How come it’s easy to read to our kids unless it’s the Bible? If we’re honest with each other, it's not hard to pick up The Chronicles of Narnia or even Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions for Kids. But the Bible? No way.
One of best gifts you can give your kids is the Word of God. However, and I don’t know about you, but there are plenty of times I find myself scratching my head, asking God what a passage means. I wonder how I can expect my kids to understand concepts in the Bible that I'm still trying to figure out myself!
Let’s be honest. Most adults don’t know where to start and are puzzled with how they can make Bible reading exciting and engaging for their family. And if you’ve ever tried to start a family Bible reading routine, my guess is you’ve probably met some resistance from your kids—or at least a good dose of yawns. Feeling ill-equipped, you probably gave up before you really got going. Am I right?
My solution? Try again. Read the Bible with your kids anyway. Not a devotional Bible. Not a storybook Bible. The actual Bible. Now to be clear, there is nothing wrong with story Bibles (they are the training wheels to get kids started). But always read the Bible as well—and there is no better place to start than at the beginning, in Genesis.
You might be tempted to think younger kids won’t “get it” or that their attention span is too short. That may be true to an extent, but don’t sell your kids short. Children retain and understand more than we think. Ask a five-year-old about the movie he just watched, and he will likely give you a minute-by-minute account of the entire thing. Every. Single. Detail.
There are a few simple tactics, however, that you can use to keep your kids engaged when reading the Bible.
For younger kids, ask a lot of questions while you are reading to help them learn to observe the text. Who was chasing David? What happened to the Egyptians when they tried to follow the Israelites through the Red Sea? Let your kids ask questions, too. Define unclear terms, and use illustrations to help clarify difficult concepts.
Also, there is nothing wrong with letting younger kids play with a doll or matchbox cars or even color while you are reading. Simply let them know they have to play quietly while you are reading.
For older kids, peel back the onion a few layers more. Ask deeper questions to help them connect their own life to the story they are reading. Why do you think God allowed for the Israelites to wander in the desert for forty years? How do we see this same thing happening today?
The most important thing is just to do it. Set a time to read the Bible with your kids, and be consistent.
Though you’ll have to deal with “atonement,” “reconciliation,” and even “circumcision,” (and potentially a lot of giggles from younger kids over that last term), you’ll be instilling confidence in your kids to open, read, and understand their own Bibles—and ultimately, helping your kids find their part in God’s grand narrative.
For more ideas on how to instill Bible reading into your family life, consider John Nielson’s new book Bible Reading with Your Kids: A Simple Guide for Every Father