The Story Behind the Bible Felts

Do you remember the felt board from your childhood Sabbath School? Betty Lukens has been creating felts to illustrate Bible stories for children for over 60 years, and still ships the sets all over the world. In this interview, she explains the genesis of the felt stories and how they have evolved over time.

Question: Generations of kids have grown up learning Bible stories from felt characters placed on felt boards, made by Betty Lukens. How did the Betty Lukens felts come to be? Can you tell us the story? Did it all start with your mother?

Answer: Yes, the original concept of creating a visual aid for teaching the Bible stories started with my mother, Marie Lukens, over 60 years ago. She was very much involved with teaching children about Jesus, and in teaching Sabbath School. And one day she said to me, “I am going to create a set that illustrates every story in the Bible.” And to make a long story short – we did.

There were days and weeks and months of creating artwork and writing the stories and cataloguing the pieces into a set. The set evolved over time as well. We now have beautiful colors and detail in the felt pieces that have come with newer technology in our manufacturing process; the original felt sets were very plain-looking. In the end, we have one of the best visual aid resources you can find for teaching Bible stories to children in a classroom or home setting. We have people that call in to buy a felt set and will tell us they remember using the felts at church when they were younger, and now they want them to teach their children.

The Through the Bible felt set contains 600 figures and objects and can be used to tell hundreds of Bible stories from the Old and New Testaments. How many of these sets do you sell around the world every year? How many have been sold overall?

The set containing 600 figures is the complete Bible in felt, which tells 182 lessons from Genesis to Revelation. We sell around 1,000 sets each year, to locations all over the world. As far as how many sold overall, that number would be a guess – maybe 20,000 sets in total?

And so the Bible felts have changed over time?

There was one major revision about 25 years ago where we updated the stories and improved and added some felt figures. But for the last 25 years, the set has seen very few changes. We have added some different scenes and backgrounds, but the original 600 pieces have remained virtually unchanged. So much planning and detail went into creating the set that it really hasn’t needed much improvement as time has passed.

How did the images in the felts originate? Who drew them?

We worked mainly with two different artists: Clyde Provansha and Jim Arribito.

Where are the felts manufactured?

We do our manufacturing in California, not too far from where we started many years ago.

The felts are still sold on a "sheet" and must be cut out, correct? Isn't that is a time-consuming process for customers? Could this change at some point?

Yes, we compare the cutting of felt to an act of love. The best way to create the bright and colorful colors is using a complex printing process. We have to use a large sheet of felt during that process - we cannot print the pieces individually. Pre-cutting the felt sets has been a topic of conversation in our office for many years now. We will hopefully find the right type of technology that will help us do this one day in the near future.

You also sell some non-Bible story felts, such as farm animals, dolls that can be dressed up, the planets, and other educational items. Who designed these felts? How long have they been available?

All of these sets were designed and created by me, using different artists over time. We have been selling these other educational items for about 12 – 15 years now.

And you also sell some felts that represent early Adventist history?

Yes, there is a set for Ellen White, and we also have a set that teaches Daniel and Revelation.

Are most customers Adventist? Or are the felts just as popular among other Bible-believing Christians? Do you market to other churches?

The stories, especially children’s stories, from the Bible are popular among most Bible-believing Christian churches. We sell many sets to interdenominational churches, as well as Adventist churches.

Are felts becoming less popular as teachers and parents have greater access to other resources online, etc? Have sales decreased over time?

Yes and no. We have seen technology change our culture here in America in a dramatic way in the last 10 – 20 years. You can now obtain a copy of the Bible on your cell phone, which you carry around with you at all times.

There is definitely a group of people that view felts as old fashioned and an old technology, but not as many as you would think. You can use a computer screen to show an animation of figures, but it is not a direct replacement to something you can hold and touch and feel. Children are still fascinated by felts, and they love to hold them and play with them.

Also, the internet has transformed the reach we now have. We are selling more sets internationally than ever before. Most people around the world have access to the internet, and therefore they can view our products online and order them in that format.

Where are the felts most popular?

We sell felt Bible sets to all corners of the world. We still sell more sets in the US than internationally, but there are many that ship to Europe, South America, Canada, Australia, and some into Asia.

What are your goals for the Betty Lukens felt company? What does the future hold?

