Your children are going to have a tough time living the life God wants for them if they don’t know what’s in the Bible. Even if they attend church and Bible class every Sunday until adulthood, they will only be exposed to a small fraction of scripture. The Apostle John wrote that if they had written down everything Jesus said and did while on Earth, it would fill volumes. It would seem then that the scripture we have is what God felt was important for us to know. Think of it as a complete spiritual education in one book.
Reading scripture daily does more than just give your children instructions for living the Christian life. It can provide comfort and wisdom. It gives them the history they need to make sense of the world. It tells them how to communicate with God and how to get help from Him. The Bible has everything they need to know to lead a rich, full, godly life. In fact, if all the books in the world, except the Bible, suddenly disappeared, your kids would be okay.
Even if your family has been great about having family devotionals and spiritual conversations, you aren’t going to be with your children every moment of every day for the rest of their lives. They have to know what is in scripture and how to find in it what they need. The best way to insure your children turn to scripture as the source of wisdom in their lives is to help them develop the habit of daily Bible reading.
Often, adults make some key mistakes when attempting to help children develop the habit of independent Bible reading and study. These mistakes can cause children to believe the Bible is an extremely difficult and boring book to read. Thankfully, a few simple changes can teach them to enjoy and value daily time in scripture.
So what do you need to know to raise independent Bible readers? Here are some of our favorite tips.
- Get your children an NIrV Bible. There are a lot of different reasons to choose various versions of the Bible and everyone has a favorite. For children and teens, the NIrV (Note the “r” is critical in buying the correct version.) is the easiest to read. Written on a third grade level, the actual process of reading the Bible will be easy – even for struggling readers. To the best of my knowledge, the other versions are anywhere from two to ten reading grade levels higher. Those versions make reading the Bible a frustration text for many young people. Which means the process of reading is so frustrating, the don’t want to even attempt to read it anymore – even when their reading level progresses to that point.
- Buy them paper Bibles. Absolutely, encourage those with phones to put the Bible app on them. Those who want can choose various reading plans in their preferred versions. Educators have found though that what people read from a paper book is remembered better than would the same material if read in ebook form. The NIrV was initially only sold in covers for children, but now you can find it in a variety of adult covers as well.
- Teach them to think of the Bible, not as one huge, overwhelming book, but as a library of books. This will not only make reading the Bible seem less intimidating, but it gives them the opportunity to feel a sense of accomplishment every time they finish reading a book of the Bible.
- Don’t force them to read the Bible sequentially. If they start in Genesis and attempt to read the Bible straight through, most will get bogged down and quit somewhere in Leviticus or Numbers. Instead, encourage them to skip around – focusing on story heavy books at first, like the Gospels, Acts, Ruth, Esther, Kings, Judges, Genesis, etc. Older children and teens often prefer the practicality of books like Proverbs or James. If they are having a tough time emotionally, Psalms can be a great book to read. As they become more comfortable reading and studying scripture independently, you can encourage them to read all of the books they missed.
- Talk about what they read (and what you are reading) in the Bible. This gives you an opportunity to check for comprehension and correct any misunderstandings they may have. This is especially important for young readers who are still concrete thinkers. It also gives you an opportunity to discuss with them how to apply what they have read to their daily lives.
- Consider a chronological Bible (for those with enough experience) who want to read through the entire Bible. You may have noticed some stories in the Bible are repeated with different details or from a different person’s point of view. The books of prophecy aren’t next to the stories of the kings to whom the prophecy was given. A chronological Bible can help young readers because it takes everything from the Bible from one time period and places it all together. There is a little guess work involved for books like Job, but in general, it makes the overarching story of the Bible clearer.
- Encourage them to switch up the amount they read each day occasionally. For children trying to start a new habit of daily Bible reading, a verse or a chapter a day is often the easiest to maintain. In fact remind them regularly, that reading even a verse of scripture a day is better than none at all. Over time though, encourage them to read a book of the Bible the way they might a regular book. Some of the shorter books can be read in one sitting. You can purchase various books of the Bible in book format now, with the chapter and verse numbers missing, so they read more like a regular book. Or help them find a Bible reading plan that is built around a theme of interest to them. Just make sure the daily readings required aren’t too ambitious to be maintained by them.
- Provide study helps and teach them how to use them. Whether you purchase a study Bible, study aids like concordances or show them online resources, it is good for them to know ways they can get help understanding some of the more confusing passages in the Bible. By teaching them about resources you trust, you also minimize the chance they stumble across false teachings in a Google search and believe they are valid.
- Set a good example. I knew if I woke up early at my grandparents’ house, I would catch them reading the Bible. That made an impression on me as a child. Your children will be more likely to develop a habit you have yourself. If you struggle, be honest. Find ways to encourage each other in reading scripture every day.
Giving your children the gift of independent Bible reading will make it easier for them to grow and remain healthy spiritually. It is worth taking the time and effort to help them develop those great habits while they are still young.