Week 5: In Over our Heads

BibleStoryline-CrisisFor this week’s after-dinner family Bible conversation, we are doing Chapter 5, In Over our Heads, from Brian McLaren’s We Make the Road by Walking.

1. As we’re finishing dinner, we watch these creative renditions of Psalm 51 (the Jars of Clay song) and James 4.1-8:

2. We read the night’s main text out loud together, taking turns with each paragraph: Genesis 4.1-17;  6.5-8;  7.1-5;  8.1;  9.7-17

3. We watch a set of videos about human extinction, Noah, and ending with the Tower of Babel.  NOTE: This playlist serves the bonus purpose of introducing my kids to Bill Cosby’s classic “Noah” bit:


4. I give a short talk:


A lot of Bible stories are like pieces of a conversation between our people (the People of Yahweh) and our neighbors — a conversation about what God is really like:


OUR NEIGHBORS: God made us to be his slaves, to do all the hard work he doesn’t want to do.

US:  No, God is better than that!  God made us so we could be part of his good work in the world (Genesis 1 & 2).


OUR NEIGHBORS: Humans were being too noisy and giving God a headache, so he tried to kill us all so he could get some peace and quiet.  We’re still here because there were a few he failed to get.

US:  No, God is better than that!  If God sent the Flood, he did it to save the world from being destroyed by human evil.  He saved a few of us on purpose so humanity could continue and get a fresh start (Genesis 6-9).

It seems this started a longer conversation between the People of Yahweh, because we started wondering again:

You know, is it possible God could be even better than that?  Is “Kill All the Bad People” really God’s best solution to human evil?

 So in the next story after the Flood — the Tower of Babel — we see God doing something different:  When people start building civilizations and cities on a foundation of pride, slavery, and violence — this time God has a non-violent solution.  He gives them all different languages so they can’t work together anymore so they have to spread out and abandon their oppressive city projects (Genesis 11).

What we’re seeing in these stories is God slowly refining and improving our ideas about God.  This process continues all through the Bible, and it’s really neat to watch it unfold!

5. We have a family conversation about it all.  We use the discussion questions at the end of the chapter as a guide, but we try to let the conversation range pretty freely.  And we try to keep the whole thing to an hour or less, unless the kids really want to keep going.



arkescapeARK ESCAPE!  Video gaming is a great way for my kids to learn, so I am always on the lookout for good games that teach Bible stories.  One of my favorite resources is G-dcast, a Jewish organization that makes games and videos for teaching the Scriptures.  I’m having my kids play their Ark Escape! game app this week.  Strongly recommended!

MODERN TOWERS OF BABEL:  This is an extra video playlist about the injustices behind the construction of Dubai and Washington D.C.:


  1. Deb Haken says:

    I’ve been thinking about starting a “learning circle” using your book, Brian, but some of my friends who do not consider themselves Christians and have been turned off by and actually abused by Christians are not real happy with the fact that the Bible is the only/main resource and text for the discussions. They would be open to doing this if there was also references to other books such as the Quaran or the writings of Budha…Would you be able to suggest some other extra Biblical writings for at least some of the chapters?

    1. What a cool idea, Deb! I had a somewhat similar issue when I wanted to use the book with my middle-school-age kids, but the text was more fitted for adults and teens. So I started this project of adding my own kid-focused content to fit within the structure of Brian’s chapters. I wonder if a similar project could be started to bring in more extra-biblical texts? Maybe you’re just the right person to do it? 😉 I’m sure Brian would love to hear your idea; you can get in touch with him at his site: http://www.brianmclaren.net May God bless you and your friends and your conversations together!

      1. Deb Haken says:

        Thanks for your quick reply, John! I don’t know that I am the one to do what I’m looking for, but I might be able to get one of my friends to help. Good luck in your efforts to share the learning circle with your middle schoolers! sounds like a great idea!

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