In order for our children to know and love God and God’s Word, we need to include the Bible in our daily lives. I remember a story my parents read to me as a child – I can even remember where we were when they told the story – it was about a family who received a Bible and they were so excited about it, it was so precious that they decided to keep it up on a shelf in their lounge room. The story then compared this with us having a birthday cake – and being so excited about having a birthday cake and that we would never dream of putting the birthday cake up on the shelf. To enjoy the cake to the fullest we have to cut it and eat it. The Bible is much the same – to enjoy it fully we need to read it and become familiar with it.
One of the key verses for our family is:
Thy word have I hid in mine heart,
that I might not sin against thee.
This verse infers that we
- Know God’s Word,
- Want it in our hearts (not just our head), and that we
- Want to live our life in keeping with what He says
There needs to be both planned times in our day with the Bible and incidental times when we talk about God’s word throughout the day.
Planned Bible Times:
When our children were school aged, we had three planned Bible times in most of our days.
1–Personal Devotional Times. Once my children were able to read independently I encouraged them to have their own personal devotions. Before this I would often sit with them and guide them through reading the Bible, thinking about its application, and praying (establishing habits for them to continue once they were on their own.) They have used a variety of different resources and methods for their devotions though I have always encouraged them to journal. Their journals are private and I don’t read them unless invited to do so.
2–Family Devotions – We came together at a specific time most days for Family Devotions. This was a time where we read the Bible together as a family and we learnt and practiced praying together.
We used a variety of methods and resources for this time. Our favourite ‘method’ (as such) is to choose a book of the Bible and read several verses a day. After our short reading each child will share something from the reading – they may tell it back, or they may share one idea, or they may preach up a storm!! Coming from what the children have shared there will often be something for Peter or myself to pick up on and teach our children further. Or we share what God said to us in that reading. Sometimes we may change tact and do a series of devotional thoughts or study but our main emphasis is on hearing God for the day.
3–Bible Study – This is more of our ‘school’ subject (as in, if we are on holidays or a study break this is the aspect that we usually let go.) The goal in Bible Study is just that – to study. We have studied themes, stories and doctrines. We have read the Bible chronologically so we understand the flow of history. When we study we look at the history, geography, culture, as well as the doctrine, principles and truth. We learnt to use Bible study tools such as Concordances, Dictionaries, Atlases, and Commentaries. The goal here was to understand the Bible – to know it. As our children have grown older they have been able to (and keen to) study the Bible independently.
Incidental times with the Word of God:
In order for us to talk about what God would say in any given situation throughout our day, we need to know God’s word for ourselves. It is easy to rely on a curriculum or resource in the planned times with God but for God to be real and relevant in our family we need to know His word for ourselves so we can just chat about God with our kids.
There will be many times this will be done casually and incidentally. Deut 6:6,7 says it very clearly – the words that I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children. (emphasis mine). First God’s word needs to be in the parent’s heart, then the parent is required, by God, to teach them to their children.
An average day gives us so many opportunities to talk about God, His word, his character, his ways, his grace and forgiveness. There were times we simply paused to talk to God; to give thanks or to ask for help. Many of our discussions were based on “What would Jesus do” or “What does God’s Word say about such-n-such”. God’s word has something to say about all of life and our children need to hear us making those connections.
There are many other things that help us in helping our children ‘hide God’s Word in their heart’ such as scripture to songs type of music, memory verses, Bible games and DVDs, Bible on CD (narrated or dramatised), Scripture posters and cards around the house. But the thing is, unless we talk about these things, unless we make our children think about them, they remain mum and dad’s faith, not the kids.
One of the saddest things in the narrative of the Bible is seeing the love one generation had for their God not passed onto the next. God wants our children’s hearts and it is our privilege to introduce our children to our God.
Overarching Keys to Teaching the Bible
- Establish that the ‘stories’ are actually true – that this isn’t a storybook, but it is the Word of God
- Introduce the idea that we learn about God and His ways whenever we read the Bible. Whenever we read a passage or familiar story there is a lesson there for us to learn from for today. We need to teach our children to hear the heart lesson, not just know the facts of the story.
- Read as if it is interesting – it is easy to slip into a monotone, especially with long passages but we need to read with enthusiasm, with a voice of awe and interest. We need to read as if we truly believe (a good question to ask ourselves) that this is the living word of God – God’s letter to me, it is personal and meaningful. If we sound bored we will not be able to convince our children that this is worth our time
- Teach from the heart not from a lesson plan – Though we may use curriculum or resources at times if the lessons we want to impart to our children comes from our heart instead of the lesson page our children will be far more receptive. Discipleship is a relationship driven thing – anyone can read a lesson – a parent can disciple the heart. This means we have to know our children, know what lessons they need to be taught. It also means we need to know the Bible ourselves, we need to know God’s truths, and we need to spend time in thinking how we can best communicate this to our children. If we were involved in an outreach programme we would give a block of time to preparation, and yet we ‘outreach’ our children by the seat of our pants! We need to prepare to teach our children from God’s word.
- Be open and honest – share what you’ve learnt, or what is significant to you and your walk with God. Let your children see that your walk with God is a real part of your life.
As we read the Bible more and more it makes more sense, our faith is strengthened, but most importantly we get to know God – the author. And when we include our children in this they have an opportunity to get to know God and hide his Word in their heart, from a young age.
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