Top Tips for Raising Bible Readers

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.

Teaching Your Children About Promises

In the movie Mary Poppins, there is a scene when one of the characters makes a promise that Mary knows won’t be kept. She calls it a “pie crust promise” – easily made and easily broken. Sadly many of us are guilty of making pie crust promises and it undermines our trustworthiness. If your children get in the habit of making promises and not keeping them, their lives will have little integrity.

There is an interesting verse in the Bible – Matthew 5:37. At the heart of this verse is that Christians should be so honest and trustworthy, that if they merely say “yes” or “no”, everyone will believe they are telling the truth and that they will follow through on promises if they are involved.

Unfortunately, parents are often the worst at making pie crust promises. It seems easier to say “maybe next week” instead of “no”. We want to avoid the potential conflict, whining or acting out the word “no” may inspire in oir kids. So we lie, in hopes that when the promised time comes, they will have forgotten. But children are smart. Eventually they figure out our stalling techniques are actually lies. That in turn can undermine their trust in us and encourage them to make their own pie crust promises.

Have regular conversations with your children about honesty, integrity and promise keeping. Point out that the promises we make to God when we become a Christian and the promises we say at weddings are extremely important to keep. With older children and teens, talk about those promises and the damage that is done when they are broken. Encourage your children to notice what happens in their hearts and minds when someone breaks a promise to them. Caution them to never make a promise they know they won’t keep and to apologize and atone when circumstances prevent them from keeping a promise.

As time goes on, point out to your children the promises God makes to us. Note that since God hates lies, He will always keep His promises. You may want to point out various prophecies and their fulfillment. Let them make scripture art of some of God’s promises that encourage them.

If you want to raise children who are honest and trustworthy, teaching them to keep promises is an important part of that training. If they learn that lesson, it can even make your job parenting them easier!

Fun Way to Teach Your Kids How to Fact Check Religious Statements

When it comes to God, Jesus, Christianity and the Bible there is a lot of information your children can access that is not only inaccurate, but may even be purposely designed to undermine their growing faith. With a generation who can find the “answers” to any question in seconds, the internet can be a spiritual mine field.

Part of the answer is to teach your children how to fact check anything they read or hear by what is written in the Bible. While just telling them that multiple times might be simpler, having a fun interactive family devotional may make a better impact. Begin by looking at familiar Bible story from a different angle.

In Genesis 27, we find the familiar story of Jacob deceiving Isaac in order to receive Jacob’s blessing. Instead of telling the story from the perspective of Jacob and Esau, ask your children what Isaac believed was true when Jacob came to him dressed as Esau. How do they think he felt when he realized he had been tricked? Ask them to think of a time when they thought something was true, only to find out later it was not. What problems did it cause them when they believed the lie?

Explain that sometimes when we believe a lie, we are merely embarrassed when we discover the truth. Other times, the lie can cause major negative consequences in our lives when we believe it. Tell them this is especially true when we believe lies about God, Jesus, Christianity and the Bible. Those lies are dangerous because Satan can use them to weaken our faith if we are not careful.

Explain that sometimes the ”deceptions”aren’t on purpose. The person may have remembered the details wrong or misunderstood something. Even though the person did not mean to deceive us, it can still cause problems.

Other times though, people purposefully tell us lies because they want us to stop believing in God and obeying Him. Their motives may vary, but Satan will use their lies to try and convince God is not worth worshipping and obeying. If we believe those lies, we can suffer catastrophic negative consequences.

The easiest example to find is often in illustrations of Noah’s Ark. Point out the description of the Ark and the number of animals in it. Ask them to look at the illustration and find the errors in it. (Usually illustrations have too many windows and show only one pair of every type of animal.) While this is an example of people not remembering to fact check before creating their art, there are other examples around us everywhere – some of which are more sinister.

How you continue the activity depends upon the age of your children. Little ones can look at other illustrations of Bible stories or watch Bible story videos for children. Have them point out not only the mistakes, but the places where the artist added information that is not in the Bible. (Sometimes that doesn’t change the meaning of the story, but other times it can change one’s understanding of it.)

With older children and teens, you might explore Google searches for religious questions and discover how many answers are totally different from what the Bible teaches. Have them watch normal content and listen for statements characters make about God, Jesus, Christianity and the Bible that are wrong. Point out that often these errors are stated by characters that are supposedly Christian to make them more believable.

End the devotional by reminding them to check out everything anyone says to them about faith matters by comparing it to scripture. You can also have follow up times when you teach them how to find the information they need in the Bible quickly. Teaching your kids to fact check every religious statement they hear or read can prevent them from believing one of Satan’s lies.

Fun Activity to Teach Kids About God’s Purposes

One of the interesting things about being a Christian is that sometimes while two things may seem the same, the one tied to God’s Will has different purposes. For example, a Christian and a non-Christian can help someone in need. Both may even claim they do it because they love the person. But for the Christian, there is an even deeper purpose – to point the person to God in hopes that they may one day decide to follow Him.

There is a fun family devotional you can do that will engage your children over a period of time, while also giving you opportunities to discuss God’s purposes with them. You will need a very large container of salt and a similar size one of baking soda, a Tupperware type container with a lid, a gutted fish and some rubbing alcohol. You may also wish to have some herbs that smell good.

Call your children together and ask them what they know about Egypt. Ask them if they know what a mummy is. Explain that the Israelites lived in Egypt for several hundred years. Joseph knew, however, that eventually the Israelites would return to the land promised to them by God. He wanted his body to be buried in his family cave when they returned. In order to perhaps make that easier and because they were living in Egypt, the Bible tells us they mummified his body. (Read them Exodus 50:26. Note that the body of Jacob was also mummified and carried back to the family tomb while Joseph was still alive.)

