We know that God’s Word is living, breathing, and active. We want our children to be steeped in Scripture. But we also know that the Bible is often difficult to understand and, more frankly, that God and his actions are sometimes difficult to understand. So how do we help our children to experience the fullness of Scripture, practically, in our daily lives?
Read to your children directly out of the Bible.
Whatever translation of the Bible you use in your home and in your church would be best. The ideal way to learn any language is exposure to it; this is why we start speaking to babies long before they are capable of verbally responding. Familiarize your children with biblical language from a very young age. Story Bibles have their place, too, but a little reading from the actual Bible every day is a wonderful habit to start.
Use an actual Bible.
Reading from your phone might be great for you, as you are an adult who is well aware of the concept of different apps and the separate categories of information that you can access from a mobile device. But children are very concrete thinkers and they need to see the Bible as being a separate, authoritative book – not as of being equal value to Siri and Google.
Once I was talking to a pastor-friend, and he told me that when he started being more intentional about family worship time, his kids started getting restless during his 35-minute lecture. He laughed and told me that his wife kindly informed him he could only take 5 minutes if he actually wanted his children’s attention. You can work up to a longer time, but better to have a happy 5 minute Bible time than a miserable 35 minutes!
Start with Bible stories that are familiar to your children and read a little each day.
Jonah, Joseph, Daniel – their stories provide a great starting point. Read stories your children are learning about in church or in their storybook Bibles at bedtime.
Don’t shy away from hard passages.
Don’t miss our post on the dangers of “editing God” here. It’s tempting as a parent to want to maintain our children’s “innocence,” forgetting that sin is inborn. We need to intentionally expose our children to stories of sinful behavior while giving them the biblical lens through which to define sin. By eventually reading through all of Scripture, we allow God to choose what sins our children learn about.
Give simple explanations.
For example, when reading the story of Joseph, children might be shocked that his brothers sold him into slavery. A simple, child-level explanation of slavery (a man has to work without pay and do whatever his owner says) is normally sufficient. When Potiphar’s wife accuses Joseph of rape, you can simply say: Potiphar’s wife accused Joseph of trying to hurt her, but he really didn’t. If they ask more questions than this, then they are ready for more of an explanation, and we can be grateful that they are coming to us for biblical answers instead of searching the Internet!
IMPORTANT SIDENOTE: With young children, be sure to ask clarifying questions before delving into detailed explanations. My son once asked, “Mommy, where did I come out of you?” I was about to launch into a careful explanation when he added, “Was it in that building over there?” 😉
Remember that God defines what is good and that, by definition, everything that God does is good.
Don’t try to make excuses for God’s behavior, as can sometimes be tempting when reading in the Old Testament! God sending the plagues was good. God telling Israelites to wipe out entire nations (including children) was good. Why? Because God did it. There is no definition of good outside of God. If we tried to define good apart from Him, all we would have left would be our own feelings and shifting perspectives.
Teach your children how to handle incongruence as it relates to their view of God.
One of the best gifts you can give your children when reading Scripture together is to model a right response to things you don’t understand.
When you come across a difficult passage, show your kids that you trust God and His character and His love for His people. Insist that the God of the Bible is the one, true God.
Gently teach them to reshape their views of God that don’t line up with Scripture. Explore difficult passages together by reading books and asking your church elders for help. This is excellent practice for other areas of life, as God is often writing a storyline in our lives that isn’t going according to the script we would choose.
We know that Scripture does not return void. The more we allow God’s Word to speak directly into our children’s lives, the more fruit we will see and the more they will come to know the True Source of all wisdom and joy.
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