Only the Lord truly knows the answer to this question. I want to continue following his plan for my life. I hope to continue manufacturing materials that will teach children about Jesus - the same mission my mother had over 60 years ago. She was a great woman, and the Lord did an amazing work through her that I want to continue.

I understand you are semi-retired. What are your plans?

You are never retired if you are doing the Lord’s work. I am spending a little less time in the office these days, but I want to focus more on missions – working with people to get these felt sets into the hands of people around the world in remote areas. I want to make sure they reach people who have the desire to teach children about Jesus, but not the resources.

The Betty Lukens company is located in in Palm Desert, in southern California.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Thank you for sharing this story. I well remember back in the 70s cutting and cutting felts for the Sabbath School … great memories (even though I had a sore thumb from the cutting!)


About 7 years ago I worked with a nurse here in Macon who was originally from the Philippines. She went home for several weeks one year and came back with pictures of the new church where her family attended [it was not SDA] and one of the pictures was a bare children’s class room. I asked her about sunday school supplies and what they used. Discovered they had none. So I went to Collegedale and got the complete set of Felts. Several hundred $$. She sent them to her church. Several months later she showed me pictures of them in use in the kids sunday school room. She thanked me very much. After I retired I lost contact with her. But about 2 years ago I bumped into her when I was around town. Her husband was with her, and she introduced me as the one who got the Felts for her little church in the Philippines.
Several years ago I began going to an Episcopalian church for entertainment on Sunday nights. They had a church in Haiti they were partners with and financing a 250 student elementary school connected with the church down there. After the Earthquake [the church collapsed with everything gone] I got 2 sets of Felts. One for the Episcopal church. One for the SDA church which happened to be just across the street from that one. My Episcopal friends cut out one set. My SDA friends cut out the other set. We bagged the pieces up in baggies. One of my Episcopal friends going down to check on the school program took them both down for me and delivered them. One set to the SDA church on Sabbath. And took pictures for me.
So AT LEAST 3 sets of Felts are seeing Mission duty in the Philippines and Haiti. And because of the Lukens family, I have had a part in that.


As a small child in Sabbath School, I was fascinated by the felt illustrations in the sand trays and delighted in touching them if possible (not always possible). I credit the interplay of narrative, tactile expression (moving felt around in the sand) and visualization with my spiritual growth as a child. The residual effects linger in adulthood. The patterns in the sand often mimic the patterns that replicate in our lives. I have used the felts to teach children myself and I believe that they have planted a seed that someone else will water. Rene G.


Thank you Betty!! I’m headed to teach Sabbath School in Primary this am & my children prefer the felts every week…such a change of pace from their every day routine!!

Thank you for this brief cultural history. I grew up with “felts” and with those sandboxes and figures—the pieces of glass with blue construction paper under them to make The Sea of Galilee, for example, twigs with paper leaves, and tongue depressors to build houses. They were wonderful. I had no idea that “felts” were only 60 years old—I had assumed that they had been around since WWI, or so. Frankly, I prefer those very simple felt figures to the more detailed ones we have today—they required more thought and personal interpretation. No matter, I hope the practice stays with us and maintains our Sabbath School culture.

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I love the updating of Bible stories, whatever that means. :wink:

But seriously, hardly anything in our (church) society has been so timeless as the felt sets. And indeed, in a “smart” and “i” age they need to be. The tactile experiene of Bible stories cannot be achieved by animations. The educational value is immense - including the fact that there are no distracting noises coming with this technology.


Same here–I was a Cradle Roll leader with a sore thumb too. :slight_smile:

Seeing those pictures brings back a certain set of happy memories I hadn’t visited for a long, long time.

Thanks, Lukens family!

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Sabbath School felts bring back such happy memories. I remember my mother cutting them out which took a long time. I always felt so lucky that my mother was the teacher and my sister and I had total freedom to play with the felts. We spent a lot of time in the Sabbath School room as she set up all sorts of elaborate attendance dioramas and changed the decorations frequently. The set I remember very clearly is the throne room. We always set it up for Queen Esther.

Our teacher also used them to teach Bible class in school. It definitely made learning more fun.

Then after we used them we carefully put them away on their paper outlines for the next time. Ahhh, memories.

When it was my turn to teach my own children I found that our church had three sets in each of the Sabbath School rooms. What a strange luxury. We could really make great crowds and every kid got exactly the person or fruit or animal they wanted. But, of course, there’s still only one baby Jesus!