“Alright everybody, let’s turn to the book of John, Chapter 7.”
“John, Chapter 7.”
“Where is that? Old Testament or New?”
I get this sort of response all the time from students, and I honestly can’t really blame them. When I was growing up, the page numbers in my Bible were my best friend (I named the page numbers Frederick, and him and I still keep in touch today).
If I didn’t go by page numbers, I would end up sitting there feverishly flipping through pages trying to find the book that my pastor/youth pastor was reading from. Oftentimes, I would get sidetracked by this and end up reading some random epistle, minor prophet, or the always popular book among kids of Revelation.
Here is a fun game to try on a Sunday: Find any kid in Church with his/her Bible open, and 9 times out of 10 I can promise you they are reading the book of Revelation. Probably because it has dragons and stuff…
The point is, growing up I wasn’t very Bible literate.
Now don’t get me wrong. I knew my Bible fairly well, I just didn’t know how to work the thing. It was like some ancient foreign piece of technology. I knew who made it, how it worked, and much of its contents, however, I had no idea how to turn the thing on. Nobody had ever showed me.
This made it hard for me to actually sit down and know where to start. I would close my eyes, flip randomly, and just start reading. This left me very much so confused and out of context.
Finally, when I was around the age of 13, my dad caught on to my random Bible flipping and played a song for me.
Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iS3w5Ji6uw
This is a really cheesy rap song by a guy from Covenant College named James Ward.
I listened to this song over and over as a kid, and to this day, I still recite the rap in my head as I flip through the Bible.
But let’s be honest, this “rap” will probably not be the thing that gets your child excited about memorizing the books of the Bible. It definitely won’t be the thing that gets them excited about actually picking their Bible up and reading it.
So, I thought it would be edifying to both you and your children if I wrote up a sort of, “5 helpful steps to improve your children’s Bible literacy/reading practices.” (“How To Read Bible Good” for short.)
1. Keep Bibles Everywhere
I have bagoodles of Bibles. Every year I head to Lifeway or some other Christian Bookstore, and I buy their little $5 clearance Bibles. Usually they have tons of these right before or right after Christmas. Go buy like 10 Bibles. Put one in each car, one in every room of the house (of course the bathroom), and one at work. Pick them up randomly throughout the day. Read from them to your kids at breakfast, at dinner, at bedtime, etc. The common thing I hear from students is that they just forget to read their Bibles as they go throughout their day. Having them EVERYWHERE means it’s much harder to forget or lose a Bible. Also, it’s a great way to randomly give out Bibles to strangers!
2. Be a Walking Bible
My mom used to tell me, “you may be the only Bible someone ever reads.” The Scripture tells us to, “hide the Word in our hearts.” If you have been a believer for a long time, you probably know a decent amount of the Bible. If your kid is having trouble reading the Bible, then point them to it by living it out. Be a walking Bible. Quote scripture, and when they say, “where did you get that from?” You can be all like, “let me show you!” Talking about eternal things is a great way to set your children’s thoughts on eternal things. Showing them how the Word of God has impacted your life and your actions will act as a springboard for them actually picking it up themselves. Give them grace, and emphasize Bible reading as a joy rather than a chore.
3. Find a Kid-centric Bible Study/Book/Movie
For a long time, my dad would read to me everynight before bed from these silly Christian teen novels called, “The Incredible Worlds of Wally McDoogle.” These were silly books about this kid who always had weird and wild adventures, and they always ended with a moral/Christian message. Okay, this wasn’t the Bible, and yes it was usually overly moralistic. But what it ultimately was, was one on one time with my dad talking about spiritual truths. Find a Bible study or book to go through with your kids. These books don’t even always have to be “Christian” in nature. All great works of literature have the gospel story within them. Think of “a tale of two cities,” or, “Frankenstein.” The themes of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation, are woven all throughout. Read to your kids, and read to yourself. Extend this even to film if your kids prefer movies. E.T. is basically a retelling of the gospel narrative, in the same way that Lion King is a retelling of Hamlet. Find the truth hidden in every movie, book, and popular song, and see them as opportunities to remind your kids and yourself of the gospel. All Truth is God’s Truth, and that Truth will lead you back home to the Bible.
4. Show them that the Word is Living and Active
The Bible is not simply a history book. It is living, and active, and exciting, and dangerous, and bursting with Life! Students are so accustomed to reading books for school, that the Bible becomes just another assignment at the end of the day. This is the exact opposite of what the Bible should be. The Bible is a love letter and an adventure novel! It is the grand story of redemption! The story of a God that loves and loves and loves and loves the world so very much, that He sends His own Son to save it. It is a history book, but you shouldn’t read it as you would other history books. Instead, when Goliath dies, our enemy dies. When Jesus mourns over Jerusalem, we mourn right along with Him. And when Christ rises on Easter Sunday, we rise as well. It is alive, and real, and active, just as the Spirit that wrote it is Alive, and Real, and Active. When you pick up the Bible, it’s as if the Author of it is sitting right next to you, unfolding all of its deepest mysteries; pouring out its contents into your hearts and minds. If we don’t view the Bible in this way, then how will our students grow to love it? Teach them to pray before reading, asking the Spirit for clarity and understanding. Lead them to the Author, and let Him do the storytelling.
5. Teach them how to turn it on
Technology for those who have grown up with it, is fairly simple to use and learn. For my parents, however, it has been difficult to master. I remember when Blu-rays first came out, my dad making a very Nostradamus-esque prediction. “This will never catch on, son.” Well dad, sorry to tell you, but that was 9 years ago. Even to this day my mom still has trouble working a DVD player, and sending texts for her is a laborious task. Until very recently, she had this really old phone, and she used to send me these texts that looked like ransom notes.
“HeAth..Can YoU GiVE Me CalLS WHen YoU Get..ThIs?”
Just a call, or do you also want one million dollars in unmarked bills?
Technology is useful, but not if you don’t know how to turn it on. The Bible has the very Words of God contained within it, but if our students cant figure out how to turn the thing on, then they will never figure out what’s inside. So start by maybe buying them a study Bible. Show them how to use the reference notes. Help them memorize the names of the books, and the common names/themes that occur. Whats a Pharisee? Where is Jerusalem? Why do the Jews hate the Samaritans and vice versa? Explain chapters and verses, and help them make notes. Show them connections between the Old Testament and the New. Go on a, “where’s Jesus” hunt in the Old Testament. Spoiler alert: He is all over the place! Help them turn it on, and then watch them go. You will be amazed at all the wonderful things your kids will end up teaching you about the Bible
Lastly, know that I am here to help you as parents in anyway I can. I only get your kids once or twice a week, but you have them forever, and I try to build upon the foundations that you have already laid in place. Working together is vital as we walk together in faith with these awesome students. Please feel free to reach out to me if you ever need a book recommendation/prayer/whatever. Praying for you all and your kiddos.
Time to do some reading 🙂