“How do you read the Bible with your kids?”
As a mom, I’ve often had this conversation with other Christian parents. We all want to read the Bible with our kids in a transformative, meaningful way that both increases their knowledge of God and also equips them to engage with Scripture as they grow.
For most of us, this is challenging. In addition to the hurdles of chaotic schedules, children’s differing ages, and spiritual opposition, a common obstacle facing families is simply not knowing where to start.
We’re a resource-rich generation with a trove of family-focused, theologically sound materials. But while such supplemental materials are valuable, many parents and caregivers still feel inadequate when it comes to simply opening the pages of Scripture with their children.
With our own kids, my husband and I have utilized a simple Bible study tool: observing, interpreting, and applying the text. This inductive method is already widely trusted and familiar in the church today. In our family, it provides a framework basic enough for our younger kids to grasp and yet is able to grow with them, even into adulthood.
By making this method kid-friendly and shaping it according to age and learning differences, parents have a starting place in teaching their kids how to think, question, engage, and understand God’s Word.
We begin by reading a portion of the Bible that’s easily digestible for young hearts and minds. Then we follow up with three sets of discussion questions. For each set, we use a hand motion to imprint the concept on our kids’ memories and to make the time of Bible study fun.
Step One: Observation
Question: What do you see?
Hand motion: Kids make little binoculars around their eyes like they’re zooming in close to examine the text.
This first set of questions is essential in laying a foundation for the rest of the time you’ll study the text with your kids. These are the black-and-white who, what, where, and when questions.
For example, you might ask: Who is speaking? What happened before this section? Where does this fit into the whole story of the Bible? The answers here are fairly straightforward—a great opportunity to incorporate very young children into the conversation. Observation questions help kids learn how to slow down and notice the surrounding context and details in the passage before jumping to conclusions.
Step Two: Interpretation
Question: What does this mean?
Hand motion: Kids make a shrugging, hands-open-on-each-side motion.
Here your kids are encouraged to ask, “Why?” The observations made in the first step naturally pave the way for more in-depth, exploratory questioning. Interpretation questions engage their minds and critical-thinking skills as they read and study with you. You might ask, “Are there any words you don’t understand?” or “What do you think ____ means?” In keeping with a gospel-centered approach, you might conclude, “Do these verses tell us anything about who God the Father (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit) is or what he has done for the world?
As children develop and mature over time, they learn to ask their own thought-provoking interpretation questions, which help them become careful students of the Word.
Step Three: Application
Question: How can I change?
Hand motion: Kids make a hand-over-heart motion, indicating head knowledge leading to heart change.
As we read Scripture with our kids, we desire them to become not merely hearers of the word, but also doers (James 1:22–25). In this last step, we’re helping kids to take the truths discovered while observing and interpreting the text and apply them to their present lives.
Answers to this question will be different for each child. A 4-year-old’s answer will differ from a preteen’s. For some kids, it may be challenging to put into words an answer to the question, “How can I change?” As parents we can model and encourage this step by openly sharing how the gospel transforms our own lives. Then we can ask: “Is there something in your heart or attitude or in a relationship that needs to change?” And also, “Is there something we can pray about together?”
Regardless of method, as parents and caregivers entrusted with discipling those in our care, we should commit to a regular time of engaging Scripture with them. As we do so, we’re inviting them along in the adventure of pursuing God through his Word.
Lord willing, and over time, they’ll become more familiar with the Bible—and come to believe it’s accessible, reliable, true, and good. Hand in hand with our kids, we can mature in a deepened understanding of Christ, become increasingly transformed into his likeness, and testify about God’s love to the world.