I’m excited about our Bible reading plan for the year. It’s like we’ve had a breakthrough in doing family devotions. It’s yielding fruit and personal encouragement. After talking with several friends, I decided to write this article that perhaps it might bless others looking to find their stride as a family or among friends.
A brief word about my context: we now only have four of our kids in the home (ages 8 to 18), and like most other kids, they keep a fairly full schedule. My wife has multiple part-time jobs and homeschools the kids. I am in full-time ministry.
But this year, perhaps more than ever, before we have such a weighty burden to wrap in everyone’s personal devotions into our family devotions. Even amid the busyness, we wanted to increase our time together in the Word. We tried to change quiet time to be more verbal and interactive. We wanted to go from personal Bible reading to family Bible reading.
We decided to use “Pastor Paul’s Bible Reading Plan.” Paul Martin is a friend and a faithful pastor. When you talk to him, he oozes Bible. He’s the type of guy you’d ask, “How do you go about reading the Bible?” His program breaks the Bible down into five broad categories: Gospels, Pentateuch, History/Prophets, Wisdom, and Letters. The plan is to read five chapters a day, five days per week. One chapter from each section.
If you read five chapters five times a week for a year, here is what you will cover in those 260 readings.
- You will read the Gospels 2.9 times in a year.
- You will read the Pentateuch 1.4 times in a year.
- You will read the History and Prophetic books 1.04 times in two years.
- You will read the Wisdom literature 1.07 times in a year.
- You will read the Letters 1.5 times in a year.
As you can see, it’s not, strictly speaking, a “Through the Bible in a Year” plan. But it’s impressive how much of the Bible you read if you stick to it. Think about reading the Gospels nearly three times and the rest of the NT one and a half times!
We printed the bookmarks and handed them out (one of our daughters laminated them for everyone). Everyone put them in their Bibles and got their notebooks ready to go. For our schedule, it’s best to have everyone up early in the morning together. I assign someone to open in prayer (often reflecting some version of Piper’s IOU’s). We have assigned reading and begin taking turns as we read. In between each chapter reading, someone is usually writing a verse down or some thoughts on in their notes. It is surprising, and maybe hard for some to believe, but even with a couple of young readers, it usually takes us 20 to 30 minutes to read through the five sections.
Once we have completed the reading, we give some time for further personal consideration and reflection. Everyone spends time writing down some verses that struck them and reasons why. It may be something new they learned, it could be a connection to another passage, or perhaps a personal attitude and action were revealed as needing confession and repentance.
I’m excited about our Bible reading plan for the year. It’s like we have had a breakthrough in doing family devotions. It’s yielding fruit and personal encouragement.
After the time of reflection, everyone shares at least one verse and takeaway from the reading. Even our youngest is required to write something down and interact with it. Then we usually discuss some matter related to the readings and close in prayer, pressing down upon the issues we’ve raised. Then we close in prayer. The whole time is about 45 minutes.
There is a great benefit to merely reading the Bible. I cannot overstate this. God’s Word shapes our understanding of reality; it increases knowledge of God’s holiness and our sinfulness; it woos us to the Savior day after day. It is a beautiful treasure that, if not neglected, bears such undeniable fruit.
There is also a benefit to reading aloud. Even from purely an academic standpoint, reading aloud is useful; it makes us better readers. But on another level, there seems to be something to engaging more senses during this time of reading. This, along with holding an actual physical copy of the Bible, has a tactile effect that serves to cement in verses and concepts in a way that reading silently on an iPad does not.
This format is also useful for on-the-fly questions. As a dad, I can ask, What do you mean by that? Or, Why do you say that? I can also make connections to Christ and elaborate on some doctrinal matters. I’m getting to know my wife and kids better even as we learn God’s Word together. My assessment of how I’ve done family devotions for years is that I was basically the teacher who carried the freight of the lesson. Now in this setting, I’m more of the shepherd-leader. I’m pushing the conversation along and probing deeper as we go, but everyone has something to say and contribute. I’m not playing football quarterbacking the team down the field but soccer kicking the ball around together.
My assessment of how I’ve done family devotions for years is that I was basically the teacher who carried the freight of the lesson. Now in this setting, I’m more of the shepherd-leader.
This leads to another benefit: there are surprising takeaways. Previously the takeaways were often limited to what I brought to the table. But now, I (and everyone else) gets blessed by the rest of the table’s takeaways. Several times someone noted something in the passage that I hadn’t considered. These sweet and surprising nuggets stick with me all day, and they are doubly delicious coming from my own family.
I could go on and on. I love Paul’s plan and how we are doing it. I know it’s not a new way of doing things, but it’s new for us, and we are blessed by it. If it helps you in any way, that would be the icing on the cake.