As parents, my wife and I want to raise children who love and honour God. Many parents empathize with this desire, and maybe that’s part of why you’re reading this blog – you want to raise children who love and honour God. After 12 years of parenting, we’ve been confronted along the way with questions about what we’ve done with Bible time, and why we have done it the way we have. Since my son was 1 year old, we have read to them straight from the Bible; not Bible story books, not books about the Bible and not a children’s Bible. It’s been a translation Bible from day one.
A little about us:
My wife and I feel that we are young parents, at least for another 5 months. We have 2 children, one 9 and the other 12; 13 in 5 months. At that time, we will officially be “old” because we will have a teenager, though in the eyes of our campers and staff we’re probably already old. We homeschool, which is about as easy as brushing your teeth, while shaving on the subway at rush hour, at the same time, every day. Both of our children have radically different learning styles, personalities and interests, unique and wonderful in their own way. Despite these differences most every night we sit down with our children for Bible time, wherein we read straight from the Bible.
“Straight from the Bible”
People have responded to this simple sentence in different ways; shock, horror, awe, confusion and joy. “When did you start?” people ask. “How do you do that?… Do they even understand what they’re hearing?” All good questions, and if you desire to read the Bible with your kids, below I will outline what we do and did, and maybe you will find inspiration or something you can take away from our experiences.
Why we did this
First, there’s the logical reason; if God wrote a book and He’s the creator of the universe and everything in it, then this sounds like the most important book on the planet if it’s true; at very least, it’s worth investigating. If I believe it to be true, then this is the most important book on the planet and my kids need to know it.
Second, Kids are sponges, learning rapidly at an early age and since people who are old like me struggle to understand the Bible, children will also struggle to understand the Bible, but are learning faster than I am. Lack of comprehension, though, is not a reason not to do something, after all, we talk to children who don’t speak, that’s how they learn to speak. In the same sense, we wanted our children to have a Biblical vocabulary, so we read the Bible with them.
Lastly, the Biblical arguments, of which there are many, have 2 major ones for me.
- We are commanded to: Deut 6:7 ESV “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
- It is God’s promise and responsibility to bring about fruit: Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
Reading the Bible with our kids is an act of faith, that God will do what He will do and what I cannot, and obedience because we are told to do this. This can be faced with skepticism or with hope. If we claim to believe the Bible, then we must view this topic with hope, or question what we believe entirely.
Romans 15:4 ESV For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
What we do/did:
Every Day, prior to bed, we read a portion of the Bible together as a family. We discuss what we read and we finish with a “key” Bible verse and prayer. When we announce the key Bible verse, the kids started this tradition of shouting “ding ding ding!” And when we pray they also pray. Our approach has evolved over the years as the kids get older, so here’s our steps based on their age:
- Type of Scripture: Mostly narrative scripture (Genesis, Exodus, Gospels, 1-2 Samuel), periodically poetry (Narratives tell events and stories, poetry uses a figurative language like in the psalms and proverbs, Job)
- Disposition: Tell – We told about God’s Character and his grand narrative
- Questions to ask: What happened? Was that nice, kind, bad, good, hard?
- Type of Scripture: Narrative (Joshua, Judges, Ruth) and Poetry, started to introduce Prose (Prose is inductive and logical reasoning, doctrine and arguments)
- Length: 1-4 verses
- Disposition: Tell – We told about the literature and the structure of language and how it reveals truth
- Questions to ask: What did this passage say? Focus on the Characters, who are they? How are they related?
Ages 8-10 (this has been a very exciting age)
- Type of Scripture: Doctrine, Prose, Narrative (Esther, Gospels, Jeremiah, Acts) Doctrine (Hebrews, Philippians) is laid out as instruction primarily in the Epistles and Jesus’ direct ministry
- Length: 2-10 verses a night while working through a book at a time.
- Disposition: Ask – The kids were the ones to make the observations, and discuss why they thought what they did
- Questions to ask: What happened here? Why do you think it happened? How is this connected to the grand narrative? Do you see God’s character in this passage? What does this passage tell us about God’s character? What does this passage tell us about us?
Ages 10-12 (This is where we are)
- Type of Scripture: All but apocalyptic and specific mature content ie. Song of Solomon
- Length: Contextually determined, sometimes it’s short and sometimes it means 20 verses to cover the concept
- Disposition: Ask and introduce Coaching
- Questions to ask: What was the context that we know? How do you think the original audience understood this and what did the author mean? What does (insert verb) mean? Where was this happening? How is this connected to the grand narrative of Jesus Christ? What should our response be? How should this impact how we live?
- They start leading Bible time periodically
- Don’t know, we’re not there yet, but we are feeling that a transition will be coming very soon as we are learning so much from our kids.
- Coach – at some point we believe this will become the operative verb before we enter “frienemy stage”. We will all have to watch our kids do their own thing, and at some point they have to choose their own faith. In the meantime, we feel we are doing the right thing in letting God’s word speak, and helping them form vocabulary and hermeneutic to understand it.
- Regularly asked to lead Bible time
If you do one important thing with your kids, it is to read the Bible with them. You don’t need to know everything about it, but I can guarantee that if you’ve read it at all, you already know more than your child does. If you can help them learn what you already know, it might surprise you what you will learn in the process.
It won’t be easy. If you’re just starting out, or just trying to make this happen, know this: IT WON’T BE EASY. It takes discipline to sit everyone down and explain that this is important. It takes discipline to make this become a habit. At times you will feel foolish because you don’t know what the Bible is talking about, and that is actually a wonderful thing for your children to see that you don’t know everything, and they get to be a part of discovering what it’s saying with you. This doesn’t compromise your leadership, but cements your family together as a team on a journey of discovering Christ.
If the above wasn’t enough reason to do this, I leave you with this list of 15 parental behaviours that influence the spiritual maturity of young people. A study was conducted by Lifeway, and based on answers they ascribed a + and – score to create a scale of spiritual maturity and cross-referenced it against the following parental behaviours. The results are below.
Guest blog by Josh “Heyoo” Laverty
Camp Director Widjiitiwin