9 Tips for Teaching Kids the Bible
How to Teach Your Children about God
I'm the mom of five children and we don't homeschool or go to a private Christian school. My kids do regularly attend church, Sunday school, go to VBS and other church programs like AWANAs and youth group activities, but I've often felt that wasn't a substitute for making sure we teach them about the Bible and about God at home.
So I started reading filling our house books, music, and videos which would teach about God, the Bible, and Christianity to my kids. I also planned a routine which made those materials a part of our daily life. Here I share the best Christian resources available for parents, and how to make teaching your children about God part of your daily routine.
Teaching your Children About God is Rewarding for the Whole Family
#1. Read Bible to Your Children Every Day
My best parenting decision was to read good books to my children every day. I've spent a lot of time gathering resources and developing a way to make sure I'm teaching my children about the Bible on a regular basis. I've spent the last sixteen years teaching my kids through informal daily reading and conversations sparked by our reading. It has been the best part of my parenting experience to spend this time in books and talking with my children every day, so I wanted to share this with you. Many of the best ones I've discovered can't be found in a regular bookstore or even a Christian bookstore, so I've included some links to the side.
#2 Teaching the Bible to Children is Good for Moms and Dads too!
Not only do I want them to have a thorough knowledge of the life of Jesus, the history of the church and faith and also how to live as a Christian, I wanted to open up conversations to let my kids ask me questions about things they wanted to know. Moreover, as a mom of lots of kids, it is sometimes hard to find the time to do a devotional. So reading Scripture, Bible stories or other devotional materials with my kids has often been a way to help my own spiritual growth too.
What is your Biggest Challenge in Teaching Your Kids about God?
#3 How to Read when Kids are Different Ages
With my 5 kids, I have two reading times--one for the three littlest, and one for the 11 and 13 year old. Even though my older kids could read themselves anything I can read to them, these read-aloud times are different because they are a shared experience which we can talk about. In addition to that, my kids always know there will be one time during the day that I will sit down and be focused on them. That is when they often come to ask me questions or tell me problems. After reading, we pray and then they go to sleep. At some stages, my husband has taken one group, while I've read to another.
Family Reading Time
#4 How to Make Time for Teaching the Bible to your Children:
Read before sleep: The hardest thing is sometimes finding a good time and making sure that Bible story time doesn't get shoved out of the schedule. What has worked for me is to have a "three book" rule. Before my kids went down to sleep for either a nap or nighttime, we would read 3 books (when we went into chapter books, we would read about 15-30 minutes).
Make it Routine: Once the kids get into that routine, they won't let you get out of it (believe me--there are lots of days I'd be ready to skip reading!). That kept me accountable and has set up a pattern of regular reading. Not only would this reading time give me a chance to put Bible reading and other books into our schedule, but it also became a time my kids knew they could count on having my full attention. Sometimes my husband has taken one group of children, while I took another group. At other times, I've done two reading times.
Adjust as they get Older but don't Stop: I started this program with each of my kids when they were about 15 months to 18 months old. At the very beginning, I'd just choose books with pictures and say a word or two for each page. I'd always have them sit in my lap so it became a time when we were cuddling together and focusing on the pages. I ended up having three kids on my lap a lot of the time!
As they got older, we read simple Bible stories and other Christian books. We'd also do picture books of all sorts. When they were ready, we'd head into short chapter books, then longer ones. When my kids were in 5th to 7th grade, we started reading Christian classics like C.S. Lewis books, Hinds Feet on High Places (by Hannah Hurnard) and I would read from the NIV Bible. I read through the entire Bible twice with my two older kids before they went into High School. Along the way, we discussed many theological issues. Sometimes, I'd read long passages. Other times, I'd read just a few verses and we'd discuss. I'd stop when I felt we'd talked about one important thing.
I didn't stop reading to my kids on a regular basis until my oldest went to high school, and my son was in Junior High. My husband still reads Christian History with my Junior High son periodically, but in general, we talk about the things they are learning in youth group and in their own reading.
#5 Fill Your House with Good Children's Bibles and Books
For preschoolers, just about any of the toddler Bibles can be good and we have several. I would just pick one and then read 1-2 stories a night until we'd finished the book. I'm always careful to tell the kids that children's Bibles don't tell everything in the "Big Bible." Here are some I like (with publisher in parenthesis):
- The Children's Discovery Bible (Chariot Publishing)
- The Beginner's Bible (Zondervan)
- The Young Reader's Bible (Standard Publishing)
Theology: After I'd read the children's Bibles through a few times. I read through a theology for kids (my Catholic friends do this much better than we do in Protestant churches). Here is the one I found, but I would LOVE to hear of other books like this one:
- Leading Little Ones to God by Marian Schoolland (Eerdmans)
Illustrated Bibles: One type of Bible I have appreciated a lot is the comic book Bibles. These tell the stories in more detail than a children's Bible, so they tend to be for kids in elementary school. They are a good way to move kids into reading the Bible on their own and getting them ready for an adult Bible. I read these to the kids to start with until they start pulling them out to read on their own. The interest in the comic book style pictures makes them pull the kids into reading. I've often bought a bunch of these to give out as birthday presents. I remember one party where the kids were all fighting over it! I often can't find these in bookstores, but they are available online. Here are some I've liked:
- The Illustrated Bible
- The Comic Book Bible(Barbor)
- The Picture Bible(Cook Communications Ministry)
- The Manga Bible (Doubleday--edgier for older kids)
Read a Children's Edition of the Bible: When I was ready to read the "Big Bible" to my kids I started with a good regular NIV translation, but then I found this one which is a chronological Bible written in very kid-friendly language by Karen Henley. Some of the language were too imprecise for me and so I'd substitute the real Bible language, but this is set up so you can get through the Bible in a year. I'd often read along in my Bible as my devotion too.
