What is the number 1 thing (other than prayer) to do for your kids’ salvation? Read the Bible with them. Easy right? Well maybe. If you have perfect kids. And if your kids are old enough to understand what’s going on. And if you’re amazing at knowing the Bible and explaining it and answering questions and….
But how on earth do you read the Bible with your squirmy, half-a-second-attention-span 2 year old?? Can they even understand anything? Is it worth it? How often do you just give up or choose to wait until they’re at school and can actually read and understand and think?
Well, although it can be a daunting task without the right tools, there is hope. Because there are some very simple principles to bear in mind that can make these early years not only manageable, but a time where your kids’ hearts fall in love with God, his Word and a lifetime habit of reading it can be forged. There are 5 practical things to do, and 5 things to focus on teaching. Each one will get it’s own blog post at some point, but let me lay out some of the basics now.
5 Practical Things
1. Do it regularly
Make sure your Bible time with your toddler is regular. Build it into the routine of the day. Whether that’s at some point in the day, or right before bed, make it a regular occurrence in your week. Yes there can be some days where anything is too much, or the kids are already asleep in the car on the way home. Don’t feel guilty over these times. But where you can, shoot for every day in the Bible. It doesn’t have to be long, but as much as possible, make it regular.
2. Make it special
Getting to hear from God is an absolute privilege. For any of us. So let’s help our kids understand this is a special time. For me that means singing “the best book to read is the Bible”, talking about how special it is that we get to do this, and getting blown away when we talk about how God speaks to us when we read the Bible. Bible time is the time in the day that I save my most amount of energy for.
3. Keep it fun
1 key aim of Bible time at this age, is that they learn to love the Bible. That they come to love Bible time. So make it fun. Boring Bible time = resentment. There is always going to be a limit to the content that they will be able to take in. So whatever the story is, pick them up, throw them around, act it out, do sound effects, tickle them, whatever. You know what makes them happy. What makes them laugh. Insert that into Bible time.
4. Bring your Bible
You would think that it goes without saying, but make sure you have a Bible present when you do Bible time. Don’t just tell a story from memory. Kids Bibles are the way to go. And if you can get board book ones, kids on the younger end of the age spectrum can safely turn pages (which they often love to do!). WARNING: There are lots of terrible Kids Bibles out there that you want to stick clear. Kids Bibles have done lots of good, but lots of damage over the years. Keep your eyes peeled for Kids Bible posts coming.
5. Model your own Bible reading
The time that you spend reading with your kids is super important. But another factor that will impact their desire to read the Bible with you, is knowing that you read the Bible yourself. Let them see you reading the Bible during the day. Leave your Bible out and around for them to find. Talk about what you have read in the Bible. If they know you do it, they will be more keen to do it too.
5 Things to Teach
Choose 1 or more of these things to hit with your kids. They will set your kids up with the most critical foundational theological pieces.
Something that you can’t teach enough is that God is the Creator. Most Kids Bibles have the creation story, but you can keep hitting this fact. It is the grounding for our relationship to him, his Lordship, sovereignty and more.
The Bible is full of stories where God saves. This is because God is the God who saves. It’s also because all these stories point to the big salvation story in the gospel. Keep pointing to the fact that God saved his people in the story. This will set your kids up to love God the Saviour.
Obviously God has to save us from something. And that something is sin. Just about every Bible story has sin in it. Every story is a good opportunity to draw it out, and talk about how we all need to be saved from our sin. Whether you see sin itself, the impact of sin or salvation from sin. This discussion becomes more possible as your kid gets a bit older.
The entire Bible is about Jesus. And every single Bible passage points to him in some way. Whether he is the better saviour. Whether he is the ultimate fulfilment of the promise. Whether he is the solution to the problem you see. Whatever it is. Get to Jesus and celebrate him!
Teaching Bible stories will introduce your kids to characters who have a lot of theological significance. Or to concepts or promises that will mean a lot when they have the capacity to understand them. Sometimes just teaching stories for the sake of familiarity is a really positive thing.
Hopefully you can see that there is actually lots you can do with your really little kids when it comes to reading the Bible with them. And it isn’t crazy. A lot of it is just focussed on having a good, special time as you do it. The most important thing is to just have a crack. You won’t do it perfectly every time. Probably not any time. Some times will be a win, others a loss. But over time, as you build this habit, the investment in your kids is massive.