A favorite story Bible. Snuggles on the couch or at bedtimes. Sweet questions and comments as young, innocent minds try to grasp the wonder of God’s interaction with mankind. All of these are precious pictures of children in a family of faith.
But the stories of Scripture, as powerful as they may be, only give part of the picture. At some point, we have to move our children from simply knowing the stories to processing the meaning behind them, connecting them to the rest of Scripture. We must lay the foundation for the learning and spiritual growth that will define the rest of their lives. The question is, how do we accomplish this? At what point do we push our children to think theologically instead of simply in story form? And what do we do when we lack a solid theological understanding ourselves?
Connecting the Dots
As children progress through elementary age and into their middle school years, they automatically become more “big picture” minded. They begin to connect dots and discover meaning behind stories, thinking a little more deeply. This connection beautifully opens the door for conversation about how God’s redemption for mankind is woven throughout Scripture. They can learn to grasp deeper truths nestled in the familiar stories of Scripture.
So, just how do parents help their children make that connection?
Be grounded in the Word of God yourself. When parents are not immersed in Scripture, they cannot even begin to impart understanding to their children! If daily Bible reading and study has never been a habit in the past, it is not too late to start. After a few days of diligent prayer and reading, you’ll probably finding yourself hungering to share what the Holy Spirit is teaching you. Who better to share with than your children?
Reading for Themselves
Encourage your children to read their Bibles daily and ask questions about anything they don’t understand. Choose verses from their passages that stand out to you and discuss those verses with your children.
Don’t be afraid of your children’s questions. Yes, sometimes you will get a question that you cannot answer. It is okay to say, “I don’t know.” Just make sure to follow that admission up with, “But I’ll find out!” Ask a pastor, teacher, or trusted mentor who is knowledgeable in Scripture and learn together with your children.
Let church help
If your children attend a Sunday school or small group gathering, ask them to share what they learned. Continue probing with questions about how the things they learned affect their lives and what God wants them to do with this new knowledge. Do the same with any sermons you listen to as a family. Be challenged to take notes yourself (and ask the pastor your questions!) so you’ll have questions ready to ask your children about what was said in the sermon.
Copy Scripture as a family. Taking the time to slow down and truly process Scripture through writing opens many amazing conversation opportunities. Pick a book of the Bible that is age-appropriate for close attention and deep discussion, and dive in. It might take a year to get through the whole book, copying just a few verses at a time, but it will be an eye-opening experience.
Do you see the pattern here? Helping our children learn to move from stories to theology does not require extensive training. It simply requires that we make God’s Word a daily part of our lives. When we read it, internalize it, and discuss it with our children, they will naturally grow in understanding. And it will be just as precious as those Bible story time snuggles were once upon a time.