A few weeks ago, we began studying Philippians as a church. Our pastor, Paul, issued us a challenge. He said if we weren’t already studying the Bible with a friend or two, we should start and read the book of Philippians. I am already in a women’s Bible study doing just that, but I decided to issue myself another challenge: to read the book with my kids.
My kids are ages 9, 8 and 4. And while we have read devotions together as a family, we have never sat down to just read the Bible, well except for the Christmas story at Christmas time.
So, one morning, we began. Surprisingly, they remembered quite a bit from the pastors introductory message about the Philippians. They knew Paul, the apostle and writer of this letter, was in prison, and they were particularly enthralled with how he got there: by casting a demon out of a slave girl, thus removing her ability to see the future, and therefore, making her masters mad because they could no longer make money off of her (Acts 16:16-24).
As we study, we answer some questions that our pastor encouraged us to use. I simplified it a bit for my kids. We always ask, “What does this verse tell me about God?” and “What am I going to do in response to this verse?”
At first, the kids thought there was no way they were going to be able to study the Bible. Like, isn’t it just for adults? But then, once they realized that there were really no wrong answers, they were ready to give it a try. I encouraged them by reminding them that God’s word is alive; and therefore, it can speak to each of us in different ways, at different times (Hebrews 4:12).
Some days have been better than others. Sometimes I hear quite a few groans when I say it is time to open the Bible. But after some gentle prodding, we get through our verses for the day.
It can be done, my friends. You can do it with your family too! Along the way, I have learned some valuable tips. Let me share those with you!
Go slow and don’t take too long. Kids have short attention spans. Just pick a verse or two, and read them one at a time and discuss them one at a time. Go back to previous verses if they can’t remember. And keep it short. No kid wants to study the Bible all day. (If yours does, wow, you should share your tips!)
Define the big words. Sometimes, scripture brings up difficult, theological ideas. If you don’t know what something means, look it up. When you admit you don’t know everything, that God is still teaching you, it models a growing relationship with God. It models what you should do to gain understanding. Let your kids look up those tough words too! Get them involved instead of just passively listening.
For example, we read a passage containing the terms “salvation,” “pure” and “blameless.” And while I could define these, I looked them up to get an official definition. Then I had my children explain them in their own words.
You don’t have to know everything to study the Bible. Just be willing to learn right alongside your kids.
Use what you have. Jesus often taught in parables, or stories, to help people understand more difficult ideas. You can do this too! Use the things around you and in your house to break down tough subjects.
The day we discussed what it means to be pure, our breakfast napkins were still out on the table. I picked up one that was clearly dirty. There were crumbs and a big strawberry juice stain. Then I picked up a fresh one that no one had yet touched. I was able to give my kids a visual of what it means to be made pure by Jesus.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t require planning and preparation. Go with your gut, and use the things that would speak to your kids, the things they are familiar with.
When we study the Bible with our kids, what an opportunity we have! We can model how a relationship with God works. Studying, struggling, learning and then applying Scripture is what it’s all about. Our kids really just want to spend time with us. What better way than opening the Bible and filling their hearts and minds with the powerful truth from God’s word.
“And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” -Deuteronomy 6:5-9