Hi! Over the next two posts I am going to talk about how to read the Bible with your kids. In the first post I will talk about our attitude towards reading the Bible and how that models to our kids. Then in the second post, next week I will talk about some practical ideas for reading the Bible specifically with little ones.
Reading the Bible with kids can be extremely difficult, especially if you have difficulty reading the Bible yourself. But few of us Christians would deny that this is a practical discipline that should be encouraged in our young people. It is really important to me that I don’t try and guilt you into this, I know how difficult it can be to read the Bible I am a Christian as well, and I find it challenging. My work, as a Pastor means I spend a great deal of time in God’s word, but when it comes to my own personal-life Bible reading I find it a challenge. For me, i spend so much time of it in “work mode”, researching, studying and applying it to myself and others that I find it hard to separate that disciplined side of it from the sheer pleasure or reading the greatest love story ever told.
I also know that before I got into Pastoral ministry I struggled with the you have to study this mentality of Bible reading, as soon as that mindset sets in Bible reading goes from being a godly discipline to a chore which discourages our reading of God’s word.
I want to stop there, and say that this is not the approach this blog will take. Instead, this blog’s approach to how to read the Bible is that reading God’s word is something we do for 4 reasons:
- We believe that it is God’s word, and the primary way he speaks to us and others.
- Because it is God’s word we think what it has to say is valuable
- It is a great read
- It has the power to change our lives.
These reasons all work together to shape a different perspective. Not a Have to perspective but this is important perspective. If you have to do something, it is not necessarily important or valuable, but instead a mandatory requirement. Because Have to lacks any inherent value it moves quickly into the chore basket, the guilt basket and the I hate this basket. If this sort of trajectory occurs then we begin modelling that for our children.
Our children will see that we don’t seem to like reading the Bible, that we find it a chore, that it is boring and they will come to the same conclusion. And so we need to make sure our attitudes and our practice is right.
Before I continue, I want to highlight that it is vital that we share some our struggles with our children. It is fine and good to share in an appropriate discussion that you find aspects of our faith challenging.
That is good discipleship!
But our actions and the way we address these difficulties will teach our kids far more than our words. If we say that reading the Bible is important to our kids, and then never do it, or do so begrudgingly our kids will smell a rat.
So how do we work on our attitudes, I think first step is that we need to work on a different perspective. By that I mean, that we need to start viewing Bible reading as important, not mandatory. There are so many benefits of reading the Bible: communing with God; being entertained; being confronted by our own nature; being encouraged to persevere; learning about ancient history… The list could go on for ever. We miss out on all these benefits if we have have a Have to attitude to reading the Bible.
So if this is your struggle, then maybe it is time to scale back your approach to the Bible. Pick up a copy of an easy-readers’ Bible like ‘The Message’ and simply read it. Not aiming to get anything specific, not studying it, simply reading God’s word and letting the Spirit lead you. This is especially true if you are not reading the bible at all, because you find it boring, difficulty, a drudge. Scale back your approach and simply have a crack.
Or alternatively, youtube or purchase an Audio Bible and listen to it. The Bible was written to be listened to more than read to oneself, and so that might be a viable option. I often will get the laptop out and play a book of the Bible being read out loud whilst I do the dishes and clean the kitchen. There are some good ones out there, Including full ensemble cast read ones, and one by David Suchet, the actor who plays Poirot.
For some people, reading the Bible is too overwhelming. It is to difficult, or they feel they don’t know how to approach it. For you, it is not a case of it is a chore but instead a case of needing some guidance and wisdom. I recommend simple journal system to get started, and maybe a guided reading book that prompts you on what passages to read next, or simply follow the little headings that many Bibles have. Pick a book of the Bible and then read chapter by chapter, or sub heading by subheading.
In the journal just right the passage you read, and anything that struck you as interesting, challenging, confronting, exciting, etc. you get the drift. This is not about getting it right but simply getting involved, the Holy Spirit will guide you and I guarantee you will get something out of it simply by reading and reflecting. Finally at the bottom of the page leave a space for questions, or things you didn’t understand so that you can approach a mature Christian to seek some answers, or if you are feeling confident research it yourself.
A third element is to remove the chore element it is important to remove the guilt of missing a days bible reading. A balance needs to be found between making this a regular thing you do, and this is a rigid chore. To cultivate the attitude of this is important, try and schedule time in your life where you will do this. set aside a time in your diary, or your week that you are going to do this (like you might for meeting regularly with a friend; or movie night; or going to the gym). by setting a regular time to do this (doesn’t matter if it is 1 or 2 days a week, or daily what is important is that it is maintainable) that you know that at this time you will be able to get the best out of this. Just before bed may not be the best time, because if you are like me you are probably wrecked and unable to focus. I find mid morning or mid afternoon to be best, such as during morning tea break or afternoon tea break because I have some food and coffee so my attention levels are on the rise again and I am able to engage with it.
Finally, if you are trying to work out how to read the Bible, pray about it! Ask the Holy Spirit to change your perspective that you may delight in God’s word. God is the one who promises to shape us into Godly people, so enlist his help not do it on our own speed.
I hope this is helpful, in next weeks post I will focus on some practical ways of how to read the Bible as a regular part of your family’s life. But until then, remember our attitudes towards something will shape our experience of it, and model for our kids what their experience is. If we see something as important we will delight in doing it, and so will they. If we see something as compulsory we will find it a chore and a drudge, and a so will they.