Teach your children to engage and fall in love with Scripture with these 3 tips!
When it comes to following Jesus, there’s probably no more well-known truth than this:
Nothing is more important than engaging with the Bible and prayer.
For followers of Jesus, raising kids IS discipleship. Therefore, if we’re going to create a culture of discipleship in our home, Bible engagement must be a high priority in our parenting.
Teach Your Children to Engage With Scripture
In the Old Testament, God instructed His people about this, saying this about His commands: “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:7).
Essentially, what God says is, talk about His word with your kids all the time – at home in planned environments, out and about as you go through your day, at bedtime and when you get up in the morning.
In planned times and unplanned times, pass on God’s word to your kids.
This is what the apostle Paul has in mind when he tells parents to “bring up their children in the admonition and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
When Paul chooses one line to guide Christian parents in their parenting task, this is it: make sure you’re nurturing your kids in the instructions of the Lord.
So I think it’s fair to say that nothing is more important than helping our kids engage with the Bible.
It’ll look different at different stages, so here are tips for each age group!
3 Tips to Help Your Kids Engage
One of the biggest realizations I had when our kids were small was how much more capable they are than we think.
My daughter Ashley was 2 and half. She was regularly coming home from Sunday school with a short 3-5 word memory verse. Then one day I’m sitting on the couch and she started marching around the family room casually reciting all of Psalm 1! The whole psalm!
How did that happen?!
Well my 5 year old had been memorizing Psalm 1 for school, so he and I had been chanting it out loud together … and apparently my 2 year old had been listening in and absorbing it! (By the way, Psalm 1 is great text about the blessing of a life grounded in the Bible. You can listen to my thoughts on Psalm 1 here.)
Small children are like sponges. So here’s my tip for helping them engage the Bible:
Facts and Fun
Use this time to help them learn all sorts of Bible facts and info but do so in fun, interactive ways. Chanting. Singing. Games.
Find a good children’s Bible and read it everyday before bed. As they become more familiar with the stories, pause while reading and have the kids finish the sentence or fill in the word.
To memorize, sing or chant the passage.
We played “The Bible Story Game” with our kids. We’d all sit in a circle on the floor. One of us would have a small ball. We would toss the ball to each other and whoever caught the ball had to tell a Bible story.
Occasionally when they told a story I’d ask why they liked that story.
Sometimes, we’d read a Psalm about praising God with songs. Then we’d all grab little instruments (a rattle, a tamborine, etc.) and march around the room singing praise songs to Jesus.
We had fun learning the Bible.
8-12 Years Old
At this stage it’s time to begin building a framework for character development and decision making. That means, it’s time to help them see how the Bible connects with their life.
So here’s a couple tips for Bible engagement at this stage:
1. Aim for Understanding
Not just understanding what it says but what it means and why it matters.
When reading the Bible as a family, ask questions about the passage you are reading like:
-what are some ways you can put others first in your life? [maybe prompt them with different areas life – friends, family, etc]
-who has hurt you and how can you be actively kind to them?
2. Connect the Bible to Life
Be alert to teachable moments where you can help connect the Bible to life: A squabble with friend or when they helped someone out and you discuss the joy of serving others like Jesus.
When our kids were in this stage, my wife and I began going out occasionally and leaving them home alone for a couple hours. My son is two years older than his sister, so I wanted him to begin to think about what it means to be the man in relationship to a woman.
So one day we were getting ready to leave and I said, “Jeffrey, you’re the man tonight while mom and I are gone. What does that mean?”
He answered immediately – “I’m in charge!”
“Ok, sure,” I replied with a smile. “And what does it mean to be ‘in charge’ as a man?”…
I had him look up Ephesians 5:25, where he promptly learned that it meant laying down his life like Jesus, so he needed to put Ashely’s wishes and well being ahead of his own.
At this stage, you want to connect the Bible to life as a framework for character development and decision making.
The teen years provide new opportunities and new challenges. Often schedules get a little crazier and the kids are busier (especially once they have a driver’s license and a job!). It’s harder to have the same routines as you did when they were younger.
We found it harder to read the Bible consistently as a family.
Is it okay for a pastor to admit that we read the Bible infrequently together during the teen years?
What we did have, however, were frequent conversations at the dinner table or late at night (why did it have to be just as I was getting ready for bed?!) about God, life, the Bible, people, and the struggles of growing up.
Some of those questions were prompted by me. Some were sparked by something that happened at school or with friends. And often those questions came with all the emotions of teen angst.
So my first tip for the teen years is this:
1. Brave the hard questions
Wade into the mess. Engage with them. Expect pushback. Think out loud with them. Don’t force agreement – the goal isn’t for them to agree with you; it’s for them to submit to and trust God.
So even when they reach what feels like a poor conclusion, you may need to let it go and remind them (gently and graciously) that God is the final authority “so just be sure your listening to His word as you think this through.”
But whatever you do, don’t shut down the lines of communication.
2. Coach the habit of reading and praying on their own.
Don’t badger them. Don’t guilt them. Encourage them. Affirm them when they have been doing this well. Every now and then ask them what they’re reading and what stands out to them.
If they admit they are struggling, ask if you can do anything to help support them.
One of the things I’ve discovered is that a lot of young people know they should read the Bible and pray but they don’t know how. That may be your teen. If that’s the case here’s a short video course (three 5-8 minute videos) that gives a model for how to read and pray consistently.
If they are open to it, offer to do a reading plan together where you’re reading the same passages on your own and texting or sharing with each other what stood out to you from your reading. I’m doing this right now with a friend who’s a brand new follower of Jesus and using a reading plan I created that works great for this. You can find that plan here.
A Most Important Bonus Tip
Ultimately, the most important factor in helping your kids engage with the Bible is you … if you are engaging with it, soaking in it, praying it into your own soul, (And don’t be afraid to let your kids “catch” you reading and praying), then the Bible is central in your home because it’s central in your life.
The key is setting a time, place and plan so that more often than not you engage with the Bible and connect with God. Then you can experience the blessed and flourishing life that Psalm 1 describes.