Reading the Bible with Children
So we just held our first Learning Your Bible class with four young people. It was a wonderful afternoon! The children were engaged and interested, leaders were learning some things along with the children, and it seemed that everyone left with smiles on their faces.
Ideally this class will be held in September, closely following Rally Day when 3rd graders receive their new children’s Bibles from the church. The excitement of having a new Bible of their very own is coupled with the thrill of exploring its contents and reading it themselves. But this is just one class just a few hours of introduction to the Bible. It is our hope that this class is just the beginning of a lifelong love affair with Scripture for these children. Family members can help this to happen. Multiple studies have confirmed that while peers, teachers and others may have some influence on our children’s faith, parents (or caring adults) have, by far, the most impact. Adults, it’s up to you!
Here are some things you can do to help children fall in love with Scripture:
▪ Read the Bible with your children. Let them read to you and help them discover how to pronounce the “big words.” If you don’t know the words, guess at it, or substitute a different word.
▪ Encourage them to read on their own. Remember that the Bible is one of the only books that you can just open and read—you don’t have to start at the beginning and you can skip parts if you want.
▪ Help children to see beyond a few simple Bible stories to see the whole of Scripture—history, laws, poetry, prophecy, letters to churches, and more.
▪ Read Old Testament and New Testament. Christianity involves more than just Jesus.
▪ Talk about how the Bible is our history as Christians. That history is still ongoing, meaning that we have a place in God’s story even now.
▪ Help children to experience the Bible as a living document through which God can speak to them. Close your eyes and open the Bible randomly. What does your eye go to first? Is the Holy Spirit trying to tell you something through these words?
▪ Let children see you reading the Bible yourself. You are their biggest role models.
Proverbs 22:6 (NIV) says “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Share with them the gift of Scripture, and pray that the Holy Spirit will instill in them a love for God’s words.
Passing on the Christian faith from generation to generation is at the heart of the life and work of the church. The church partners together with parents and others to facilitate this process. This fundamental task requires much more than simple attendance at Sunday School and worship. It is a lifelong process that involves passing on biblical and doctrinal information. As we grow and mature, our understanding of things religious and theological changes. The goal of lifelong faith formation is to enable a seamless journey of learning and passing on faith to every infant, child, youth, young adult, adult, and elder in our congregations and in our homes, so that Christians may develop a deep faith in Jesus Christ that serves us well in every stage of life.
There are milestones in life--turning points, rites of passage, and memorable moments--that are experiences that offer an opportunity to celebrate God’s presence and be reminded of one’s identity as a child of God. These milestones recognize baptism, worship education, sacraments class, receiving a first Bible, confirmation, high school and college graduation, and more. The congregation can recognize and celebrate these special times, thereby tending the baptismal journey through all the ages and stages of a life centered in Christ.
Our official faith journey often begins with infant baptism. Even though an infant is too young to actually learn the meaning of baptism, parents and the congregation take vows to bring the child up in the faith. Sunday school, confirmation, youth groups, and worship involvement are good ways to learn the basics of the Bible and what it means to be a child of God. Other ways we can increase the spiritual maturity of our young people are through special activities that involve parents and children learning together--Sacraments class, worship education, Learning Your Bible class, and later on, youth trips and activities. Parents and other caregiving adults need to be seen as essential partners with the church in the journey of passing on the Christian faith from generation to generation.
In the classic fairy tale, when Hansel and Gretel leave the safety of their house to venture into the woods, they leave a trail of breadcrumbs to mark the way back home. The children of God have a way of wandering off from home (God) as well, which is why it is ever important for us as faithful leaders and parents to leave a trail by which they may always find their way home. Instead of breadcrumbs which can disappear, we leave a path of milestones that remind us of times when we felt the presence of God. This way, when our children (of any age) become lost and begin to long for home, they will only have to look about them to see the trail of visual reminders and say, “Look, here is God in my life, and here, and here, and here.”