If you are a Christian parent, you (like me) really long for your child to love God's Word. Sometimes it seems like so many things crowd in for your child's attention that finding time to read and reflect on the Bible can be tough. If the Bible is God's Word and if a relationship with Him is centered around knowing Him through His Word, then stirring up a love for reading the Bible is critical. If you are like me, you might have tried just about everything from assignments to background recordings! Here are a few do's and don'ts from someone still working on getting this one right:
Do #1: Read the Bible Yourself
I heard that in a recent study on children's reading habits it was discovered that children whose parents read in their presence had the same interest level in reading as parents who read to their children. Did you catch that? Children will not be fooled. If you say that reading the Bible is critical, then act like it and set aside time to read it yourself. I have my Bible reading time in my home office in the morning–often before my kids wake up. I try, however, to have my door open so that when they stumble into my office (and they often do) they can see that I am reading and praying. My wife has her reading time at the kitchen table. She has it just as I am walking out the door with the kids for school. This has a great impact!
Do #2: Read the Bible when Family is Together
This is particularly important when the children are young. This, however, can be done profitably or poorly. Here are some tried and true hints. First, the younger the children are the more you should read the "story" or history parts of the Bible. Kids love stories. (Really, we all love stories!) God filled up most of the Old Testament with stories. On the flip side don't read too many epistles or sacrificial instructions with the youngest ones. If you do, make it bite sized. Second, have some time to explain things and answer questions. Your kids will come up with the darnedest questions! If you don't know the answer, be humble and tell them that you will try to find an answer. Finally, don't read too much. Read enough to keep the context of the story, but little ones are not ready to sit and listen for long periods of time–especially if they have had to sit still at school all day.
Do #3: Use the Time after Church to Talk about What You Learned
Worship forms our lives and hearts. At church, you spend time listening to teaching from God's Word. Guard the time after church for fellowship and a nice family meal. That time is also a great time to talk about what you all just heard in the sermon. It is amazing what your children will grasp and what they might misunderstand. Don't rip on the pastor or gripe about some small point. If your pastor talks about the spiritual gifts, talk with your children about what gifts they see being grown up in their lives or what spiritual gifts they see in the lives of their siblings or parents. Talk with them about what you learned. In some churches the children and parents are separate during worship and this makes this discussion harder or different. (This might be a good reason to have your children with you in worship as soon as you can.) If you are separate, however, compare notes. Talk with them about what you heard and have them talk about what they learned. Praise them or even give them a piece of candy if they listen well! While this might seem like a bribe, remind them that God's Word is sweet. It is the root of our lives. It is how we can know about Jesus and His love for us.
Now, these techniques do not guarantee perfect success or sinless perfection–far from it. It is God's Spirit that softens hearts and moves us to love. The Spirit works through the Word and these techniques can help your children be in the neighborhood where the Spirit works.