Getting children to read the bible is no easy task! We live in a challenging age where three troublesome Ts make teaching children to read any book and especially the bible hard.
Our digital age has turned us into screen junkies and screen addiction and techno troubles are a consuming problem for families everywhere. Everything online is exciting and being offline and reading any book is often viewed as boring and slow. (Especially 66 books in one!)
There is not enough! As a teacher, wife and parent to a 14 year old and 17 year old I am very aware of the treadmill that most families feel like they are running on every day! Usually just getting everyone home from various extra-curricular activities, putting supper on the table and supervising homework feels difficult enough without adding monitoring everyone’s devotional life to the mix.
Everyone has their own version and it is not politically correct to promote absolute truth in an age where “if it feels good it is okay for you”. Children are in a crisis. So much of this is because they don’t know where the boundaries are and they don’t know God’s truth. Reading the bible is shelved because it is categorised as irrelevant or “just someone’s version of the truth” instead of the Word of God.
So due to these three troublesome Ts we are dealing with a generation of starving children; children who do not fill themselves with God’s “Daily Bread” every day. Their souls are hungry and vulnerable. We also live in an age of Entitlement where doing something that is hard or boring is too difficult for people who have become weak and self-indulgent. We have to do the hard work NOW to train our children in the Word so that they can learn how to make scripture an integral part of their life every day.
As a family, we are far from perfect at getting it all right. The above challenges often get the better of us too (My husband and I have frequently felt like Jonah – wanting to run away or hide) but here are some practical ideas (using the acronym B.R.E.A.D) that we have tried in our family that may help yours too.
B – Bibles. Make them available and age appropriate in your home. (Use bible story books for under 8s). Remember that troublesome T of technology. This is where it can be your friend. Online bible apps are a winner with millennials. The Holy Bible Bible App developed by Life Church called YouVersion has been a wonderful tool for our family. Tweens and teens love it as they can create their own profile, choose from wonderful reading guides, access different versions at the touch of a button and even share scriptures with friends on the app. This brings in the social media side of the technology they love. There are some excellent family devotions too.
For younger children there is also a website called SUPERBOOK, which is an online bible site where children can create their own profile and watch bible stories brought to life with excellent animation. Guardians of Ancora (A Scripture Union project) is an amazing exploratory game for tablets and phones which kids between the ages of 8 and 14 love. They won’t even realise they are learning bible stories!
R – Is for regular routine. This is ESSENTIAL – children must see reading the word as an everyday activity as important as eating right, brushing teeth etc. Establish a time that suits you, from babyhood, to read bible stories and then encourage this to develop into their own time later. If you see that they are struggling as they get older to keep this in place introduce a family devotion time after supper each night (just 10 minutes is fine) until they are back on track. (It gets you back on track too sometimes!)
E – Expect challenges! Don’t give up when the going gets hard. Be sensitive to them and allow them private moments with God too. I love what Dalene Reyburn had to say in a previous SU Mag article on Big Picture parenting. The big picture here is we want them to understand that reading the bible is about building their relationship with God not about pleasing you or ticking a box.
A – Are you open about your own faith? Share your own faith journey with your children when it is appropriate. Help them see how scripture talks to you. I sometimes write/type up a scripture that is particularly meaningful to me at a particular moment and stick it up. Ask your children what they think God is trying to say through this word. You may be surprised at how wise they can be! Ask them what scriptures keep coming up for them at the moment too. Share how you believe the Holy Spirit talks through scripture.
D – Just DO it! Show them how to DO life in the Word – every part of it. Recently my daughter has been writing her matric trial exams and before she started, we took time to make some little verse cards to give out to her friends to encourage them too. When my children went away on long trips I use to type out a verse for them to read each night just before bed with a note from me. DO life in the Word.