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If you are a Christian parent, you know that it’s important to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6). This proverb is not a promise that our kids will walk faithfully with God throughout their lifetime; but wisdom for the parent who wants to give their child the best chance for understanding who God is, what he has done for us, and how we should respond to him.
But many parents (including me) have struggled to know what this looks like played out in daily life. And if you are in a blended family like mine, it can be difficult to maintain cohesive Bible training. But over the years, I’ve discovered some good strategies for teaching the Bible to my kids, adapting to their age level and needs along the way.
Use the Bible. This may sound like a no-brainer, but with the prevalence and popularity for kid’s devotional material (and adults are no different), I need to say it.
The Bible, on its own, is more than enough to teach your children. If you have a Bible, you have all that you need. It is completely sufficient by itself. I think more parents need to recognize the power and sufficiency of Scripture alone for shaping and molding their children.
Biblical literacy in our children begins with us. It is our job, not a Sunday school teacher, to teach our children how to read the Bible, how to interpret it, and how to apply it. Kids can spend years in the church and know relatively nothing about the Bible if parents are not being faithful to teach them. And that means WE have to know the Bible.
Read in order. Your kids need to know the whole counsel of God’s word, in an order that makes sense, rather than topical snippets or stories taken from all over the place. If your children are young, read a children’s Bible to them, but start at the beginning and read through it sequentially. They need to have a good grasp of the overall picture of God’s story, and they won’t be able to build that if you are choosing stories randomly.
Choose a memory verse that ties into whatever they’re reading. So if you are reading the story of creation, you can memorize Genesis 1:31, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” A children’s Bible is a paraphrase of Scripture, and not equal to Scripture itself, but at the same time they can be extremely helpful in relating the big truths of the Bible in an understandable way to young minds.
If you choose to forgo a children’s Bible altogether, have a reading plan that works its way through Scripture in an understandable way, and be ready to break it down for them. It does no good if there is zero comprehension. You must help them on this journey towards understanding, equipping them with what they need to eventually study it on their own.
Make it fun for them. My boys have two very different personalities, interests, and learning styles. One of them right now is almost through the book of Leviticus, and reads the Bible during his free time. He is eight years old. I don’t even have to ask him to read it, and I recognize that he is probably unique (in many ways) among kids his age.
The other one is a little older but struggles to read the Bible on his own and actually know what he’s reading. He’s at the end of Genesis right now, and I’ve had to be much more hands on with him and involved in the process. I’ve had to adapt to his learning style, which has been just as good for me. I know that he probably represents the majority of eight year old boys who are made to read the ESV translation of Genesis. And it has taught me to be patient during this process, which doesn’t happen overnight. Parents, you are in this for the long-haul.
So get to know their learning style. If they learn by doing, come up with some activities that tie into what they’re reading. It doesn’t have to be complicated. For example, we measured the tabernacle curtains in Exodus 26 and compared them to our own. If they learn by seeing, show them maps, pictures, and illustrations. Give them a visual image to help them understand the text. And never underestimate the power of a dictionary.
Ask questions. Again, comprehension is important, and talking through the text helps them understand the main idea. It cements what they’re learning and helps them put it all together. Don’t be afraid to let them struggle a little bit over the answers. Learning takes effort, and this is good practice for them. It will serve them well in life.
See what they come up with on their own and require them to think through the text. This will look different according to their age group, but here are some sample questions:
What do these verses say about God? Can you see Jesus in these verses? Who are the main characters? What is the main idea from this chapter or story? How will you apply these verses to your life? What do these verses say about the human heart?
Pray. And pray and pray. This is the most important thing that you do apart from opening your Bible in this process. Pray for wisdom. Pray for understanding. Pray that God would impart truth as they’re reading, and that it would grow deep roots in their heart and bear fruit there. God is able to do far more than we could ever do on our own, and we are dependent on him in this process of teaching our children the Bible.
“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). Although the Bible is literature, it is also so much more. It is a spiritual text, and is through the Holy Spirit’s work that we are able to truly understand, accept, and love what is written in it. So pray that your children would be spiritually discerning creatures, and that they would “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18).
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 teaches that we should be talking to our kids about God all the time. These verses are the model for how we should be teaching our kids about who God is, and it is a high standard. But if it is important to God, it should be important to us. As parents, we should evaluate how well we’re doing in this task, without losing sight of God’s grace in the process. I have seen God working in the life of young people, including my own, and I wholeheartedly believe it is his desire that our children would grow up treasuring Scripture, and knowing how to rightly handle the Word of God.