God is the most precious heirloom our children can ever receive, and receiving him means knowing and loving him. Our personal habits and family traditions of the Word and prayer are the ones that are not optional if we want God as our eternal inheritance. (p. 49)I remember when I first read this book, that chapter 5 was the one that I felt most overwhelmed by. Probably because I knew that Noel Piper was absolutely correct - that as Christian parents, teaching our kids to pray and read God's word isn't optional!
And, while they aren't optional, the ways we do this can vary widely from family to family. I appreciated the fact that she shared how her family have done things in this chapter, but I wasn't sure if we would (or could!) copy what the Piper family have done. In the end, Dave and I have slowly put our own traditions and habits in place in our home - some of which are similar to those of the Pipers and some which aren't (eg. we have decided to wait until each child can read before we start them on their own individual, daily Bible reading times).
So I thought I'd quickly share some resources that have worked well for our family, and then I'm hoping that you can comment and share what has worked with yours, or (if you were raised in a Christian family) what you found helpful in the ways your parents taught you these things as you were growing up.
XTB and Table Talk
Regular readers of my blog will already know that our family have found the Good Book Company's XTB and Table Talk enormously helpful in teaching our kids to read the Bible.
Table Talk is designed to help families do devotions together. They include really helpful notes to help explain the Bible passage, as well as questions to ask, and even some activities for the kids to do together. It's not unusual to have all sorts of role playing happening at our breakfast table as a result (along with the occasional more ambitious adventure)!
XTB (Explore the Bible), is designed to work with Table Talk, having books that correspond to each other). It's meant to be used for personal devotions for children who are old enough to start reading the Bible for themselves. We started Jacob using these when he started reading, and he loves them. It includes a passage to read as well as some questions and activities to help the kids understand the Bible passage a little better.
Reading the Bible one to one
We have also found that with 3 kids all at different developmental stages, we need to read the Bible with each of them separately. We usually do this at the end of the day, after stories and before bed.
While I agree with Noel Piper that it's good for kids to hear the Bible read whatever their age (and we do that in the morning with Table Talk), we have decided to use children's Bibles as well, in order to help them understand what they are hearing a little better. Jean has compiled a very useful list of Children's Bibles that is worth a read if you're trying to decide which version to read to your child. With Jacob, when he was ready, we moved on to an easy-to-read Bible (NIrV).
At the moment another little tradition we have with our kids is that we're slowly reading through some of the books written by Colin Buchanan. We bought Jacob and Rebecca Remember the Lord and Practise Being Godly for Easter. The books are kind of devotional in style, but correspond with the songs on each respective album. At the moment, we read one section on a Sunday night to each of them. We look at the pictures that he's drawn and read what he's written and sing the songs. It's a lot of fun and the kids really look forward to that time on a Sunday night.
Another we do is pray with our kids at various times in the day - before meals, after we read the Bible, when something comes up. We don't have any grand strategies with this - just encourage them to 'talk to God'.
We have done a bit of Bible memorisation with our kids at Christmas and Easter time in a more 'formal' way. During the rest of the year, we mainly consolidate what they've been learning at Sunday School. It's amazing how quickly kids can memorise things - and what a wonderful thing the Bible is to memorise! This is actually something I want to do a bit more of in our family having been inspired by Jean's example of memorising the Bible at breakfast and teaching her children the psalms.
Another thing that we try to do with our kids is sing songs about Jesus with them. We are so blessed in Australia to have wonderful kids cds made by Emu music and musicians like Colin Buchanan. We listen to them in car trips, the kids listen as they go to sleep at night, we sing them during the day - it's amazing how much our kids seem to have learned from the songs they've listened to!
Modelling it ourselves
And of course, we can hardly expect our kids to learn everyday habits of reading the Bible and praying and memorising God's word if we aren't doing these things as parents. This really hit home for me a year or so ago when I noticed Jacob copying the way Dave and I shut the door when we read our Bibles in the morning.
So these are just some of the things that we've tried so far with our little family. I'd love to hear from you though. What has worked for you and your family?