I’m a father of three young kids. I can’t think of many things more important for them than regular exposure to the living Word of God. If you’re a Christian parent of young children, I assume you share the same conviction: Your kids need to hear from God, and you long for them to listen carefully to his good Word.
But it’s hard. Life is busy, kids are lively, and reading the Bible often struggles to compete with the Disney channel, Legos, and the newest phone app.
Here are six tips my wife and I have found helpful in our rhythm of Bible reading with our young kids (currently 6, 5, and 3).
1. Pick a regular time and place for Bible reading.
In general, children tend to love a routine—a regular, anticipated time with Mom and/or Dad associated with a particular activity. Sporadic and random Bible reading may not engage your children in the same way a regular, planned, prioritized “special” time will.
In our home, we’ve chosen the chunk of time before bed for Bible reading. Our two older children know that, in the 15 to 20 minutes before bed, we’re going to gather in their room to read a Bible story, discuss it together, and pray. They’ve come to look forward to it, and it’s become as regular and natural a process as brushing their teeth. It may even help them sleep better, as many bedtime routines seem to.
2. Read short chunks.
Some of us will have to guard against being overly ambitious in the beginning. Since we believe in the power of God’s Word, we want our children exposed to as much of it as possible. So we read two full chapters from Genesis each night. Needless to say, a 5-year-old’s eyes will probably start to glaze over.
I encourage you to pick manageable passages, chosen based on thoughtful criteria. You may decide to begin in Genesis, and move through the Bible sequentially. The key is to not rush it, and to think ahead of time about the right “chunks” for each day.
3. Stop to explain and gauge comprehension.
Even if the passage for the day is only one chapter, that can be a lot for a young child to absorb if read all at once. It’s incredibly important to stop often along the way, explain things, ask questions to gauge comprehension, and ensure your kids are following along and grasping what the passage is saying.
4. Think of age-appropriate questions for discussion.
This aspect has become my children’s favorite part of our nightly time together in God’s Word. I’ve begun thinking of a few basic questions for each of them that will help them do three things with the passage we’ve read: (1) solidify their comprehension of the passage, (2) connect it to the Bible’s overall story, and (3) apply it to their lives.
When you ask simple questions, you’re doing much more than “quizzing” them to ensure they were paying attention. You are actually leading them, interactively, in a time of interpreting and applying God’s Word. And you are preparing them to engage the Scriptures directly on their own in the years to come.
5. Connect each passage to Jesus.
Jesus makes an amazing—even shocking—statement to the Pharisees in John 5: “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life. But it is they that bear witness about me.” He is saying, in no uncertain terms, that the Scriptures are centered around him—his incarnation, his life, his teaching, his death, his resurrection, his return.
What does this mean for daily Bible reading with our kids? It means if we’re trying to help them understand any part of the biblical storyline, we must give them a sense of how that part connects to the major character—and great climax—of that big story.
6. Let Bible reading lead to prayer.
Listening to kids who are learning to pray can be humorous. If yours are anything like mine, their prayers can be hilarious in their simplicity and self-focus. God has heard prayers in our home for dogs, movies, imaginary people, and, of course, coveted toys.
If we’re honest, though, our children’s prayers often are really just “kid versions” of our own. We can easily resort to praying only for our needs and wants, rather than spending time praising and adoring God, and asking for his Spirit’s work in the lives of others. One way to grow in our prayer lives, then, is to intentionally tether our prayers to our reading. We can help our kids “talk back” to God daily, based on the ways he’s speaking to them through the Scriptures.
Parents, press on. Daily, prayer-fueled exposure to the Word of God is the best gift we can ever give our kids.