As parents, we want our children to grow into their own experience of the Christian faith and, more importantly, deep relationship with God that is a wellspring of joy and strength and peace. As a family ministries director, I heard often from teachers and parents how ill-equipped they felt to teach children. For, they knew so little scripture themselves and had questions without answers. They would think, “How could I teach a child about God?!” Yet, children’s faith is dependent upon adults, particularly their parents, being brave and sharing with them. But how? There is one very simple practice that you can do at home that will give life to your faith as well as your children’s faith.
Ready to hear it? Cue drum roll.
Read the Bible together.
It’s so simple, we forget to consider it. And since it’s right there under our nose, we miss it! You may be thinking what a silly thing to devote an entire post to. But is it, really?
According to Christianity Today, in the U.S., where ICM is based, 40 percent of regular church-goers only read their Bible once or twice a month. Furthermore, 20 percent never read it. This is true even though 9 out of 10 homes in the United States have at least one Bible. And Huffington Post reports that the average house has 4.4 Bibles. Let’s be honest, the Bible is at our fingertips with easy access to it online all day every day. Yet, these statistics persist.
How did we get here?
If your family is anything like mine, you’re busy! It can feel like the road of life zooms by and there’s little time for investing in your children’s faith when you’re working full-time with contract work on top of that, taking care of the kids and dog, getting everyone to daycare and school, getting to sports and rehearsals and play dates, keeping everyone clothed and fed and healthy, navigating marriage and extended family struggles, volunteering if you’re lucky enough to, getting the library books back on time, planning that holiday travel, checking in on homework, getting to church as much as you can, keeping up on what’s happening in the world, getting the cars in for service, repairing that leak. My heart rate rises just typing out the narrative so many live and breathe every week. It’s no wonder there’s a struggle to get Bible-reading into the mix.
Additionally, over the last century, there has been increasing emphasis placed on the professionalization of ministry. This has created an off-loading of spiritual formation to paid clergy and at the same time a disenfranchisement of parents as their children’s primary spiritual guides. Many parents feel like they don’t know enough to nurture their children’s faith. There is hesitance, therefore, for parents to take an active part in the development of their children’s relationship with God. But, really, what better way to learn than while exploring scripture and its importance in our lives with your children?
Why is this simple practice valuable for your children’s faith?
- Places us within God’s ecology: As we learn the stories of our spiritual ancestors, we place ourselves in God’s ever-unfolding story. In this, we find our value, purpose, peace, and faith.
- Leads to theological reflection: As we read scripture it brings up questions we have about the world and about who God is. This helps us make sense of our lives.
- Brings up questions: You will get to know what your children are wrestling with as they wonder with you about the scripture you’re reading.
- Teaches of human nature: So much of scripture tells us more about human nature than the nature of God. We learn who we are and whose we are when we read the Bible.
- Opens the way for important content: As we read with our children, we find important conversations opening up and we are allowed the opportunity to pass on valuable wisdom to them.
- Places parents as primary spiritual guides for their children: Be brave. Parents have a deep intuition about what their children need and God is faithful in our quest to nurture them spiritually.
- Offers a framework for living: Reading scripture teaches us God’s ways of peace, justice, kindness, compassion, forgiveness. These are things our world needs desperately.
How Do We Do It?
Reading the Bible with you children can feel like an overwhelming or time-consuming task. However, think of the possibilities! Perhaps it’s as simple as reading a Bible story or part of one or even simply a verse before bed in place of one of your children’s bedtime stories? Or perhaps you begin meal time with a Bible verse. No time for reading together? How about getting an audio Bible to play as you and the kids drive around town or to that distant softball tournament? Your investment in their spiritual development will create a spark in your children’s lives that can give way to a lifetime of sustaining warmth from their faith. For even more ideas, head over to our recent post for six incredibly easy ways of reading the Bible with your kids!