Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deut 6:4-7
Many Jews would consider the above verses as some of the most important in the Old Testament. The Shema (or Greatest Commandment) is often regarded as the pivot around which everything else in Deuteronomy revolves. Jesus elevates it to an even more important level by saying it (combined with Leviticus 19:18), make up the foundation on which all the Law and the Prophets build on.
Now v5 is a glorious statement and much good has been written on it. But rather than focus on that, I want us to move on 2 verses and see what we are told to do with these great foundational commandments. V7 says… Impress them on your children! Like a king would make an impression into wax with their signet ring, we are told to impress God’s word into our kids. How are we meant to do that? Well our verse helps us.
Talk to them about God’s word!
When making an impression, you need to make sure you are using the correct tools. A toddler playing with playdough quickly works out which cutter makes the elephant shape, and what it looks like when they push really hard with the rolling pin. And that’s the same for when making an impression on our kids. Dr Louis Hart said “If we don’t shape our kids, they will be shaped by outside forces that don’t care what shape our kids are in.”
So if we want our kids to be Christ shaped, then we need a “Christ mould”! One of the greatest gifts that God has given us is his word, and that is what moulds us to be more like his Son, Jesus. So it’s important to be talking to your kids about Jesus and reading to them from God’s word.
I was told that by the time a child is 8, they will know what is important to their parents. What makes them angry, what gets cancelled for what, what takes up most of their time. That’s a scary thought isn’t it? Well, when we don’t read God’s word in our homes, we are telling our kids something about where God and his word belong. Many people believe Jesus is just a Sunday thing, and so is his word. I believe this has been built up from generations only living Jesus’ way and listening to his word, on a Sunday rather than all the week long. It’s good to be telling our kids a different story.
So what things can help us to get reading the bible? Here are some thoughts that have helped me:
Get the right reason!
Make sure you have the right reasoning of why you are reading the Bible with your kids. Reasons why are the engine behind why we do things. We brush our teeth because it’ll help them to last; we eat fruit and veg because it’ll make us strong and healthy. So, why should you read the Bible with your kids? Well, the top reason is, because God tells you to. Our children are a gift from God to us, and He is the true owner of them! Like sending the kids away for a weekend with the grandparents, God has “sent his kids” to us to care for and look after them for Him! Ultimately, we are not the true owners, but He is. He loves them more than we ever would, and when their maker and owner tells us to do something for their good, we should do it! I know that doesn’t sound massively inspiring, but it’s the truth!
Reading the Bible with our kids will be massively beneficial to them and to you in moulding your characters. It will help them to stand firm on the solid Rock that is Jesus and not be tossed around as much. It will help them to fight against lies from the world. These are all great benefits of reading the Bible to your kids, but make sure you have obeying God as the main motor.
Also please don’t fall for the lie that if you read the Bible with your kids and pray with them, this will mean they will become a Christian. Many godly parents have spent hours upon hours reading to their kids and praying for them, and they have not become a follower of the Lord Jesus. God does not guarantee any of our actions will result in them believing. Their faith is in His hands alone.
We’ve all heard the phrase, 'easier said than done!' Well, that can be the case for reading the Bible with our kids. We can plan until the cows come home, but when it comes to actually doing it, it feels easier to climb Mount Everest!
Someone said to me early doors, “Just do something, it’s better than doing nothing!”. And that is true. Just do something from God’s word to start off with. Be realistic. If you can just do 30 seconds before bed, then start by doing 30 seconds before bed. If you can just do a quick verse over breakfast, then start by doing a quick verse over breakfast. Starting is always the hardest part, but once you’ve got into a routine, it’s then easier to expand it! Don’t try and start with an hour’s in depth study because you’ll never begin! 30 seconds each day is a great starting place. Start by praying “Please Lord would you help us now to understand your word, Amen”… then read something, and then finish with “thank you for helping us to read your word, Amen!”.
It’s worth noting, as the kids get older, it becomes harder to do. Including Bible reading will likely mean removing something else. Like any habit, the sooner you start it the easier it becomes. If you are the only believer in the house it can be really hard to do also. Maybe you can find some other parents to team up with to help you with it. Find out what others do and see if you can try and copy. Supporting each other can go a long way.
Exciting and enjoyable times
For many of you who know me, you’ll know I like to be a bit silly and have fun. I believe kids are similar. The Bible is an exciting, brilliant book, which is meant to be enjoyed. It contains ups and downs, as well as some brilliant comedy and other things. It is told in stories so we can empathise and feel these emotions too as we imagine the stories. When reading the Bible with your kids, enjoy it together! Be silly if you need to be! When you read about a storm, roll them around like they are in the storm! When you read of God laughing, give a loud laugh together! When you talk of darkness, turn off the lights! When someone’s scared, or confused, or excited, make your face and voice sound that way. Enjoy it together!
Some helpful resources:
These aren’t the only helpful books out there, but these are ones I’ve either had recommended to me, or I’ve used and found really helpful!
- Glen McLellan, Children's Worker/Pastor-in-Training