- Day by Day Kid's Bible by Karyn Henley (Tyndale) This Bible has a few irritating features, such as talking about the Temple but not using that word. Some of the language is too simplified also, but I do like the fact that it tells the Bible story in the order that things happened which I think is a really good introduction for kids to the whole story of how God works in human history.
- Arch Books: These are single paperbacks which tell one Bible story at a time in a rhyming format. Some of the rhymes are a bit forced but others are quite eloquent. My kids have enjoyed this and they do provide a deeper look into some Bible stories missed, or given short shift in children's Bibles, like the Pentecost. They also sometimes take a Bible story and tell it from the perspective of a child, which my kids have enjoyed
#6 Read Your Kids Biographies of Christians
Along with teaching my kids about the Bible, I want to teach them about how to be people of God and how to live out their faith. That is where I've found biographies of Christians to be helpful. As we've read them together, we've talked about the good and bad decisions real Christian people have made and how that affected them and other people. Here are some of the books we've found (with some more linked to the side).
- Fifty-Seven Saints by Eileen Heffernan (Pauline Books and Media) Maggie loved this one and read it over and over. Maybe too much since one day she asked, "Do all Christians die for their faith?" It is a great book to give perspective and a sense of church history.
- The Little House Series: I've been re-reading these books with my youngest kids recently and have been very much struck by how the faith of these characters was so central to their story. We've also been reading the extensions to Laura Ingall's Wilder's own series which tell about her mother, grandmother and daughter. Although not all of these books include as many Christian themes, the story of this family history has provided some very fascinating discussions with my kids and a lot of fruitful meditation for me.
- Heroes of the Faith (Barbour) This is a series of biographies of missionaries and other Christians. They are written by various authors and not all of them are equally good. However, I've really appreciated getting the chance to introduce my kids to people who sacrificed their own ambitions for God. Gladys Aylward and Corrie Ten Boom are particularly good ones.
#7 Look for Fiction that Has Christian Principles
Of course, you can read children's Bible Story books, the Arch Bible stories and other Christian children's books. However, I didn't just read the Bible during my story time. We would read all sorts of books, but I always used our time to also talk about how the stories either illustrated Christian principles or showed the consequences of people disobeying or making foolish choices.
As soon as my kids were able to sit and listen, we would start on chapter books with fewer pictures. Between first and third grade, my kids especially started enjoying reading together books that were in a series like:
- Boxcar Children
- American Heritage Series
- American Girl Books
- The Little House on the Prairie
Looking at history through books which also incorporate Christian principles or family closeness opens up many discussions. Sharing these books also gives us things to talk about during the day as we wonder what will happen to different characters.
We've also loved reading many fictional books, some of which are distinctly Christian, and others which simply have stories which are inspiring or show people who make good decisions and treat others well. The first one on my list is a hidden treasure, now out of print, which I must recommend as a fantastic investment for any Christian home. We found it at both our public library and our church library. You might find a set on Amazon or e-Bay.
First Book in American Adventure Series
American Adventure Series
American Adventure Series (Barbour publishing).This 48 book series tells the story of American history through one fictional family, starting from England on the Mayflower and going until right after World War II in Seattle. I learned more about American history from reading this series than I think I ever did in school.
What I loved about these books is that they tell about families who are Christians and who seek to live out their lives as Christians. The books are not necessarily preachy and only a few of the stories have "converts" as a main part of the plot. What does happen is that the young people in the books have to make moral choices and live with the results of those choices.
It is fascinating to then see these children as the parents in the other books in the series. You will love this series! I've had several friends buy it and then donate it to a church library or sell it on eBay when they were finished. I'm about to start reading them again to my younger kids and I'm looking forward to it! Because many of the books do deal with historical situations like war and slavery, I'd recommend reading them at about 3rd grade or later.
1 Timothy 4:12 by Seeds Family Worship
#8 Help Kids Memorize Bible with Music
One of the best investments I've ever made is when I bought the Seeds Family Worship CD tapes at my mom's church in California. I've since bought other tapes online. They have a whole series, including Seeds of Faith, Seeds of Courage, Seeds of Worship, Seeds of Encouragement. These tapes were written to encourage families to listen together and memorize Scripture. The songs are very well written and produced. They are great worship songs and after you've listened a few times the Scriptures are in your head for life. Great, great tapes (and a huge improvement over most kid's worship CD tapes).
The Mom Song
#9 Look for Great Christian Music
We've had the Go Fish Guys sing at our church for a couple of years and my kids have loved their upbeat music and Christian lyrics. Their music is fun for kids and parents too. Their tapes are aimed at the preschool set, but my grade schoolers have loved them as well. I especially appreciate "The Mom Song" which gives tribute to all the things moms do to make the family run smoothly. They've also developed a couple of different VBS programs which our church has used which have been more Bible focused than other programs.