When my children were babies, I, of course, had so many questions running through my mind at all times. But the most persistent questions seemed to always center around sleep. How much sleep does she need? When will she go to sleep? How can I get him to sleep all night? Will I ever sleep a full eight hours again?
Now that my children are no longer babies, the questions rolling around in my mind are quite a bit different in nature. Honestly, they are less about my children’s physical well-being and more about their spiritual well-being. There are a couple questions in particular that stand out more than others, and I think they are some of the most important questions I could be asking at this stage of their lives.
- How can I make the Bible come alive for my children?
- How can I instill a love for God’s Word in their hearts?
Maybe you and I are asking the same questions? Actually, I hope we are asking the same questions! And, honestly, acting on these questions is going to require some effort from us parents, but our kids are worth it! Their futures both here and in eternity are too important to not be asking and acting on questions like these!
I hope it goes without saying, but my husband and I are right in the middle of this, too. We are still learning how to navigate the bumpy and often murky waters of discipling our kids, who are growing and changing every day.
So, where do we start? How do we begin? While I don’t have all the answers, I do have some practical starting points for us today.
It starts with us.
Before we can answer the above questions, we need to ask them of ourselves, about ourselves. Am I actively engaging in the Word of God? Is it alive in me? Do I possess a love for God’s Word–like the kind of love I want my kids to have? These questions are the ones we must explore before we can attempt the journey of helping our children know, love, and live the Word of God. Like with other aspects of parenting, we have to go first. We get to lead the way and set the example for our children.
Kids of all ages are more perceptive than we tend to give them credit for–in certain areas, at least. When they witness sincere excitement about the Bible in our lives, chances are they will be more curious and receptive when we talk with them about it. It’s not about having all the answers; it’s about sharing the love of His Word with them, being open and honest about our personal relationship with God through His Word. (And just to be clear, the absolute best way to know God–His character, His attributes, His direction, His love, His commands–is to read His Word. It is the primary way He has chosen to reveal Himself to us. The Bible is His very words about Himself.)
Kids ask questions–so many questions. My 7, 10, and 12 year olds seem to have an endless supply of them. (Please tell me I am not alone in this!) As they have grown, their reasoning capabilities have matured. The questions they are now peppering us with aren’t as simple to answer as they once were. As their parents, we understand and are committed to the fact that we are their first and primary resource for discipleship and spiritual growth. What an opportunity we have to dig in here, to discover why we believe what we believe, and to truly develop a love for God’s Word, so that we can, in turn, teach it to and encourage it in our kids!
Small is okay.
Small, consistent steps forward can have a significant impact–often much more than we realize in the moment. Small doesn’t mean insignificant! This truth is something I’ve seen firsthand in my own life and in my own time in the Word. Learning to love and delight in the Word of God is a lifetime commitment. It’s, as they say, a marathon, not a sprint. Making the decision to start and remaining consistent are far more important than what it looks like or even how well it starts.
I’ve heard it said a few times that we can’t expect to harvest something we just planted. If this is something new for our children, chances are they aren’t going to wake up tomorrow morning suddenly enthralled with the Word of God. Their love (our love) for God’s Word will grow as we continue to tend to and water it. So, just start.
Some of the best advice I received, concerning picky eaters, when my kids were little tots was to look at what they ate in a whole week, rather than one, single day. Some days they would eat more fruit and less veggies, and other days I was able to sneak in more veggies than fruit. But looking at it from a slightly more zoomed out perspective, helped me to see that they were actually eating more well-rounded than I realized.
I’d like to give us the same advice today. Zoom out a little. Take a long-view perspective. What seems like only a small amount in the Word today will add up over time if we keep at it. And just like with our kids and their picky taste buds, we as the parents know that if they keep trying the things they don’t like or aren’t used to, there is a higher potential for their taste buds to adapt. So don’t give up. Keep having them try the broccoli. Exposure is key.
Galatians 6:9 (ESV) — “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
Talk about it often.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (NLT) — “And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.”
Over and over in the Old Testament, God encourages and even commands the people of Israel to intentionally teach their children and younger generations the Law and to not neglect telling them of all that God had done for them. We, as parents in the 21st century, have the same responsibility!
