What if I told you your child was only going to learn less than nine letters of the alphabet at school? If that is all your child ever learned, how well would they cope in the world? Would they struggle more than if they had learned the entire alphabet and could read more? Would the missing letters cause gaps in their knowledge?
A very conservative estimate is that there are 250-300 stories in the Bible. Some are only a verse or two. In addition, there are Psalms, Proverbs and other passages that would not exactly qualify as a story, but have tremendous meaning and wisdom to give us. Yet even if your children have Bible class twice a week for their entire childhood, in most cases they are getting less than 20% of the information in the Bible shared with them. Even children attending private Christian schools are not covering everything in the Bible.
Now if your child were only taught a percentage of the alphabet, at first you might attempt to get the school to step up and teach more. The parents who realized the value of knowing the entire alphabet wouldn’t wait for something to change. They would take the time to teach their children the missing letters so their kids would get everything they could out of life.
Yet Christian parents rarely seem concerned their children know the very smallest fraction of the most important book ever written. One would assume God put everything in the Bible we would need to live a godly life. If we are really familiar with scripture, we can learn about the nature of God, what He expects from us, how to get to Heaven, how to live the fullest/ richest life possible, how to please God, how to avoid a host of problems caused by sin and more. Unfortunately, our kids can’t have all of that wisdom because we don’t teach it to them and we don’t teach them to value learning it independently.
So how can we reverse the trend of Biblical illiteracy? There are a lot of things that can be done, but here are some ideas to get you started:
- Get an easy to read (but accurate) translation like the NIrV for your family. Spend time daily sharing Bible stories at first, but as your children grow older, be sure to include Psalms, Proverbs and passages that aren’t stories.
- Make sure your children know more than just the basic twenty or thirty stories covered by most churches. Seek out the obscure, often short and unusual stories. I have found even Christian private schools often omit these seemingly minor stories, which often are rich in wisdom.
- Become involved in the children’s and youth ministries in your church. Raise awareness of the small amount of actual Bible exposure the children and teens are receiving.Even many of what used to be considered “basic” Bible stories are rarely taught in most churches. More obscure ideas like minor prophets, Jewish holidays, Psalms, New Testament letters and more are usually ignored – leaving huge gaps in Bible knowledge. Suggest ways to expose the young people in your church to more scripture. Remember, you may study the Bible at home, but many “church” children aren’t receiving any Bible teaching or reading outside of services. We need all children to be exposed to everything God offers us in the Bible.
- Realize there are several levels of Bible learning and each has a value. (More about that in a couple of days.) In general, you want your kids to know the basic facts of the story or passage, the principles God wants us to learn from the story, and how to apply those principles in their lives today.
- Remember, your goal is to have your children love to read the Bible as much or actually more than you want them to love to read in general. Well educated parents know the value of a love of reading. They will jump through all sorts of hoops to make sure their children read well and love to read. They know reading can often make the difference in whether or not you have a successful life (by worldly standards). Christian parents need to develop the same passion for making sure their children can read and understand the Bible well and actually love to read the Bible. I suggest the Bible wants us to also encourage memorization or at least enough familiarity so God’s Words are firmly planted on the hearts of our children.
- Don’t be afraid to learn with your children. You don’t have to have read the Bible yourself to start on this journey. I have heard of illiterate parents using their child’s education and learning to read while their child was. Pull out the Bible and learn the stories as you share them with your children. Discuss together your ideas of what God wants us to learn and how you all can apply it to your lives today. If you get stuck, there are plenty of Christians who will be more than happy to help you.
There are a lot of public service campaigns to end illiteracy. I challenge you to join me in a campaign to stop Biblical illiteracy. As we all know, any successful campaign usually begins at home. In my next post, I will give you some practical tips for studying the Bible with your children.