and inspire, The Radical Book for Kids will have beginning, advanced and even I-don’t-like-to-read readers engrossed in engaging chapters covering important aspects of Christianity, such as:
  • Biblical history
  • Theology
  • Fun facts
  • Church history
  • Daily Christian living
  • Radical faith in the face of adversity
  • Roots of the faith
  • The lives of historical men and women of faith

Q: How is The Radical Book for Kids designed to be used? Can kids go through the book on their own, or is it best for parents and children to read it together?

This is a book kids, ages 8 and up, can read on their own. For curious readers, a table of contents and index make topics easy to find. So kids can explore their book however they like: hopscotching around via topic or just reading straight through. For kids of younger ages, parents can also read this book aloud in family devotions. Bible teachers can use it to supplement their main curriculum. For parents or teachers, there are plenty of places to stop reading and to discuss issues posed, consider questions asked or just laugh at something funny.

As the book has been previewed, I’ve learned adults have found this book useful for themselves or to give to others who are growing in their faith.

Q: Do kids need to have some kind of church background to get the most out of the book, or can it serve as an introduction to the Bible and Jesus?

This book assumes no prior knowledge of Scripture or Christianity. Terms and concepts are explained along the way. The format of the book also doles out truth in digestible portions. First, the chapters are generally pretty short; some are only two pages long. No reader should get bogged down. Second, the book unfolds in a sequence that aids comprehension and application of the Bible. The Radical Book for Kids starts with a summary of the Bible, then an overview of its various parts. Only then is there a discussion about how someone could read the Bible personally each day. From there the book periodically presents a chapter about how to read certain portions or genres of God’s Word: law comes first, then stories, then poetry and wisdom, then prophets, gospels and finally, toward the end of the book, the New Testament letters. In this way, learning is progressive.

However, some content goes way beyond the basic knowledge of the Bible as well. Ideally, the book could serve a wide variety of readers — both those who are familiar with God’s Word and also those who aren’t.

Q: The book is a vibrantly illustrated book, full of charts and visual aids. Can you describe more about the format?

This book presents 67 short chapters containing a wide range of topics presented in a variety of creative ways. There’s nothing boring about God — He’s the most engaging, creative, vivid and energizing Being in the universe. In fact, just look at the universe He’s created! A riot of colors, sounds and smells, tastes and textures. This is beauty, but His truth is just the other side of the same coin. God’s beauty, truth and goodness are all different expressions of the same reality — God’s reality. So, He’s the farthest thing from boring, and when we teach about Him in a way that’s uninteresting, we misrepresent Him. We wanted this book to engage minds with truth, ignite hearts with His goodness and captivate imaginations with His beauty. And Scot McDonald’s creative design work has brought all the wonder-filled fun-factor I had hoped for when writing the book. Vivid colors, eye-catching pictures, hand-drawn sketches and illuminating sidebars fill its pages.

Q: What was the most difficult theological topic to explain, and how did you break it down in a way kids can understand? Will parents learn anything by reading along with their children?

There are a number of higher-level theological truths presented in The Radical Book for Kids. Although it may not be the most difficult of all topics to explain, there’s more to one of the most familiar passages in the entire Bible than meets the eye. To help understand how the whole prayer hangs together, I compared the Lord’s Prayer to a letter (or email) that a kid might write home from camp.

First, there’s a longing for things to be set right — to be at home finally where, in the prayer, God’s name is treasured, His kingdom has come and His will is being done. Until that happens, many requests are asked of the Father (to provide, forgive and guard from evil), just like a kid might write home asking his parents for things.

I tried to include topics that are sometimes complex because I want all readers of all ages, including parents, to find this book a helpful and enjoyable learning experience.

Q: How can parents take a more active role in their children’s spiritual growth?

The active role parents can take in the spiritual life and development of their children operates in the context of relationships. If spiritual growth is the “traffic,” then those vehicles travel best on wide, well-maintained highways of relationships.

From this perspective, The Radical Book for Kids is a tool parents can use, but it can’t replace time invested, interest shown, grace given and love displayed. As a resource, this book can be read together by parents and children, or perhaps even better, it can become a starting point for discussion: “What did you think were some significant statements in this chapter? What did you like? What questions did this section bring to your mind? What’s the hardest thing about this chapter — to understand? Or to apply to life?”

In addition to these kinds of discussions, it’s hard to overstate the importance of prayer for parents actively encouraging their children’s spiritual growth. Although God uses human means (conversations and prayers), the only one who can ultimately change your children’s hearts (and that is what we’re aiming for as parents) is God Himself. So we must always bring our children’s spiritual growth before the Lord, asking Him to work the grace and love of the gospel of Christ into our children’s hearts.

Q: Do you have any advice for parents who want to make spiritual development part of their family culture but are struggling to know where to start?

Here are four ideas. First, for parents who’ve not been making this kind of development the priority they’d like, I’d recommend that parents openly talk to their children, sharing in humility where they’ve fallen short in this area and what they hope to change in the future. Repentance before God and even before our families is a good place to start — and to continue.

Second, I’d keep expectations fairly low. Instead of planning to have family devotions seven days a week, it might be better and more realistic to aim initially for two-to-three days per week. Even then, that family time in the Word and prayer might only last five minutes (perhaps even less for younger children).

Third, depending on where your children are in their spiritual growth, you may want to pray out loud for them (even at times when you’re in their presence). For example, “Father, I pray you would change [child’s name]’s heart so he/she wants to obey [or spend time in the Word — whatever the issue may be].”

Fourth, you may want to start by reading and memorizing one of the Psalms together. My wife and I read this advice years ago and have found it very helpful in our own family. Even very little children can participate, reciting together a verse (or verses) from the Psalms, as a parent reads out loud. The verse may be read several times during each family devotion time, and a new verse could be added every few days as previous verses become more and more familiar. In this way, throughout several weeks, you might be surprised to discover how quickly your family could memorize an entire Psalm. Favorite psalms for our family have included Psalm 1, 23, 100 and 103.

Champ Thornton invites you to connect with him at www.champthornton.com, on Facebook (Champ.Thornton.7) and via Twitter (champthornton).