As I have progressed in parenthood, I’ve realized that much of my parenting consists of repeating key phrases over and over. These are the things I want my children to know, to remember, to obey. Wash your hands. Hang up your towel. Brush your teeth. Drink more water. Do your homework. Say please and thank you. I repeat these specific phrases multiple times a day. I don’t do it for my sake; I do it so that they will learn, so that they will actually do these things. We consistently repeat the things we want our children to learn and know the most, right?
This is why we are encouraged to repeat the Word of the Lord again and again to our children. Talk about the Word as we come and as we go, when we wake up, as we are going about our day, and when we go to sleep. Conversation about God–His Word, His love, His commands–can and should be normal in our families. The more we talk about it, the easier it becomes. The more we talk about it, the more normal it becomes. This is how it becomes part of our family culture.
In our family, the past few weeks we have been talking about 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. We’ve been focusing on one phrase a week, slowly breaking it down to help them truly understand what the words mean. “Love is patient and kind.” What does that look like for you? Can you think of a couple times this week when you have been patient toward your brother? How have you been kind to your sister this week? What are some ways you could show patience with your friends? Were there times in the past week when you were not kind?
This conversation can happen during breakfast, in the car on the way to school, or any other time! It doesn’t have to be long, because, let’s face it, our kids’ attention spans aren’t that long anyway. Keep it simple. Keep it relatable. Honestly, what we’re doing is training them to know they can come to us anytime with questions about God, the Bible, and anything else.
Like I said, these are just a few tips, a few ways we can help instill a love for God’s Word in the hearts of our children (and ours, too). This is not the end of the list. This is merely the beginning.
Our kids are worth it, aren’t they? They are worth the work, the effort of learning how to create a culture of loving and delighting in God’s Word in our hearts and our homes.
We’ll have questions. Sure! We’ll feel incapable, insecure, and even uninspired at times. But I have two encouragements for us:
- Our feelings do not get to decide what is true. Truth is not and cannot be swayed by our feelings. What is true? The Word of God. God’s love for us and our children. His desire for all to know Him. It IS possible. We ARE capable, not because of our own abilities but because
- Jesus lives in us, enabling and empowering us to do what He has called us to do. And if we have children, we are absolutely called to lead them and point them to Jesus! We can actually be comforted in our weakness and insecurity, because His “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinithians 12:9). Amen!
Let’s get super practical for a minute. I want to make sure you are armed with more than just ideas but actual activities or practices you can begin using or doing tonight even! So, here are some ideas for you to try at home with your family that can help create a culture of loving God’s Word. These ideas are not fancy; they are intentionally simple and manageable for the everyday.
Pick a verse or a passage from the Bible to talk about and memorize as a family. (For example, my kids and I are working our way through 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 right now, like I mentioned earlier. We’re asking questions and talking about how we can act on what we are learning.)
Read a book of the Bible together. As often as your schedule allows, read one chapter of the book at a time. (I’d recommend the book of John as a great place to start. Focus on the character and actions of Jesus, and continue to reinforce the truth that Jesus perfectly reveals the character of God as well. If questions arise, spend time finding the answers together. This is an effective way to help our children learn how to study the Bible, and maybe for us to learn that skill as well!)
The actual Bible is always the best place to start, but, especially for very young children, trusted Bible story books can be a great resource, too. Here are a couple of our favorites: The Jesus Storybook Bible and the Read Aloud Bible Stories. Although there are many other great resources out there!
Pray. (Maybe this should be listed first!) It’s so easy to forget the importance of prayer, even when it comes to the Bible. Pray WITH your children every time you sit down to read the Bible. Involve them in the conversation with God, and ask Him to help you all to know, love, and live His Word. I guarantee you that He is more than ready to do just that!
What better way to close this out than to end with a simple, yet powerful, prayer? You can take this prayer and make it yours. Pray it over yourself, and pray it with your children. Let’s never forget the power of prayer!
Psalm 119:18 (NIV) — “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”
Lord, thank You for Your Word. Thank You for what You want to reveal to me (and my children) through Your Word. I ask that You open our eyes so that we can truly see the wonderful things we read today. May it help us to know You more, love You more, and live as You would have us to live. In the name of Jesus, amen.