God grows his children through his word, so teaching children to read the Bible is as important as teaching them to feed themselves. Let’s see how we could apply a modelling-training-teaching approach to helping children read the Scriptures.
Modelling healthy Bible reading habits can take two forms. The first is letting our children see us reading God’s word—whether we’re reading the Bible at home, in small groups or church. This is a good first step. Perhaps more importantly, though, we want our kids to see us living under the authority of God’s word. When we seek comfort, dependence, guidance, forgiveness and hope in the Scriptures we are exhibiting the difference God’s word makes in our lives.
- Arrange your Bible reading so that your children see it is a priority in your life.
- Find ways to discuss with your children how the Bible shapes your life and relationship with God.
It’s most helpful to direct training towards common barriers to reading the Bible—and not just the surface barriers like being too busy or too tired (these barriers impact us no matter the stage of life and we must constantly find ways to address them). Digging a bit deeper, rather, we can focus on four broad barriers which, unless addressed, can prevent children from loving God’s word:
Barrier # 1: Not understanding the Bible
If the Bible does not make sense, children will find reading it a boring chore. At a spiritual level, we must pray that God will help our children understand the treasures in his word (1 Corinthians 2). Additionally, it is important to choose developmentally appropriate Bibles for your child.
- Write a prayer on a bookmark to pray before reading the Bible.
- Use a good kids’ Bible, aimed at their stage of development.
- Utilise apps and online resources that teach kids Bible stories more interactively.
Barrier #2: Not understanding the context of a story
If kids miss hearing the overarching narrative of Scripture, then it can feel like a jumbled collection of stories and they’ll miss how all the Bible points to Christ (Luke 24:44).
- Use kids’ Bibles that develop Biblical theology and show the overarching themes of the Scriptures.
- Print out a basic Bible timeline so children can see where individual stories fit.
Barrier# 3: Not seeing the relevance of a story or passage
Unless we regularly apply God’s word to life, the Bible is just another story like the ones children encounter in books or on TV each week.
- Develop a habit of helping kids reflect on and apply the passage by asking questions like ‘What does this story tell us about God?’, ‘What can we pray about from this?’, ‘What do I need to change?’ and ‘If I had known this last week, how would my week had been different?’
- Write questions like these in a notebook or on a bookmark (on the other side to the prayer).
Barrier #4: Not meditating on what is read
The devil longs to snatch God’s word from our minds before it takes root (Luke 8:12). If God’s word goes in one ear and out the other, it’s no wonder we, and our children, do not take daily delight in God’s word. Here are some tools to help us meditate on God’s word and allow it to change us.
- Memorise one verse from the story or passage.
- Choose a question about the passage to ask your children later in the day.
- Look for connections throughout the day to the Bible passage.
As with training wheels on a bike, even a good tool can hamper development if we stick with it too long. Chat to your children regularly and update the tools as needed to help them keep growing in their reading, understanding and response to God’s word. In time, they will be equipped to read the Bible for themselves and, under God, delight to do so.
The doctrine of Scripture does warrant serious study and reading, yet there are still some key truths about God’s word which even children can understand. 2 Timothy 3 teaches three of them:
- First, God’s word is authoritative (God-breathed, 3:16).
- Second, God’s word contains the knowledge needed for salvation (wise for salvation, 3:16)
- Third, God’s word is sufficient to live a godly life (thoroughly equipped for every good work, 3:17)
More will need to be said down the track, but these foundational truths will help children recognise the role God’s word should play in their lives.
These ideas for modelling, training and teaching kids how to read the Bible are certainly not an exhaustive approach, but I pray they will help you grow your children’s delight and dependence on God’s word as they mature towards reading it and relying on it for themselves.