I’ve been volunteering in my Church Sunday school for almost seven years now. I won’t lie, it’s been tough work. Shepherding children means you have to be prepared for anything. You’ll face tears, runny noses, the occasional skinned knee, and so much more. It’s all worth it though, because you get to be a significant part of introducing these young minds to the life and works of Jesus Christ.
Still, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my time of volunteering, it’s that parents have a greater impact on children’s Christian walk than any Sunday school teacher. Children look to their parents for guidance, support, and knowledge, especially when it comes to matters of faith. So naturally, adults should include scripture and Bible reading as part of their daily routine. Over at The Gospel Coalition, Pastor Jon Nielson has a few tips for introducing young kids to the rhythm of scripture. Three of his entries are listed below, as well as a few I’ve personally found incredibly helpful.
1. Read Together as a Family
When I was a child, my father would always take time after dinner to read the Bible aloud at the table. He would pull out his battered copy of the Egermeier’s Bible, and we kids would sit attentively as he recited a brief passage from scripture. It was never longer than ten minutes, and I’ll admit there were some nights when we grew restless, but those moments shaped my beliefs in more ways than I can say. It not only united us together as a family, it strengthened our shared faith and made Christ a part of our household. If you want your children to encounter God on a personal level, there’s no better way than to invite him into your home.
2. Read Short Chunks
“Some of us will have to guard against being overly ambitious in the beginning. Since we believe in the power of God’s Word, we want our children exposed to as much of it as possible. So we read two full chapters from Genesis each night. Needless to say, a 5-year-old’s eyes will probably start to glaze over.”
“I encourage you to pick manageable passages, chosen based on thoughtful criteria. You may decide to begin in Genesis, and move through the Bible sequentially. The key is to not rush it, and to think ahead of time about the right ‘chunks’ for each day.”
3. Encourage Your Children to Ask Questions
The Bible can be confusing, especially for a 5-year-old. The stories we know and resonate with might not make much sense to younger listeners, so it helps when parents allow children to ask questions. Take a moment during these readings to stop and inquire what their thoughts are. Encourage them to ask questions and help them understand the more complex areas of scripture. Otherwise, we’ll only succeed in talking at them instead of to them.
4. Connect Each Passage to Jesus
“Jesus makes an amazing—even shocking—statement to the Pharisees in John 5: ‘You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life. But it is they that bear witness about me.’ He is saying, in no uncertain terms, that the Scriptures are centered around him—his incarnation, his life, his teaching, his death, his resurrection, his return.”
“What does this mean for daily Bible reading with our kids? It means if we’re trying to help them understand any part of the biblical storyline, we must give them a sense of how that part connects to the major character—and great climax—of that big story.”
5. Do Your Research
Children aren’t the only ones who should be learning something during these lessons. Before you sit down with your kids and dive into scripture, it helps to do a little research first. Be prepared to explain common rituals and symbols to your listeners or the significance of certain events. When they ask questions, be ready to answer them with clear and concise answers. Who knows? You may even learn something new about Christ yourself!
6. Let Bible Reading Lead to Prayer
“Listening to kids who are learning to pray can be humorous. If yours are anything like mine, their prayers can be hilarious in their simplicity and self-focus. God has heard prayers in our home for dogs, movies, imaginary people, and, of course, coveted toys.”
“If we’re honest, though, our children’s prayers often are really just ‘kid versions’ of our own. We can easily resort to praying only for our needs and wants, rather than spending time praising and adoring God, and asking for his Spirit’s work in the lives of others. One way to grow in our prayer lives, then, is to intentionally tether our prayers to our reading. We can help our kids ‘talk back’ to God daily, based on the ways he’s speaking to them through the Scriptures.”
What about You? How do you introduce your children to the Bible? Be sure to leave a comment in the space below!
*Ryan Duncan is an Editor for Crosswalk.com