This article is part of the Help! series.
Sowing a Love
How do we sow in our children love for the word that has become a lifeline for us? How do we communicate in a way that prepares our children for a life of faith and faithfulness? How can we teach them when we feel so inadequate in our own understanding? These are not unique questions. Most, if not all, Christian parents have wrestled or are wrestling internally with these questions.
Psalm 78 often goes through my mind when thinking upon this subject. Asaph, the writer of this psalm, knows what he received and believed (Ps. 78:3). He also knows it is incomplete to keep this wonderful knowledge of God to himself. He must pass it on to the generation after him. Asaph says, "We will not hide them from their children but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done" (Ps. 78:4). His aim in doing this is particular: that the generations to follow might “set their hope in God and not forget the works of God.” Isn’t this what we desire beyond all else for our children—that they might “set their hope in God”? As Christian parents, we want this story to continue through generations of our family tree to the glory of our covenant-keeping God.
But how do we do this when the task of teaching our children the Bible feels overwhelming?
Read, Read, Read!
It seems silly to even say it, but an unopened Bible will remain an unknown Bible. No one comprehends the pages of Scripture via osmosis. Pick up the Bible, open it, and read it with your children. This has to be the starting place. Many discuss the Bible, talk theology, and debate Christian ethics with their family, but the Bible remains closed and on the shelf. It is meant to be read. Sit the smallest children on your lap, surround yourself with the rest of your children on the couch, and read. The very reading of the word has power. God’s word does not return void (Isa. 55:11). He promises this.
Read for Knowledge
Over time your children will develop a working knowledge of Scripture based upon what you have read with them in the Bible. Therefore, read from “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) over time. Take a book of the Bible, read a few verses each night together, and work your way through it. Then, as a family, choose a new book of the Bible to read. Through the years, your family will grow in knowledge together. This will inform your conversations with one another and your family’s walk with God.
Read helpful children’s books alongside your Bible reading. Children’s books that press home the overarching themes and teachings of Scripture prove especially helpful in developing knowledge. Consider other helpful tools for pressing home the truths of Scripture. Personally, I found catechizing my children at a young age provided a wonderful foundation for further theological discussions and formation. Many parents find it beneficial to begin book clubs with other parents and children. There is an excitement for children in reading a book (not assigned as schoolwork!) with some of their friends.
Read for Understanding
As your family becomes more comfortable reading the Scriptures together, begin asking questions of your children. The questions begin small and simple. I suggest two questions as helpful with young children: (1) What did you hear about God? (2) What did God say he desires from us? As they grow in age, the questions can become more complex (e.g. What is the main point of this text? What is an application you can draw from this passage? Based upon this passage, how can we pray for you tonight?). As Asaph said about his own reception of the truth, he not only heard it, but came to “know” it (Ps. 78:3). Bare knowledge is good; knowledge with understanding is better still.
Use moments the Lord provides. As Moses says to parents, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lied down, and when you rise” (Deut. 6:7). We miss too many opportunities as parents. Let’s seize them! A beautiful sunrise provides an occasion to mention God’s beauty, a fight between siblings allows us to speak of God’s grace, a messy table serves as an illustration of sin. As much as we are able, we want the Bible and its truth to infuse our family conversation. It doesn’t need to be forced; it will happen more and more as we become more and more Bible people.
Know That You Don’t Need to Have All the Answers
Relax and know that you don’t need to have all the answers. My four-year-old son asked one evening, “Daddy, if Eve had eaten from the tree but not Adam, would all people have fallen?” What a great question! But it didn’t feel like it at the time, because I wasn’t ready. I didn’t know the answer on the spot. And you know what? That was alright. His faith wasn’t dashed, his spiritual life wasn’t stunted, and his respect for me wasn’t diminished. I could simply say, “I don’t know, son. That is a fabulous question. Can I do some research and answer your question later this week?” His little four-year-old mind was thinking through an issue I never had. That is a blessing in disguise! You don’t have to know everything—no parent does, no matter who they are. We are all theologians in process. Each of us seeks to grow in biblical knowledge. And many times, our children press us towards that growth.
God gifted his word to his people. It is a means of grace, not a burden.
Be Patient and Play the Long Game
Don’t do too much too early. Be patient with yourself and with your children. Don’t set too high of expectations for your Bible reading or study together. Too often we make the goal unreachable and set ourselves up for discouragement. Idealism often kills good things before they begin. Start slow and start small. Read a proverb each night together or memorize one bible verse a month. We are raising our children over the course of years, not days. As parents, we can afford to invest slowly for the long run.
Model the Blessing
God gifted his word to his people. It is a means of grace, not a burden. Model this before your children. It will be reflected in your attitude, your own sense of joy in reading, how you talk about the Scriptures, and even the priority you make the Bible in your own life. I remember a dear pastor friend reflecting upon his own love for the Bible. He remembered from his childhood that he would walk by his father’s bedroom each evening and see the comforting scene of his father propped up in bed, with his head resting on the headboard, reading an open Bible. His hero loved this book, so he decided to read and grow in love for this book too.
Have Fun Growing in Knowledge as a Family
The Christian life centers upon a God who created as an overflow of love. Creation contains the joys of chocolate cake, the smoothness of silk, and the laughter of children. You and your children have the freedom to enjoy and even be creative in learning about God and his word together. Write biblically informed poems, act out scenes of the Bible, sing the Psalms. My family has recently enjoyed memorizing Scripture together by using a service that provides temporary Scripture tattoos. If we each rolled up our sleeves, you could see the verse we are memorizing together! Enjoy God. He is meant to be enjoyed even as he is meant to be worshiped.
Keep Your Eyes on Jesus
Above all, teach your children the Bible with your eyes on Jesus. We want them to fall in love with our Savior. All our teaching has this as its purpose. The goal isn’t for them to win a Bible quiz contest or look the best in Sunday school. We long for them to cherish Christ as we do. Yet, we can’t force it. We can’t make it so. We can’t guarantee it. All we can do is teach what we know in the best way we know how and leave their souls in the hands of our trustworthy Father. I often pray for the children in our church, “Father, make our children your children.” Keep your eyes on Jesus, even as you seek to point their eyes to Jesus.
Jason Helopoulos is the author of The Promise: The Amazing Story of Our Long-Awaited Savior.
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