Wishing to expand your family’s spiritual knowledge and faith? It’s never too early. And new beginnings (hello 2018!) offer the perfect incentive to start a beautiful habit that won’t just improve your year, or even just your life, but your eternity.
I was blessed to be raised by Godly parents who cared more about teaching my brother and me to love Jesus than anything else. They invested countless hours, countless prayers, and many sleepless nights in painstaking thought and effort about preparing our hearts for faithful living and an eternity with God.
But if I had to choose just one thing they did that impacted my lifelong decision to walk with God more than anything else, it would be family Bible time.
Family Bible time isn’t a haphazard, every-now-and-then activity that you do just when you think of it. It’s a daily, habitual, rigid priority.
Sound overwhelming? Don’t be intimidated. Once you decide it’s worth prioritizing and you make a plan for it, it’s not so daunting. I read somewhere that it takes 20 days to form a habit. So devote yourselves to it for one month, then it shouldn’t be so hard to keep it going.
A few months ago I was asked by a fellow mom of littles how we do family bible time, as she wanted to start doing it with her family. I especially loved hearing from this friend because I haven’t seen her since middle school, and what she remembered about my family, after all these years, was our dedication to family bible time—even when friends were spending the night in our home. This routine greatly benefits your family—but it often affects others outside of your family for the better as well. In hopes that it might be able to help you, as well, I’ll share a bit of that conversation with you here:
My friend: “Hey! This is random but is there anywhere you get material from for your bible times with Ezra and Colleyanna? I’m having a hard time getting [my child] to interact and I think I just don’t know how to communicate something so serious to a 2-year-old in a way she can understand and have fun with at the same time. I’m just not creative AT ALL and haven’t found anything good on the internet.
Me: “Okay, so I’ve thought about it and these are some of the best resources I can think of for simple and fun ideas/tools for family Bible time. ‘Arrows In Our Hand’ is one of our favorite podcasts and the people who do it are friends of ours. I’m sending you links of podcasts they just did about how to start Bible time with your family, and in the show notes, you can find links to all the resources they talk about in the show, as well as a previous podcast in which they talk about the same topic. We use a LOT of the same kind of tactics they use. Lots of songs and games and acting out stories.
In my opinion, there are two things that make family Bible time work:
1. Regularity. Never miss a night (or day if you choose to do it at a different time–bedtime works best for us). That means that sometimes it happens in the car on the way home from somewhere, sometimes it happens at the kitchen table during a late dinner, sometimes it happens in a hotel room when traveling, etc. But it happens every night. If we have to choose between brushing our kids’ teeth and Bible time, we’re gonna pick Bible time (yes, we brush teeth too ). It’s just part of our routine, and it’s the most important part.
2. Informality. That means that this isn’t something where everyone sits in the same spot every night while Dad reads scripture and nobody speaks. Reading scripture is great, of course, but with kids, it needs to be casual, educational, and fun–something they won’t dread, but will look forward to. We are usually in our pajamas when we do it. Sometimes Bible time lasts 5 minutes, sometimes it lasts 30 minutes, but each night we sing songs (We sing Bible verses set to songs–I’d be happy to share the CDs we use if you’re interested, we sing the books of the Bible, the names of the apostles, the sons of Jacob, the days of creation, etc.,) We play Bible trivia games (like Who Am I—“I got swallowed up by a giant fish: who am I?”, or Ben and Ezra compete and whoever answers the most correctly gets a prize–we always let Ezra win. Ha!).
We used to jump around with Bible stories, which is totally fine–you make Bible time whatever you want it to be–but then we decided to start with the beginning (Creation) and we’re trying to sort of go in order. We just finished talking about the plagues and have moved on to the crossing of the red sea/deliverance of the Israelites. But we spent SEVERAL weeks on Creation, on Noah, on Joseph, and on Moses, just reviewing the stories every night, until Ezra could pretty much tell them himself. When we tell the story, we sing songs, we act it out, we use children’s Bible story books, we use flannel cut-outs, we use easy Pinterest ideas for storytelling….we just kind of switch it up every night to tell the same story over and over until he’s GOT it. Then every single night we ask him the same questions and he answers.
Before we pray together, we ask Ezra,”What is true success?” and he answers “Living your life and going to heaven.” We ask, “What is true failure?” and he answers, “Living your life and NOT going to heaven.” We ask, “What’s God’s ideal for marriage?” and he answers “One man for one woman for life.” We say, “When Ezra gets married, he’s going to marry a…” And he answers, “A Christian.” Then we pray together, and we let him say his own prayer. We help him think of things to thank God for and ask God for.
With Colleyanna, we sing “Pat the Bible” and let her pat the Bible and we might sing Jesus loves me or something, then we might say a few things like, “Who made Mommy? God did! Who made Daddy? God did! Who made Colleyanna? God did!”—just very very simple (she’s 16 months–you adjust based on age level).
The main thing is–don’t be overwhelmed about this! This is not anything to be stressed about–it’s supposed to be fun!
Okay, so I’m just rambling and probably not helping much at all, BUT here are some helpful links that I think will really help you get started with this. It’s really an awesome thing to do as a family. If I could choose one thing that molded me spiritually more than anything else growing up, it’s that my family did this every day…and now it means so much more to me now that I’m raising “arrows” of my own.
[links I sent her:]
Glenn Colley sermon:
My friend: “Thank you so much!! You were not rambling! Everything you said is very helpful. I remember [my sister] and I spending the night at your house and doing Bible time. Your mom asked all of us to say the books of the Bible as many times as we could in one breath (without looking) and we would get a prize. [My sister] and I didn’t know any of them but we did the best we could and I got a life saver candy book. I remember feeling bad that I didn’t know them but y’all were only kind and encouraging and I never forgot it. I want to do the same for my kids and their friends! I want their friends to know that bible time is still important and comes first even with company. And obviously include them as well!”
There you have it. A few humble ramblings from me—a totally imperfect mama who messes up in so many areas, but desperately wants to get this one thing right; putting God in my kids.
Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Those 18-or-so years you have your children at home will be gone in the blink of an eye. When they’ve left the nest, you’ll likely have some regrets, but spending time putting God’s word in the hearts of your kids will not be one of them. Make 2018 the beginning of a heart-changing, life-enriching habit that you’ll never want to break! Your kids will grow up and “call you blessed” (Proverbs 31:28).