Continuing with my Family Discipleship series that shares books and resources our family has enjoyed, I wanted to shift a bit this week to a book that focuses on church history beyond biblical times.
It’s difficult to find good material on church history aimed at children, but The Church History ABCs: Augustine and 25 Other Heroes of the Faith by Stephen J. Nichols and Ned Bustard is a unique, lively option.
I was pretty much completely clueless in this area until I was an adult, aside from knowing that Martin Luther had started a movement that resulted in a separation from the Catholic church. I didn’t even know that St. Nicholas, St. Valentine and St. Patrick were real people and I’d never even heard of Ignatius or Augustine or John Calvin. My first exposure to any of this was when I began investigating resources to use with my own children when my oldest was born. I think being familiar with the history of the church and major figures in it’s history is incredibly valuable for children. It’s important for them to understand how we got where we are now and give them a sense of heritage. Not to mention the incredible examples some of the church fathers, missionaries and other figures set for us!
I’ve found some great biographies and historical books for older kids, but presenting this info for the younger set is much more challenging. Stephen J. Nichols and Ned Bustard have done a great job of making an entertaining, informative and fun book on this subject for them.
The book presents 26 heroes of the faith, one for each letter of the alphabet. Granted, this presents a limitation, since sometimes there are multiple possibilities for one letter. Still, Nichols and Bustard manage to cover a nice variety of figures from throughout church history, from church fathers like Ignatius and Augustine to reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin to others like the Wesley brothers, John Newton, and even Antonio Vivaldi and Anne Bradstreet! One brightly colored page is devoted to each person, and the page is written from their viewpoint.
The illustrations are unique and entertaining, a great counterpart to the text. They’re a combination of drawings and photographs. Each one has a likeness of the person featured on that page along with several objects that relate to them. Be sure to pay attention to all the details, some are quite amusing!
The information provided for each person is quite basic, but at the end of the book is a section with further details for older children or adults, along with explanations of some of the details in the illustrations.
The other major limitation of the “ABC” format is that it’s not possible to put it in chronological order. Really though, for younger children what we’re after is exposure. Understanding the flow of events can come later. Still, the authors have provided a timeline in the back of the book that puts everyone in chronological order, along with dates.
The age range listed is 3 to 6, but I think this book is appealing to a wider age range than that. The bright colors and “ABC” format appeal to younger kids, the witty writing and additional information in the back are interesting to older kids, and the unique, detailed illustrations appeal to all ages. My kids, 1, 4, 9, and 12, all enjoyed this book.
Here’s the publisher’s description:
Dramatically converted on the stormy seas, a slave-trader-turned-abolitionist penned the best-loved hymn of the Christian faith. A church father was arrested and martyred for teaching the truth about Christ’s incarnation. Captured by pirates and shipped off to Ireland, a priest baptized thousands of pagans, from paupers to princes. Now who ever said church history was boring?
The Church History ABCs is a fun way for kids to learn about great figures in Christian history. Twenty-six heroes of the faith march through the alphabet, boldly telling their stories in language children can understand. This wide range of characters—men and women from across the centuries, from all over the globe—reflects the breadth of church history and reminds children that these great figures of the past were living, breathing people who lived and died for the glory of God.
Our family has thoroughly enjoyed The Church History ABCs. It’s unique, entertaining, and informative, and makes information on a nice variety of historical Christian figures accessible to younger children. I recommend it to families to use with all ages!
For adults who’d like to brush up on church history themselves, the Reformation in particular, check out The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World, also by Stephen J. Nichols.
- Part 1: A Review of Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham
- Part 2: The Jesus Storybook Bible–NOT Your Typical Children’s Bible
- Part 3: The Lightlings and The Prince’s Poison Cup