Children who experience Bible engagement as a regular slice of family life are more likely to love and live for Jesus through adulthood than children who don’t. This isn’t conjecture, it’s fact.
If you take parents from any denomination, with the same levels of faith and frequency of attendance, the parents who prioritize Bible engagement in their homes are the ones who are more likely to see their children committing themselves to Jesus and staying connected with a community of faith.
Bible engagement makes all the difference. When parents, together with their children, read, reflect, and respond to the Bible, it provides a rock-solid foundation for faith (cf. Matthew 7:24-27). But when Bible engagement is neglected in the home, children are more likely to turn their back on Jesus and leave the church.
For parents concerned about the spiritual wellbeing of their children, the answer is simple: Make Bible engagement part of daily life. Here are some ways to do this:
Generate regular discussions about the Word. Families who frequently talk about the Scriptures open the door for Jesus to enter in
Create and maintain a “sacred space” in the home. This is a designated place where a member of the family can sit and quietly read/listen to God’s Word
Make sure your children see you reading/listening to the Bible. This communicates non-verbally that contemplating or studying God’s Word is one of your daily priorities and core values
Make the Scriptures visible. For example, handwritten verses on sticky notes on the fridge door, or send verses as text messages to older children who have phones
Memorize Scripture. Make it a monthly challenge for the whole family (maybe practice together each night after supper)
Watch Bible videos/films together
Have Bible comics or graphic adaptations of the Bible sitting on a coffee table where they’re more likely to be picked up and read
Look for unplanned opportunities (teachable moments) to share biblical insights with your children
For churches concerned about the spiritual wellbeing of children, the answer is also simple: Equip parents with Bible engagement strategies and tools. Here are some ways to do this:
Train parents in basic Bible engagement practices, i.e., how to interpret, teach, apply, and pray the Scriptures
Invite families to share testimonies with the congregation about how they meet with God as a direct result of the Bible engagement that happens in their homes
Publicly champion the role of parents as the primary disciple-makers in their children’s lives
Practically encourage and build parents confidence so they can thrive in leading family Bible engagement
Parents and churches need to work together. Bible engagement is the single most important spiritual discipline in the faith development of our children. So we can’t let Bible engagement fall through the cracks. If family Bible engagement isn’t happening in the home, everything possible should be done to make it a priority.
Many Christian parents want to raise their children in the way of the Lord, but see it as a daunting task – especially when they don’t know what to do or how to do it. So here are some suggestions concerning family Bible engagement:
Make the Bible accessible. Remarkably, in many Christian homes, the Bible isn’t readily available. Children are naturally curious. If the Bible is left sitting on the kitchen table and they see you regularly opening and reading it, they’ll be more likely to open and read it too. “We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about his power and his mighty wonders” Psalm 78:4 (NLT).
Draw them into the Story. Children love stories and the Bible is full of them (80% of the Bible is narrative). With children up to 12 years of age you should mainly share the Gospel stories and aim to help them see Jesus and His phenomenal love for them, because this is where Christian faith begins. “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” Psalm 119:130 (NIV).
Be enthusiastic. Many years ago our family was invited to dinner with another family. When we’d finished eating the father pulled out the KJV and began to read. He read for about 10 minutes in a way that had me praying for the agony to end! Since then I’ve always told parents to use a version of the Bible with contemporary language and to read it with a voice that suitably dramatizes the text and gets the children wanting to hear more.
Lead them to Jesus. Above all else, family Bible engagement should be Jesus engagement. When you open the Bible, do so in a way that opens a window through which your children can see Jesus. The primary aim of family Bible engagement should be nothing less than to see the beauty, glory, grace, and awesomeness of Jesus.
Share the adventure. Jump in – boots and all! Think of family Bible engagement as a quest, i.e. the pursuit of Jesus. There’s no perfect way to do family Bible engagement, but when imperfect people journey together in the Word, amazing and exciting things happen. “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” Luke 11:28 (NIV).
Incorporate object lessons. Jesus constantly used familiar examples from everyday life in His preaching and teaching. Object lessons, properly used, capture the children’s attention and helps them connect the dots to a biblical truth. Here’s where Google is helpful – simply search for “Kids object lesson on …………. (insert topic)” and you’ll discover lots of ideas.
Engage the senses. Family Bible engagement should incorporate all five senses. Sight and sound are more commonly used in Bible engagement, so it usually requires a little creative preparation to integrate taste, touch and smell. For example, when reading about Jesus being the “bread of life” (cf. John 6:35) you can employ all the senses by eating some freshly baked bread.
Look for teachable moments (unplanned opportunities to provide insight and understanding). Keep your eyes peeled and your ears open to what’s happening in the lives of your children. God’s Word will come alive for children when you sense and seize on everyday happenings in their lives as openings to instruct and apply biblical truth.
Rely on the Holy Spirit. Bible engagement isn’t a solo affair. The One who is the Word teaches children the Word. He will also direct you as you connect your family with the Word. So make it your responsibility to draw your children to the Word, and trust Him to open their hearts and minds to Him. “The Spirit shows what is true and will come and guide you into the full truth: John 16:13 (CEV).
Pray the Scriptures. Children should pray the Word as naturally as they read the Word. When children pray the Word it transforms their hearts. Which is why prayer should never be rushed and the content should be closely aligned with what’s been gleaned from a text/passage.
While much more could be said, there’s probably enough in the points above to help you and your family meet with Jesus in and through His Word. Regardless of whether you incorporate all or some of the suggestions for family Bible engagement, don’t hold back from doing everything you can do to help your family grow in their love for the Word and for the One who is the Word, Jesus Christ.