In order for our children to know and love God and God’s Word, we need to include the Bible in our daily lives. I remember a story my parents read to me as a child – I can even remember where we were when they told the story – it was about a family who received a Bible and they were so excited about it, it was so precious that they decided to keep it up on a shelf in their lounge room – they looked at it and treasured it. The story then compared this with us having a birthday cake – and being so excited about having a birthday cake and that we would never dream of putting the birthday cake up on the shelf. To enjoy the cake to the fullest we have to cut it and eat it. The Bible is much the same – to enjoy it fully we need to read it and become familiar with it.  Let’s look at how we can help our children hide God’s word in their heart.

One of the key verses for Peter and I as we raised our kids was:

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Psalm 119:11

This verse infers that we

  • Know God’s Word,
  • Want it in our hearts, and that we
  • Want to live our life in keeping with what He says

For this to be a reality in our children’s hearts there needs to be both planned times in our day with the Bible and incidental times when we talk about God’s word throughout the day.

Plan Times for Your Children to Read the Bible:

When our children were school-aged, we had three planned Bible times during most of our days.

  1. Personal Devotional Time
  2. Family Devotions
  3. Bible Study 

1–Personal Devotional Times. Once my children were able to read independently I encouraged them to have their own personal devotions. Before this, I would often sit with them and guide them through reading the Bible, thinking about its application, and praying  – as we sat together they learnt the skills and habits so that they were eventually able to continue on their own.  Over the years, they used a variety of different resources and methods for their devotions and I also encouraged them to journal. To be honest, some liked journaling, and some didn’t – and it was their call.  For those who did, their journals were private and I didn’t read them unless invited to do so, but I did often touch base with them to see what they were reading and if they needed help.

2–Family Devotions – This was a seasonal thing for us – sometimes we did it better than others.  But when we did, we came together at a specific time where we read the Bible together as a family, we talked about and we learnt to pray.

We used a variety of methods and resources for this time. Our favourite ‘method’ (as such) was to choose a book of the Bible and read several verses a day. After our short reading each child would share something from the reading – they may have told it back to us in their own words to tell us what it meant to them, or they may share idea the reading prompted for them, or they may preach up a storm!! 

Coming out of what the children shared there was often something for Peter or myself to pick up on and teach our children further. Or we shared what God said to us personally in that reading. 

Sometimes we changed tack and did a series of devotional thoughts or study using a devotional resource but our main emphasis was on hearing God for the day, talking about what God was saying and then praying together.

3–Bible Study – This is more of our ‘school’ subject (as in, if we were on holidays or having a study break this is the aspect that we usually let go.) The goal in our Bible Study time was just that – to study the Bible. We studied themes, stories and doctrines. 

Our usual method was that we read the Bible chronologically so we understood the flow of history and the revelation of God’s purposes. We studied the history, geography, culture, as well as the doctrine, principles and truth. We learnt to use Bible study tools such as Concordances, Dictionaries, Atlases, and Commentaries. 

There were times we used Bible curriculum to help us to dig into a particular topic – such as prayer, or covenants or the promised messiah.  How we studied the Bible changed as the children grew older and this aspect became more a part of their independent study.  But by this stage they had the skills to study the Bible independently – to ask questions, to look for answers, and to record their thoughts.

 

Incidental times with the Word of God:

I think the biggest influence on our children’s hearts though was those incidental times with the word of God.  We talked about God’s word throughout the day – regardless of what we were doing.

In order for us to talk about what God would say in any given situation throughout our day, we (the parents) need to know God’s word for ourselves. It is easy to rely on a curriculum or resource in the planned times with God but for God to be real and relevant in our family we need to know His word for ourselves so we can just chat about God with our kids.

Deut 6:6,7 says it very clearly – the words that I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children. (emphasis mine). First God’s word needs to be in the parent’s heart, then the parent is required, by God, to teach those words to their children.

An average day gives us so many opportunities to talk about God, His word, his character, his ways, his forgiveness and his grace. There were times we simply paused to talk to God; to give thanks or to ask for help. Many of our discussions were based on “What would Jesus do” or “What does God’s Word say about such-n-such”. God’s word has something to say about all of life and our children need to hear us making those connections.

There are many other things that help us in helping our children ‘hide God’s Word in their heart’ such as scripture to songs type of music, memory verses, Bible games and movies or kids shows, Bible on audio(narrated or dramatised), Scripture posters and cards around the house. But the thing is, unless we talk about these things, unless we make our children think about them, they remain mum and dad’s faith, not the kids.

One of the saddest things in the narrative of the Bible is seeing the love one generation had for their God not passed onto the next. God wants our children’s hearts and it is our privilege to introduce our children to our God.

Overarching Keys to Teaching the Bible

Here are some overarching keys to remember when teaching the Bible to your kids. If you can remember these it will be easier to connect God to daily life.

1-Establish that the ‘stories’ in the Bible are actually true – that this isn’t a storybook, but it is the Word of God.  This is one of the first things your children need to accept for them to truly accept Jesus.

2-Introduce the idea that we learn about God and His ways whenever we read the Bible. Whenever we read a passage or familiar story there is a lesson there for us to learn from. We need to teach our children to hear the heart lesson, not just know the facts of the story.  One question I asked my kids often was – what does God want us to learn about Him and His purposes by telling this story?

3-Read as if it is interesting – it is easy to slip into a monotone, especially with long passages but we need to read with enthusiasm, with a voice of awe and interest. We need to read it as if we truly believe that this is the living word of God – God’s letter to me, it is personal and meaningful. If we sound bored we will not be able to convince our children that this is worth their time.

