It’s 6:25 A.M. on a Monday morning. The last drops of coffee dribble into the pot as five sets of feet shuffle down the stairs. They are dressed, but some of them have yet to touch their hair and certainly no one has yet brushed their teeth. It’s breakfast time at our house on a perfectly regular school day, but food is not the only thing we circle around the table for.
The children get their breakfasts of cereal or mugs of heavily creamed coffee then sit down. My husband, who has been up an hour before me this morning, opens a black Bible to the place we are in the story and begins to read once everyone has what they need.
I shuffle around the kitchen, within earshot and make sandwiches, stuff containers with fruit and chips as he reads a chapter. Sometimes it’s narrative, sometimes it’s poetry—either way they talk about what the text says about God and his work in the world. It’s an ordinary time in our day, but I am trusting that the work that is going on beneath the surface of mere skin is anything but that.
We have been circling up like this since the kids were small. Reading God’s word, all of it—even the darker bits—for twenty minutes on weekday mornings before the kids go off to school. It has become such a habit in their lives that they don’t even question it.
Oftentimes I hear from other parents that they simply don’t have time to read the Bible with their children. Life is full, busy, there’s too much in the day to get done. As a mother of five, I’ve said the exact same things when I’m solo parenting while my husband travels. I know life is full, busy and time is precious. I completely understand that sometimes it feels like we can’t add one more thing to our plates or they will crack!
But I also know that there is something deep at work when habits are developed in a child’s life. I’ve seen the Word of God at work in forming our children in ways we cannot see immediately, but that are indeed happening when we gather to read, discuss and meditate on scripture. Even our youngest, who is four, can tell us things we had no idea he was paying attention to. But in the reading day after day, they pick up on things like the character of God, sin, and faith, and can articulate them.
Children are absorbing more than we realise in our day-to-day—both positively and negatively. And the Bible talks to parents specifically about why we need to be intentional early on in the lives of our children to establish a foundation of faith they can build upon:
Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6
The author of Proverbs is not guaranteeing that our children will live perfect lives if we do all the right things—free will is always there, but I believe that living faithfully and doing the hard work intentional parenting is what Christ has called all believers to who shepherd the next generation. We cannot know what seeds the Spirit is planting deep within a child’s heart that may appear to be dormant but might someday blossom.
So, what does this look like practically?
For us, it’s as simple as getting a Living Translation edition of the Bible so the kids can understand it better. Then, we have a set time that we begin reading and a time we end. We read a passage (or two, depending on length) and discuss what it means. We scale the complexity of the questions based on the ages of our children. Now that our oldest is sixteen, so we can ask deeper questions and easier ones for the little ones to chime into the conversation as well. Then we close in prayer.
Nothing extraordinary, just consistent. We’ve been amazed at what our youngest two glean from this time, even at their ages. They don’t just know facts about God but are beginning to know him personally in their own lives. And while I imagine each family can find its own rhythm in studying God’s word together, for us, if we don’t prioritise it early in the morning it won’t happen. The older your children get the busier life will be, and the more culture will be pulling at them for their attention.
So, my advice? Parents, regardless of how knowledgeable you feel about the Bible, begin reading and studying God’s word together as a family as early as you can. Make space for and prioritise your children hearing truth spoken by the people who have the most influence in their lives. You never know the impact establishing this habit will make in forming their hearts in the years to come.