By Daniel Bramlett
I have a serious burden that I would like to share with you. Are you ready for this? Families are not reading their Bibles together. That’s it. We have lost the family that is dedicated to the regular reading of the Word together. Do you think that is a big deal? I do. Here’s why. Kids who grow up reading the Word are most likely to keep walking with Jesus. Kids who only hear the Word at the occasional worship service or in VBS are much more likely to walk away from the faith.
My purpose in this article is simple: to encourage you to read the Bible with your kids and teach them to read and respect the Word of God. Our primary goal in reading the Word is not to receive information but to experience God in a relationship; a conversation. I fear many approach the Bible as they would a lecture, notepad in hand, a definite start and finish time, and a few questions afterwards. While there’s nothing wrong with a Bible lecture that is NOT the primary way we read it. Our goal in reading the Word is always to hear from God, to sit with Him a while, to know Him more and better. Rather than a classroom to define our experience with the Word, a coffee shop may do a much better job. Somehow we are going to have to better prioritize our time with the Word.
Teach your kids the value of hiding the Word in their hearts. Show them how to memorize Scripture. Let them hear you praying the Psalms. Take the moments to teach them Passion Week, the birth narrative, the story of the early Church… Don’t miss the hundreds of chances God offers you to give your kids a foundation in the Word. If this is the goal, you must first experience it. You cannot lead your family where you have not first been OR at least know how to get to.
Have we made Bible reading too hard? Have we introduced too many hoops? We have aids and books and podcasts and teachers galore. But we still are not just sitting down and taking in large chunks of the Scripture on our own. Listen, there is no substitute for Bible reading. It is not the same to read or listen to someone else as they talk about the Bible. You must do this for yourself. It would be like watching someone else eat. There is no nourishment in that for you. You must take it in.
Lifeway just finished a new study that surveyed 2000 18-30 year olds who grew up in active Christian homes. The goal of the survey was to discover the most helpful practices used in their formative years that helped them continue walking in faithfulness today. Bible reading was number one. Now hear this, for the kids to read themselves is important, but the presence of the Word is the most important factor. The Word must be present in the home and it is powerful! When the Bible is read, truth is learned, hearts are changed, minds are renewed…good life starts to happen. I really don’t know how to state this more simply. Open the Bible and read it in your home, on your own and together with your family. JUST READ IT!
I never want you to view Bible time as just another thing on the schedule. Guys, your schedule must be driven by your time in the Word. If not, you’ll be like a pin ball, just bouncing from one thing to the next. I feel weak and drawn out every time I skip my time in the Word. I lack wisdom in conversations. I lack power in prayer. My time in the Word is paramount to every single activity in my day. I think we’ve made that part clear. The only question that remains is what does it need to look like?
For my Type A readers who need a structure, I want to offer a simple plan for bible reading. When our kids were little we read “The Jesus Storybook Bible” to them every night. They learned the basic Bible stories this way. They can still tell you those stories! That book fell apart after years of nightly reading. I would encourage every family with non-readers in the home to adopt this practice.
For families with older children the easiest thing to do is sit down with your group and read. Just read to them. You can stop every once in a while and ask if they understand what is going on. Here is the key part: when you get to the end of the story have them repeat it to you. You are not looking for a word for word reproduction. Have them walk through the main parts of the story and then ask “In light of this story, what do we need to do now?” Basically, “How has this changed the way you look at life?”
As the kids get older the reading time needs to change a little. It can become more contemplative. Have the kids do the reading from time to time. Incorporate different parts of the Word, like the Psalms, the Gospels, and some from the Prophets. You are doing more than exposing them at this point. You are modeling your daily faith reading for them.