Should We Require Bible Reading for Our Kids?

The Tension 
I recently read a good article from Ordinary Pastor (Erik Raymond), called Is Mandated Bible Reading Healthy for Kids? This is a common question, especially among evangelical Christian parents. In this question is a tension between the need to disciple and train, versus being too stringent and legalistic. Not requiring Bible reading can lead to spiritual ignorance, while over-demanding it can lead to discouragement.

A Few Challenges
One common challenge is the age range between kids. This author has children spanning from 20 months to 16 years. Another friend of ours with 5 children (teens down to preschool) has come to the conclusion that they basically have 2 groups of children for which to do family devotions. We “only” have three children, but our older two (ages 9 and 7) are definitely at a much deeper level than our 4 year old.

Another challenge is time. Leading your children in spiritual formation, including Bible reading, will require a commitment. (Confession: that I fail at this far too often.) Whether it’s time in the morning, at dinner, or before bed is not the main issue; the key is just to do something.

Once you realize the need to teach your children the Bible, and have committed time to do this, you are probably wondering what you should do. The author of the article referenced above uses a mixture of family Bible reading, catechisms, and personal devotion and journaling time.

With my older kids, they do their 3-day-a-week Bible reading plan from the bookmarks (see this page, and look under Elementary) they get in Camp Grace, using the ROAD method. It is usually pretty basic, but I am so thankful that they are learning how things that I didn’t until I was 12-15 years older than they are. Sometimes at night, we read a passage of Scripture; currently we are slowly making our way through the Sermon on the Mount (you can read about how it has connected with our lives, as we seek to be salt and light). 

With Sender, I often get him to draw a picture of a Bible story in his own notebook, and then at night (or afternoon nap time) we’ll use a story book Bible. Often Joanna reads to him, sometimes I do, and sometimes Hannah or Elijah will. It’s a great opportunity for them to take spiritual ownership.

In the past, we have used Family Night material from Heritage Builders; we probably went through 8 or 10 different books in total. More recently, I have used Big Truths for Young Hearts, which I highly recommend as a resource if you have kids from mid-elementary through teenage years.

As you can see, there are lots of options. Again, just do something.

Objections and Warnings
Will mandating Bible reading discourage children? Well, it could, of course. But we must remember that we parents are responsible to expose our children to as much Bible as possible. And this is not just about knowing Bible stories, but how it connects with their real lives.

Another motivation from Erik Raymond is his desire to proclaim that their “home is going to reflect traditional Christian values and practices.” This does not make those who live there Christians. But parents must not be ashamed or fearful to proclaim God’s word.

We must always be attentive that we are not producing mere moralists. Children need to be reminded that Bible reading is not a way to earn God’s favor, but is a way to respond to His unmerited love by seeking Him. “The answer to this [tendency for mechanical obedience] is the continual restating of the gospel by the parents.”

No matter what the ages of our kids, we need to teach them to read and study God’s word. No matter what time of day or how long we have, the responsibility is ours. But we also need to have the mindset that over time, the ownership must be transferred to our kids. God has to be working in their heart.

As I wrote in EOL: The Splint and Spiritual Disciplines, disciplines such as Bible study provide a means (but not the power) for God to work in a person's soul.

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1 comment :

  1. Wow, great ideas, Joey -- thanks! I've been trying to gather up resources for our families at church and our own family. I've heard a lot about Family Nights with Heritage Builders. Will have to check it out more.

    Lindsey @