In chapter 17 of What’s So Amazing About Scripture? I highlight the importance of each generation passing a love for Scripture on to the next generation.
Elsewhere I write about parenting for people of all faiths and none. But here is something for parents of Christian faith. I share with you some ways that my wife, Julie and I try to pass a passion for God’s Word to our five children. As you seek to do the same in your child or in the child of another, perhaps some of it will be useful for you too.
How do we help a child to love God’s Word? Here are 12 tips:
1. Talk about biblical passages as occasions arise.
“You shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” They will come to see Scripture’s power to impact upon their whole life, as you show them little by little how the Bible guides all of life: what we pray for, how we see and use money, how we relate to people, caring for the weak, the kinds of words we speak, gratitude for blessings and so on.
2. Read the Bible in front of your kids.
Model a love for Scripture. Other than your church involvement, your Bible-reading is the most obvious sign to your kids that you love God. If you read it on a screen, tell your kids that you are reading the Bible, not the news or social media. Mention in conversation things that you learnt in the Bible that day.
3. Read the Bible with your kids.
Explain to your kids that a disciple of Jesus is, first and foremost, someone who loves and listens to Jesus. The way to do this is, most days in our lives, to make time, if even for a few minutes, to read and reflect on his Word.
Read with them not to them. Model an enthusiasm about hearing what God has to say to “us” today through his Word. The knowledge of the Bible can be taught, but a love for the Bible is best caught.
Find the time in the day that works for you. When is the best time to teach Scripture to our kids? Every family needs to work that out for themselves, and the answer will vary as seasons change. For example, in my house, bedtimes have served as the best time to read an age-appropriate version of Scripture to kids. But there have also been times where I have used breakfast time to teach my kids a memory verse. And for the last 6 months, Julie and I read the Bible with our older kids for the first 15 minutes of the day. I know of other families who use a dinner time for this—some of them, every dinner and some of them, once a week.
We have found that if we wait until we all feel like it, or if we wait until the time seems right, most nights or mornings we simply won’t get to the Bible with our kids. Faith-motivated decisiveness and determination are needed to cultivate this habit.
Satan will not make it easy for us, but we must draw out battle lines around this habit and stand our ground. Determine to keep your family in the range of God’s voice. The stakes are high.
4. Show interest in what they learn at church.
Encourage your kids to be eager to co-operate and learn all they can in the age-specific ministries they are part of. After picking them up, ask your child what they have just learnt. Thank the leaders who teach your kids and ask how you can strengthen their hand.
5. Watch and discuss good movies about Bible stories.
The Superbook series, Joseph King of Dreams, the Prince of Egypt and the Witness Trilogy are animated options. The Nativity Story, the Bible mini-series, The Son of God, and The Chosen series are filmed options, some of which may not suitable for young children. There are many more.
6. Equip your child to eventually read the Bible on its own.
As they get older, perhaps they want to continue reading the Bible with you, or they might want to take over the habit themselves. This has been the real goal all along, that your children will learn this habit from you. If they want to go alone, ask them questions like: 1) When and how do you plan on reading on God’s Word? 2) What plan or resources will you use? 3) Do you mind if I ask from time to time what you are learning? In the same way you would encourage them, ideally without pestering them, in every other good habit in their lives, do so with regards to their devotional habits.
7. Pray that God reveals himself to your child.
Apart from the work of God’s Spirit in the heart of your child, your efforts to disciple them will be ultimately ineffective. Thankfully, you are not the only one who takes great joy in your child’s salvation and hunger for the Word. Jesus once erupted in joy, saying, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you revealed (these things) to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.”
8. Read your children age-related Bibles before they are about 8.
Christian bookshops have great resources. ‘My first Bible stories’ and ‘The rhyme Bible’ are good for 2-4 year olds. The ‘The Jesus Story book Bible’ and the free ‘Kids Bible app’ are great for 3-8 year olds. ‘The Action Bible’ (for boys) and ‘The Gospel Story Bible’ are great for 6-10 year olds.
9. From about age 5 teach them key memory verses.
Jesus started memorizing 1000s of verses when he was a child. We can encourage our kids to do the same. The most fun way to do this is to teach them object lesson-based verses. To help you do this, I am currently creating a resource called ‘Bible Memory Verses for Kids.’ It will eventually be available on www.terranwilliams.com.
10. From about age 8 onwards, daily read portions of the NIV, NIrV or NLT Bible.
Limit the reading to about 15 verses. Each person, whether parent or child, can choose their highlight verse in the reading. They can ‘claim’ that verse by reading it aloud and marking it with their distinctive colour or mark. Each person then prays something, hopefully inspired or guided by his or her verse. To help you do this, I have created a ‘Bible Adventure Plan’ to take your family through the whole Bible in 210 days.7 The plan alternates between an Old Testament books and a New Testament one. This helps people see the connections between the Testaments. It will eventually be available on www.terranwilliams.com.
12. Give them their own Bible during a special ‘ceremony.’
Choose an age when you will give your children their own Bible. If the story of the boy Jesus stepping up his independent engagement with Scripture is anything to go by, then age 12 or 13 seems good.
In the months before, take them through this book (or the 30 short videos based on this book on www.terranwilliams.com) or something like it as a preparation for having their own Bible. A nice analogy is to compare their own Bible to their own car, and this preparation as getting their Driver’s License.
As for the Bible-giving ceremony, perhaps a month after their 12th birthday, invite many of the Christian people they know, both adults in your extended family as well as some of their Christian friends, to an informal Bible-receiving ceremony. Ask a few people to come ready to read their favourite verse (which can all be highlighted in the child’s Bible) as well as what the Bible has meant to them in their life and faith. Gift the child with the Bible, then together pray God’s blessing over their lifetime adventure in God’s Word.
 Deuteronomy 6:7
 I also recommend the fantastic Torchlighters animated series, which is not based on Bible stories, but retells the stories of inspiring Christians in history.
 Matthew 11:25–26