Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
After Moses delivered the Ten Commandments, he instructed the people on how to live in devotion to the Lord. They were to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and strength. They were to keep the commandments and teach them to their children. And when the children asked, in future years, about the meaning of the decrees, then the people were to tell their children the story of the Exodus: "We were Pharaoh's slaves in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand." (Deuteronomy 6:21).
As Christian parents, grandparents, and caregivers, we, too, want to teach the holy words to our children. We want to tell them the ancient stories of promise, deliverance, human failure, and divine forgiveness so that they may come to "love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and strength."
But just how do we go about imparting to them a knowledge of Scripture? The temptation is to leave this task to "the experts" at Sunday school or a week of vacation Bible school. But kids' opportunity to develop knowledge of and love for the Bible will be much greater if parents and grandparents show and tell them, too.
Keeping a regular time for family devotions is a great way to foster love for the Bible and devotion to the Lord. But there are impediments to such a practice, including hectic schedules and our fears that we don't know enough about the Bible to teach our children. A more subtle hindrance is our desire to control kids' exposure to the Bible-to shield young readers from things in Scripture that may confuse them, and to ensure that every passage is presented with a neatly packaged moral. I see this tendency in many of the religious videos and devotional materials written for children. Authors seem often to suppose that their task is to identify a moral for each Bible story and offer not the story but the moral. Frequently these "biblical" messages are re-packaged as modern "morality tales," in which it is not Moses, Miriam, Joshua, Jesus, and Paul who act but fictitious modern children, who learn such bland lessons as "Don't lie," "Don't cheat," "Obey your parents," "Witness to your friends," "Be nice to the lonely kid at school."
THE TIME CRUNCH
When I lead workshops on daily devotions with children, adults typically mention the time-crunch as their greatest concern. On weekdays the kids' afternoon and evening hours fly, with extracurricular activities, homework, dinner, and bedtime routines each claiming precious minutes. And if it happens that the kids are unscheduled, then the parents are frantic, trying to keep lives and household organized and jobs on track. "How," you may be asking, "can I squeeze any more moments out of each day?"
The time is there, but you will have to work to make it. Do you eat together as a family at least a few evenings per week? Then read and reflect as a family on a passage of Scripture before you say grace. Are bedtime stories a part of the nightly ritual with one or more of your children? Then make one of your readings each night a passage from the Bible. Some parents tell me that they gather for family devotions each morning, but I cannot imagine this working at my own house, given the weekday press just to get everyone out the door on time.
You don't need to find large chunks of time. Even 10 minutes each day, offered consistently, can take you and your family into the heart of Scripture. And don't be discouraged if you can't make it a time for the whole family: start one-on-one with a single child if that is what you can manage. Think of your minutes together as "planting time": you are planting and watering seeds of faith; God will give the growth (1 Corinthians 3:7).
Once the seeds have sprouted, you may find that God-talk also happens readily at other times throughout your days: while riding with your children in the car, reflecting on a TV news report or an incident at school, or discussing a routine matter like recycling or feeding the family pet. Look for ways to help your kids make connections between the Bible and what is happening in their lives. Don't suppose, however, that you will be the only one talking! Kids are natural-born theologians. It is their business to wonder why things are the way they are. Given a little encouragement and a steady diet of Scripture's stories, hymns, instructions, poems, and prophecies, children will see God in places that will astound and delight you.THE QUESTIONS KIDS ASK!