Explain that for the Egyptians mummification had to do with their false worship of manmade gods. They believed the person needed to have in his or her tomb what they would need in the afterlife. That included a well preserved body and their organs in a separate jar! Yet God’s purpose for the instructions Joseph gave about his body were different. He knew God would provide everything he needed in Heaven. His mummy and the request to take it with them when they left Egypt forever would serve God’s purpose of reminding the Israelites that the hardships they endured as slaves in Egypt would not last forever. One day they would take the mummified body back with them when they returned to the Promised Land to live.

Show your children the gutted fish. Explain that you are going to mummify the fish to better understand mummification and how it preserves living things. Show them how the organs have been taken out of the fish. Explain that the Egyptians removed all of the organs from the body because they might rot during the mummification process and ruin the mummy. They were usually placed in a jar near the mummy.

Rub the fish inside and out with rubbing alcohol (make sure your kids wash their hands well if they touch the fish). Mix enough salt and baking soda to cover the fish at a 50/50 ratio. Place some of the mixture on the bottom of the Tupperware container, then put the fish on top of the mixture. Cover the fish with the remaining salt/baking soda mixture, making sure every part of the fish is inside of the mixture.

Place the top on the container. You may want to place herbs near it to reduce any odors, just like burials in Bible times. Check the fish once a week and place it in a fresh salt and baking soda mixture. Full mummification looks like dehydration. It may take several weeks depending upon the size of the fish.

While you are mummifying the fish, talk about some of God’s purposes for Christians. What are some things we do that might look the same as what other people are doing, but have a deeper purpose given to us by God? Point out that most parents correct their children and give consequences when they disobey. For Christian parents, it is deeper than just correcting behavior, however. God’s purpose for Christians is for them to have “soft hearts” that obey, worship and serve Him. Your correction has a deeper purpose – to keep their hearts soft for God – instead of becoming hard, selfish and stubborn.

Each week when you change the mixture, revisit the topic. Share another story from the Bible when God had a deeper purpose for something. Other examples of pointing the people to the coming Messiah, like Jonah and the big fish, make great examples, but the Bible is full of them. Remember to also discuss the deeper purposes God has for the things they do in their lives.

God’s purposes are abstract and difficult for children to understand. Regularly discussing them and relating them back to the mummy of Joseph and the mummy you are creating can help them begin to understand the concept.

Christian Parenting on Offense

On every football team, there is an offense and a defense. Successful teams usually have an offense and defense that are both strong. If they have a strong defense but no offense, they will still lose because they fail to score. If the coach is so fearful of the other team scoring that he only focuses on defense, his team will rarely be successful.

Christian parenting can be like football. We can become so concerned with protecting our children from the evil in the world, that we forget to prepare them to go on offense against that evil. Don’t get me wrong. A strong defense is crucial in Christian parenting. (In fact, many parents need to work on strengthening their defense, too.) From a child’s – and especially a teen’s viewpoint – Christian parenting that is only defense appears very negative and restrictive. It’s unbalanced with the positiveness of also parenting for offense. No wonder many young people view Christianity as a never ending list of don’ts and can’ts.

When you also Christian parent on the offense, your parenting is more balanced and your kids get a healthier, more accurate view of the Christian life. So what elements are included in a Christian parenting offense?

  • Preparation to explain their beliefs in ways that can be heard. Christian parenting offense means your kids are equipped to answer questions others may ask about their beliefs. They don’t have to know all of the answers, but they should feel comfortable answering common questions. They should also know how to find accurate, biblical answers when they don’t know them. Apologetics materials can help you teach and train your children in this area. Remember, their answers should always be given with love, even when sharing hard truths.
  • Preparation to ask questions that build relationships and open doors to faith sharing and service. Some children will learn this skill more easily than others, but even the most introverted child should be able to carry on a friendly, bridge building conversation.
  • Gift discovery, development and use. Every child has at least one concrete gift God has given them to serve God. For some children, this talent (don’t worry about spiritual gifts for now, focus on concrete talents) is easily identified. For others, it may take experimenting with several possible talents before finding the ones God gave them. Help your children discover these gifts and find ways to not only develop them, but also use them to serve God… NOW.
  • Preparation for sharing their faith. Do your children know the overarching story of the Bible? Can they explain why Jesus needed to come to Earth? Can they sketch out the life of Jesus? Are they able to explain in detail the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus? Can they explain what someone needs to do to become a Christian? Are they able to explain what a disciple of Christ living a Christian life “looks like”? Can they explain the positive difference being a Christian has made in their lives?
  • Ability to discern the felt needs of others and find ways to serve them (while also sharing their faith or strengthening the person’s faith). Many Christians are like the priest in the story of the Good Samaritan… they either block out or choose not to notice when others are in need. But truly serving others requires discernment as well as noticing needs. What people think they need and what they really need may be very different indeed. Your children need to be the ones who notice needs and find ways for those people to be served. They may not be able to meet each need personally, but they need to know how to partner with others in their congregation to get the needs of others met.
  • Practice in spiritual disciplines. For your children to be healthy spiritually, they need to regularly engage in prayer, Bible study, Christian fellowship, scripture refection and more. Don’t make them sound like chores, but activities that will help them reach the full potential God gave them.
  • Development of a passion for fulfilling their mission from God. Passion can’t be taught, but it can be caught. If you are passionate about serving God, worshipping and obeying Him, serving others and sharing your faith, your children are very likely to catch that passion, too.

Have you been playing only defense in your Christian parenting? It’s time to add some offense to your coaching. It can make a huge difference in the Christians your children become.