Meditating on the Word: The Bible in Family Worship
One of the most important things you can do with your family is read the Bible together with them. Children are never to young nor too old for you to engage them in Bible reading, study, and devotions as a family together. Honestly, if your family is anything like my family, it can be difficult to carve out specific times for Bible reading and family devotions. Let me offer a few helpful tips for using the Bible in family reading.
- Try to balance Bible stories with Bible doctrines. The Bible is really an amazing book when you think about how many stories of redemptive-history give us insights into the specific Biblical doctrines. For example, think of all the stories that illustrate God’s sovereignty, man’s sin, and God’s grace? As adult, we sometimes forget the simplicity of the stories. For children, complicated doctrines are often illustrated by the stories. We have sometimes used catechisms in conjunction with Bible reading to help illustrated these points.
- Encourage the whole family to engage. This can be a challenge depending on the age range of your children. Our youngest and our oldest are seven years apart so there have been phases in our life where different kids could barely listen or understand while the oldest one needed tougher challenges. Sometimes in the Bible reading, we had to tell the “short version” of the story for the younger children, while the older one could handle a much fuller reading of the passage. Be sensitive to the level of each kid.
- Ask questions about the Bible reading and encourage feedback. Teach your kids to interact with the text. Don’t be afraid to wrestle with the tough questions like “why would God order everyone in Jericho killed?” This may not be a question for your three year old, but don’t be afraid to ask the thirteen year old to think about it. Done in the right way, kids can enjoy the challenge of thinking about God’s Word.
- Let your kids do the reading. This has just been a personal joy to have the children take an active role in reading the Bible. Not only does it help them develop reading skills but it increases their familiarity with the Bible.
- Don’t set unrealistic expectations on them, or yourself. It is so easy to set such a high and unattainable goal and then feel miserable when you fail to attain it. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve failed to keep the habit of family devotions, only to restart them up again and try to be consistent. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s better to fail and restart a hundred times than to give up on it all together. You may find that it is best to read only a few verses with your children—they may not be ready to sit down and read through a whole chapter together. You may find with young children, you have to use a Bible story book. Keep in mind a Bible story book isn’t the inerrant Word of God, so you may want to read a key verse right from the Bible but then summarize the whole story using the Bible story book. There are all kinds of tools for this. Similarly, reading one or two verse that go with a catechism proof may be the level your children are at and it can help them understand the Biblical truth.
- Partner with your church or Sunday school. If you are struggling with ideas of where to start, I would encourage you to find out what they are learning about in Sunday School or at church. For example, our Sunday school teacher sends a verse home every week that they should memorize. My wife has been amazing at helping my kids review but then taking time around the dinner table to ask the children “Ok, what does that mean?” or “How are you going to apply it?” You may find some other families at church that you can partner with and agree to do the same topics or Bible readings for family devotions. This might help with accountable and encouragement.
There are numerous different ways you can use the Bible in family worship or devotions. Don’t be so overwhelmed by the idea that you don’t start. You may feel intimidated by what you hear other families are doing. Just start simple and small. But start! You never know the impact that Bible reading and discussion will have on your children years down the road. The smallest investment now may reap compounding interest down the road that you cannot even begin to imagine.
Tim Bertolet is a graduate of Lancaster Bible College and Westminster Theological Seminary. He is an ordained pastor in the Bible Fellowship Church, currently serving as pastor of Faith Bible Fellowship Church in York, Pa. He is a husband and father of four daughters. You can follow him on Twitter @tim_bertolet.