By Jaime Jo Wright, Crosswalk.com
Bible reading is such a critical part of a healthy relationship with God, but truthfully, it’s not the first Book most children gravitate toward—let alone adults. The words “it’s boring” and “I can’t understand what it’s talking about” probably sound very familiar. Still, many families encourage family devotions, church attendance, Sunday School, Bible clubs, etc., but that doesn’t make up for the element of personal time in the Scripture.
Different ages will be capable of various levels of this practice. But what can we do to help our kids not only read the Bible, but understand what they’re reading, potentially enjoy it, and most of all, apply it?
Here are some ideas that will hopefully get you started:
1. Be cautious about how you position Bible reading with your children.
So, this needs to be carefully approached, and each family will be different. But in short, it’s important to consider how you will present the topic of Bible reading with your children. Will you enforce it as a required part of each day? Will you encourage it and leave it optional for the child to pursue?
These questions don’t have a black-and-white answer. The reason being some children, like my daughter, are highly responsible and prefer to self-motivate. If enforced with even gentle reminders, she will resist and eventually come to dislike it altogether. Instead, we give her the freedom to choose when and where she will do her devotions while consistently encouraging it as a general practice. With this method, she rarely misses a day because her Type-A personality holds her accountable.
On the other hand, my son has really good intentions and absolutely no issues with doing his devotions. He just simply forgets. It’s not his natural priority, and even that which is his priority still gets forgotten. So for him, we have to initiate the reminder and usually state a time of day and length of time for him to get any quality reading done. But he doesn’t balk at that, either. He may whine about having to put aside his Rubix cube in exchange for his Bible, but he also knows he needs the reminder and the discipline to do it.
Why should you be cautious? Because you don’t want to make, Bible reading so rigid and so dogmatically necessary that your children grow to hate it. That will only push them away from something vital to their faith. Instead, learn about your child and be creative and sensitive in approaching it. It will probably be different for each one.
2. Choose your Bible carefully.
A study Bible will likely be far above your child’s level of engagement. On the flip side, a graphic Bible (comic book style) can be a good way to introduce them, but it will fail to deliver much of the “meat” that comes with reading the Scriptures. Just as you identify the best way to encourage your child to read, you must also identify the Bible that best suits their reading needs.
I do not mean the Bible version, either. That’s an entirely different topic with many opinions. I’m speaking about types of Bibles. Bibles are specifically laid out for girls and boys, with devotional sections inserted to help interpret what they read and apply it to their young selves. There are also youth study Bibles that begin to teach good study habits through methods and pull-outs on the pages that are also engaging and interesting for your teen.
Along with age-geared Bibles, there are also journaling Bibles. Both of my children have these, and they love their Bible reading time because they can draw in the margins. Get your children some pens/pencils that work well for these types of Bibles, and let them go! The art and interesting things they pull from the Word of God become alive when they can express themselves in the very wide margins.
3. Bible on audio.
Don’t discount the audio Bible. Some children just aren’t readers, but they will voraciously intake and apply what they hear. Children with reading disabilities can become very frustrated with trying to make their way through the sometimes-difficult passages of Scripture, but listening—even reading along while they listen—can be extremely helpful for them to absorb the Word.
4. Bible apps.
Along with Bible on audio, don’t forget Bible apps on tablets and phones. There is a litany of great ones. From pre-school geared Bible apps with interactive Bible stories, shapes and sizes, and pulling elements that will engage the child to full-on Bible apps with concordances and lexicons, there’s something for everyone.
Your middle school to teenage offspring will probably enjoy the Bible apps that allow them to connect with their friends, share devos, make verses in social media graphics, and the like. Girls especially will get connected by chatting on the in-app chats and sharing options.
There are a lot of great resources, and the truth is, sometimes the Bible apps don’t seem like Scripture reading, but they truly are. Kids will use these apps in youth group and Sunday School, and can often maneuver their way around and learn more using these than if you plopped a volume in their lap.
5. Outside resources.
Last but not least, look for outside resources to make the Scriptures more relatable. Nothing excites my kids more than when they’ve read something in the Old Testament, and then we find an archeological documentary that complements it. And they’re not always Christian-based documentaries or videos, either. Sometimes, we watch them and let the kids know beforehand that we want them to watch and listen for anything they think may not align with what they’ve read or learned in Scripture.
Help your children apply historical events to Biblical ones. Have maps available, picture books of the various cultures found in Scripture (like the Philistines, the Egyptians, the Romans, etc.), and if you’re motivated, set up an art table where your children can create pieces with their favorite verse of the week on it.
All of these practices help encourage Bible reading and Bible engagement. It’s more than just sitting your child down with a specific passage and/or set of verses that they need to read. It’s helping to engage their senses, imaginations, hearts, and intrigue so that the Word of God becomes alive to them!
The key is to engage your child/teen’s interest in Scripture. Some of them must rely on the Holy Spirit to speak to them through the Word. But some of it is sitting down with your kid and including them in the set-up of their devotion/Bible reading. Let them have input on how and when they’d like to do their Bible reading. Allow them to express their honest disinterest without criticizing or reprimanding them for it. At some point, we all have gone through an “it’s boring” era in our lives. Remember that, relate to your child, and help them self-discover why it’s still important to apply themselves to reading God’s Word—even the boring parts.
Jaime Jo Wright is an ECPA and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author. Her novel “The House on Foster Hill” won the prestigious Christy Award and she continues to publish Gothic thrillers for the inspirational market. Jaime Jo resides in the woods of Wisconsin, lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimewrightbooks.com and at her podcast madlitmusings.com where she discusses the deeper issues of story and faith with fellow authors.