4-Teach from the heart not from a book – Though we may use curriculum or resources at times if the lessons we want to impart to our children come from our heart instead of the lesson page our children will be far more receptive.

Discipleship is a relationship-driven thing – anyone can read a lesson – a parent though, can disciple the heart. This means we have to know our children, and know what lessons they need to be taught. It also means we need to know the Bible ourselves, we need to know God’s truths, and we need to spend time in thinking about how we can best communicate this to our children. 

I’m always challenged by the idea that If we were involved in an outreach programme or a kids church club type of thing – we would give a block of time to prepare, and yet we ‘outreach’ our children by the seat of our pants! We need to prepare to teach our children from God’s word.

5-Be open and honest about your relationship with Jesus – share what you’ve learnt, share the hard times and the times of blessings – be real about your walk with God. Let your children see that your relationship with Jesus is a real part of your life.

As we read the Bible more and more it makes more sense, our faith is strengthened, but most importantly we get to know God – the author. And when we include our children in this they have an opportunity to get to know God and hide his Word in their heart, from a young age.

What does it mean to have God’s word in our heart? 

What does it actually mean to hide God’s word in our heart?  

Well for starters – lets look at heart.  Our heart is the place where we think, believe, value, make choices.  So when God’s words are in our heart – it doesn’t just mean we love God’s word, its not just an emotional attachment to it, it means God’s word permeates through our thoughts, it is the foundation for what we believe and value, and what the Bible says, directs our choices.  There is a real chain reaction for hiding God’s word in our heart – and the Bible verse says it – but I think we need to unpack it so it doesn’t become just something we roll off our tongue because we are so familiar with the verse.

So that we may not sin against thee…. This is what will happen when God’s words, God’s truths, God’s ways, are a part of what we believe and value – if we let God’s words shape our beliefs and our choices – then we won’t sin against God.

Our role as parents is to disciple our children – that means we help them apply all Jesus’ teaching – so that they walk and grow as a Christian – that is once they become a Christian.  We have to be careful that we don’t imply that if they do all the things that makes God pleased they are in good standing with Him.  The only way to God is through Jesus – though once we are in harmony with Jesus, then we walk in a way that pleases God.  And hiding His word in our heart – means we will be able to walk in a way that pleases Him.  Don’t confuse this verse with their need for a saviour.  Knowing God’s word can be a different thing than knowing Jesus.  We need to make sure we don’t make this an academic thing where they know their Bible but don’t know the author.

 

What if God’s Word doesn’t stay in their heart

But what if God’s word doesn’t stay in their heart – what if they don’t want anything to do with Jesus or the Bible?

This is a heart breaking and tricky situation.  Heart breaking because for those who know God’s truth we dearly want our children to walk in His ways.  Tricky though becuase we can’t make them!  That is the work of the Holy Spirit.  

So we have a two fold responsibility

-1- To walk as a Christian ourself regardless of the choices our children make – our responsibility is to respond in a way that honours our God. 

Our 2nd responsibility is …

-2- To be a parent who loves our children (and this inlcudes giving them a safe and loving environment as much as it is about  teaching them the words of Jesus.)

Ultimately our children need to feel loved and safe for them to be able to listen to anything you have to say about God. 

We have to be careful not to Bible bash our kids.  It’s fine line to tred – and one that we probably all overstep at some time – Yes, we need to teach them about God and His word but we also have to be aware that our children need to choose Jesus for themselves – it is our job to create a home and family life that is God honouring in all our actions.

And there is a 3rd step …

-3- But most of all keep praying for your child.  One of the things that this does is it keeps your heart at peace and focused on God – so you will be able to respond to your child  in a way that continues to reflect God’s love, forgiveness and grace – regardless of the child’s response to him or to you.

 

Heart-focused Action Step

The heart-focused action step is to ask yourself if you are making the most of every day opportunities to talk about Jesus to your kids.

I know we often focus on having devotional times – but really the biggest impact is often made because we include Jesus into our every day moments.

  • When you say grace at a meal – is it a ritual prayer you say or is it an opportunity to talk to Jesus with your family?
  • When you take a meal to your sick neighbour do you tell your children why you do this?
  • When the sun rises or sets, do you think of God’s majesty – and do you share those thoughts with your kids?
  • When you see a nature documentary – do you talk about God’s part in creation?
  • When you watch a movie do you talk about the choices characters make and what God’s word says about those choices?
  • When you watch the news does your heart grieve like God’s heart must grieve – and do you talk to your kids who are watching with you?

Life around us gives us so many opportunities to talk about God, His character, and what He has done; it gives us opportunity to talk about God’s values and perspectives, his promises and purposes.

Don’t miss the opportunities that life gives us to point our thoughts, or our hearts as a family towards God.

Help share this heart-focused message

If you have been listening to this podcast for a while and you’ve been getting encouragement from it I’d really appreciate it if you could give me a star rating or if you are on itunes leave a comment on the podcast app.  I still have a thank you gift for anyone who takes a screenshot of their comment and sends it to me – I’ll send you a bonus episode that deals with the challenge between being content and yet knowing you have to grow and change.  

 

Further Reading:

Do your Kids Know How to Study God’s Word? Our children need to know God’s word beyond knowing the stories of the Bible. They need to know how to study it, understand it and apply it to their lives.

Christian Parenting is about Discipleship in the Family: As Christians we are called to make disciples; and our children are the first people we are to teach.

Teach your Children How to Have a Daily Quiet Time with God: Teaching young children to have a daily quiet time with God starts with them on your knee. They can learn to read and think and pray with you.

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