Wednesday, November 17, 2010

At What Age Is My Child Ready for the Bible?

Will Bouton, the Children's Ministry Director on our Downtown campus, answers this common parenting question. 

One of my favorite things to do as a parent is read the Bible at bedtime with my two boys -- ages 5 and 3 -- right before we cut off the lights.  We all snuggle into one of their beds and read one story each night.  I read and they listen . . . supposedly.  Often, one or both of them won't stop talking in order for me to read, and some nights they think it's time to wrestle, and some nights they would rather read some other book.  Nevertheless, I make sure I read each word from the story before we say goodnight.  I started this with our oldest when he was 6 months old.  Maybe you are thinking, "What's the point? He's too young to understand what you are reading."  Here is why I think it's beneficial to read the Bible to a young child:
  1. Model for them.  This daily time with me reading the Bible has impressed on my boys that the Bible is more special than any other book.  It is amazing to see a 1-year-old respecting the Bible.  Does he know everything it says?  Doubtful.  But I can tell you from experience how wonderful it is for your child to see you reading the Bible and run to find theirs so they can read right beside you.
  2. Confidence in God's word.  My children have become comfortable with picking up the Bible and thumbing through it.  I became a Christian when I was 16 years old, but I wasn't confident in reading the Bible until I was in my twenties.  My prayer is that my boys never have a time in their life where they are intimidated by the thought of spending time in the Bible.  They have confidence with it because they know the pictures and the stories already.  They can practically walk you through all three children's Bibles we own, even though neither can read; they have them memorized!
  3. Life application.  Reading the Bible with my boys consistently allows me to speak into their lives in meaningful ways.  I can reference things we have read in order to connect their everyday life to things the Bible says.  I am often able to say, "Son, do you remember the story in the Bible we read last night . . . " and relate what we are doing right at that moment with the Scripture.  And sometimes at bedtime when we are reading I can say, "Do you remember today when you weren't kind to your brother?  This story in the Bible talks about that very thing . . . ."
  4. Personal gain.  As I read with them, I learn just as much -- if not more -- than they do.  I know the order of things in the Old Testament better than I ever have.  Does it replace my own personal time in the Word?  No.  But, it is amazing what the Holy Spirit will point out to you through your children's questions and comments.  There is no question that I am drawing near to God when we have this time together.  Some of my most treasured memories as a parent have come from conversations with my boys while reading the Bible at bedtime.
No matter the age of your child or children, it is never too early or too late to start.  Find an age-appropriate Bible, and when you sense that you have read it so many times that they are getting bored with reading it, find another one.  The three my boys and I have loved are The Beginner's Bible: Timeless Children's Stories, The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name, and The Big Picture Story Bible.

God promises us that His word will not come back to Him empty (Isaiah 55:10-11).  Get to reading and watch what God does with it -- in your children's lives and also in your own!!

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