Too many Christians know too little about Church history: we are all easily distracted and it's easy to forget the importance of understanding our past as God's people, both for perspective and to aid personal growth. It's also easy to forget that Church history isn't just for adults—if we expect our children to grow in the faith and comprehend the richness of their heritage, we need to familiarize them with the story of the Church and the generations of saints who have preceded us.
The five-volume History Lives series for kids ages 9-14 was written specifically to fill this need. Marginally fictionalized accounts (dialogue and details are added to engage young readers) present the scope of Church history from the Apostolic Age to the modern era. These are not historical fiction; this is real history with dates and names and politics and battles, made palatable for even the most reluctant historian. The narrative format only makes the material easier to comprehend and digest.
This isn't about glorifying past saints, but about revealing the reality of God's work through and for flawed humans. The authors state their desire to depict Church history for what it is, not sterilized for youngsters, but in its full beauty and horror and complexity. There are plenty of anecdotes—like the story of a Japanese samurai who exchanged his sword for a Bible—to keep things lively, but there is also plenty of genuine history, from the origins of the title "pope" to the nature and purpose of the Crusades to the Great Awakening. Theology, philosophy and traditions are also substantially investigated, providing a fuller vision of the motives and circumstances behind key events.
If you think your kids aren't learning unless they're in agony, don't buy this series. If you want them to enjoy learning while actually improving their knowledge, however, by all means check out History Lives. While the publishers identify themselves as Reformed, the books are written from a distinctly non-denominational standpoint which embraces the history of the whole Church, not just certain elements or divisions. Easy and fun to read, History Lives is an excellent introduction to Church history and doctrine, and while it's aimed at late elementary and middle school students, it's just as good for older students and even adults without much background in the subject.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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