Parents face huge obstacles in trying to get their kids excited about reading the Bible. For starters, very few kids are reading anything at all. There are so many distracting (and seemingly more exciting) alternatives to sitting quietly with a book. The pressure of school activities, sports, and the social whirl are not conducive to finding a quiet time to read.
On top of that, the Bible is not an easy read. Sure, there are some well-known sections that many kids are familiar with through Sunday school and VBS, but the vast majority of it is unchartered territory. It’s not a multimedia fest; it’s black words on white pages. It’s not a world that most kids are familiar with; the culture, history, and geography of the Bible seem a million miles and years away from modern children.
And worst of all, we have two enemies fighting with all their might against children reading the Bible. There’s the devil, who opens the gates of hell whenever a child opens a Bible. And there are our children’s hearts, which are turned away from the truth from birth (Psalm 51:5; 58:3). No one naturally and normally delights in the Word of God without being given a new heart by regeneration.
If we’re not excited about this book, we can’t expect our children to be.
Despite these discouraging impediments, I still believe we should and can encourage our children to see Bible reading as a delight rather than a drudge. And the most powerful way of doing that is by conveying our own delight in God’s Word. We have to demonstrate that the Bible lights up our life. If we’re not excited about this book, we can’t expect our children to be.
When I was very young I attended a Baptist church with my parents. I don’t remember much about it (and I’ve since found out that it had some doctrinal problems), however the one thing I do remember was that the Sunday school teachers and the pastor were happy when they were teaching the Bible. Not “laugh-a-minute” happy with tons of jokes and funny stories, but they just enjoyed reading and explaining the Bible. As a child, I “caught” that happiness. It made a deep impression.
When I was about ten or eleven, my family started attending a very conservative Presbyterian church. Again, I don’t remember much, but I remember this—everyone was very glum. The Sunday school lessons were much more substantial, but there was no discernible joy in the teachers. They were ultrastrict, they demanded tons of memory work, and they seemed to be barely enduring the hour rather than enjoying it. That too made a deep impression and lingered long with me. I associated the Bible with boredom, pain, and “glad that’s over for another week.” It was like my piano lessons.
It doesn’t need to be like that. Indeed, it shouldn’t be like that. While I welcome the beautiful graphics, videos, and other resources that we now have to us help teach the Bible to kids, there’s nothing more infectious than an enthusiastic teacher or parent. That’s contagious and will stick long in the memory after other images have faded.
There’s nothing more infectious than an enthusiastic teacher or parent.
We can communicate our delight in the Bible by the way we conduct family worship. Let our body language, our expressions, and our tone of voice all transmit vigor and vitality. Work at showing how even one part of the passage applies to our children’s lives.
The Best Day of the Week
Let’s also stir up our children’s interest by how we frame our church attendance. Dr. Joel Beeke told me that he used to wake up his children every Sunday morning with, “Welcome to the best day of the week. We get to worship God today and to hear his voice!” Let’s ensure our children don’t view our church-going as a mere legalistic duty, something we try our best to squeeze in between other more enjoyable activities.
The way we respond to the preaching of the Word will also leave a permanent mark. I know families that have been ruined by parents making a habit of slicing and dicing the minister and his sermon on the ride home, or “barbecuing” him for Sunday lunch. Instead, let’s encourage edifying conversation and fellowship by asking questions about the sermon, commenting on what helped us, and so on. Show how much the Bible energizes and motivates you.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we can infect our children with delight in the Word by showing on a daily basis how our own Bible reading impacts us. Try to make a daily point of finding something to share with your children from your own devotions.
“Do you know what I discovered in the Bible today, John?”
“Jane, guess what God showed me today in His Word!”
Or try to show the Bible’s relevance to everyday life as opportunity arises. “You know what God says about this kind of situation in his Word?”
Sustained and sincere communication of our own delight in the Bible will do more than anything else to attract our children to God’s Word and discover the source of our own joy.
This Bible reading plan for kids ages 6–12 from David Murray leads children through the Bible one day at a time over the course of a year.
Kevin DeYoung has once again teamed up with illustrator Don Clark to create a new ABC board book for kids aimed at walking them through the Bible's overarching story.
Several specific situations commonly prompt questions about the feasibility of family worship.