By Kris Baines – July 2015 (originally written for SIHE newsletter June 2015)
Most of us would agree that we want our children to grow up with a love for God’s Word. The challenge, however, is that of nurturing the desire, without it becoming more of a “have to” than a “want to”. But let’s be honest with ourselves – that’s how we can feel about reading our Bibles at times too right?
THE PERFORMANCE TRAP
Often we develop our own personal style of “devotional”, or “quiet time” (really with 7 kids!) and that becomes our standard of acceptable spiritual discipline. For example, it might be 15 minutes of Bible reading in the morning. But what often happens before long, is we end up feeling quite guilty and “unworthy” when we do less than 15 minutes. Alternatively, when we exceed that timeframe, we feel a little bit more “worthy” in God’s eyes! This is a sign that we have subtly allowed ourselves to slip into a performance trap. No longer are we basing our standing before God on the finished work of Christ. Instead we are basing our standing on how well we maintain our own standard of daily Bible reading.
The reason it’s important to mention this, is that if we are going to help our children develop a love for God’s Word, that is going to realistically stand the test of time – then we need to deal with the realities of forming such a habit.
In Galatians 3:3, Paul shared some strong concerns he had with believers who started out basing their standing before God upon His work, but then ended up basing it upon their works.
Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? – Galatians 3:3
So it’s important to remember that a daily time of reading God’s Word, is not something we do to stay saved, rather it is something we do to stay safe!
After all, why do we want to help our children develop a love for God’s Word? Is it so they look like good Christians? Is it so others are impressed at how “spiritual” our children are? Or is it because we know that above everything else, they must learn to read, study, and submit to God’s Word in all things, so that it will go well with them?
It’s crucial that we begin with the right foundations. Here are some of the most important Biblical principles we need to teach our children:
1. God is the ultimate authority in our lives. (Deut 4:39)
2. God has given us His Word to help us know and understand His character, His will and His direction for our lives. (Ps 119:105, John 1:1)
3. The Bible is unlike any other book in the world, because it is “living and active”. In other words, when we open our Bibles, God opens His mouth! (Heb 4:12)
4. The Bible gives us all of the answers and direction we need to live lives that are pleasing to God. (2 Tim 3:16-17)
5. We won’t always feel like reading our Bibles, but when we do it out of respect for the fact that God knows best, we are blessed. (John 8:31-32)
Here are some practical pointers, to help our children develop the BEST habit in the world (reading God’s Word):
DEVELOP AN APPETITE – If your children see you reading God’s Word often, and looking to God’s Word for answers and direction, they will follow your example. The more you read the Word to your children (such as during times of family worship), the more they will develop a hunger and healthy familiarity to it. If the whole family read daily, it won’t seem unusual for your child to follow that pattern for themselves.
START EARLY – As soon as your child can read, buy them their very own Bible. We make a big deal of this in our family because it helps to communicate that the highest use of their new ability, is that of reading God’s Word.
DECIDE ON A VERSION – It will be very helpful for your children to read the same version now, that they will read when they are older. It makes sense, especially when memorizing Scripture, to not have to “re- learn” verses in a different version at a later date.
SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS – Try to avoid starting a child out with the expectation that they need to read 5 chapters of the Bible each day, as that will just burn them out! Encourage them to read systematically (verse by verse), not erratically (different part of the Bible each day). It’s better that they read one verse, and understand it, than a whole chapter that just goes over their heads.
TEACH THEM HOW TO READ THE BIBLE – We must remember to teach our children how to read God’s Word, knowing the difference between narrative, poetry, epistles etc. A great resource for this is “Understanding the Bible in 30 Days” by Max Anders. Encourage them to prayerfully read and apply what they learn, (e.g. Lord please help me to be patient with my siblings) extracting principles for living and truths about God.
GET FEEDBACK – Something that helps to stimulate our children’s Bible reading, and allows us to see how they are going, is to ask them to share something they have read recently, or that day over breakfast or dinner. It also “normalises” the habit of reading God’s Word.
SHEPHERD THE HEART – Talk with your children often about the importance of God’s Word, and also the realities and challenges of keeping it central in our lives. Coming alongside and sharing how you neglect to read your Bible at times, and how you don’t always feel like doing it, really helps your children to know you are human too!
We don’t need to fear that encouraging our children to develop a “habit” of reading God’s Word, will hinder them from actually enjoying and valuing it. Helping them to develop the discipline at a young age, will make it so much easier for them as they grow older. As we communicate regularly about the God we are reading about, and as we worship Him in our families and make Him central in our lives, our children’s understanding and love for both the God of the Word, and the Word of God will grow. Above all, let the example you give to your children be that of someone who sincerely loves God, and His Word, and your children are far more likely to follow in your footsteps.
Kris Baines is married to Becky, and they home-educate their 7 children in Rolleston. Kris works as a pastor, paramedic, and composer. He also runs a ministry aimed at encouraging Christian men. For more information see http://www.psalmtwelveone.org.nz, or http://www.krisbaines.com. Kris can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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