Wondering how to teach your kids the whole Bible? This post is for you!
Paul, in 2 Timothy 3, writes to Timothy of the terrible times to come. Then, he contrasts the evil men of these coming times with himself, his teaching, and the persecution he has endured. Paul then follows this up with an encouragement to Timothy that has become a keystone verse in guiding how I disciple my children.
“But as for you, continue in the things you have learned and firmly believed, since you know from whom you have learned them. From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work.”2 Timothy 3:14-17 ESV
In the face of this evil world, Paul appeals to Timothy to continue in all that he has learned from the scriptures, things that had been taught to him since infancy! It was this instruction in the God-breathed scripture, given to him through his mother and grandmother, that had prepared Timothy to become wise for salvation and be equipped for every good work he would go on to do.
Throughout my time involved in various children’s ministries and in stories I have heard from friends, I have become aware of a glaring hole in how many of us are teaching children the Bible. Instead of teaching them the whole story of God’s Word and what it tells us of God’s character and his plans for his creation, instead we pick and choose. A story here, a story there. Pulling out moral principles, verses stripped from their context, and summarized facts. We have clever themes and activities, but at the end of it all I wonder.. do the children really know God and how all of his story is wonderfully interwoven throughout history? And if not, why are we denying our children this beauty and power?
In the rest of this post, lets unpack some tips for helping your children to get to know God through learning the whole story of scripture.
Three “Big Picture” Tips
First, let’s take a step back and look at the big picture. Here are three tips that will help you as you think through teaching your kids the Bible.
1) Learn the grand story of Scripture
Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration.
The Bible isn’t just a book of random stories. It all fits together into the masterpiece of God’s work in his creation. If this isn’t a concept you are familiar with, this article from TGC is a good place to start! For young kids, the book The Garden, the Curtain, and the Cross by Carl Laferton, The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung, and the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones are good starting places. Older kids might enjoy creating a timeline of the Bible to show the flow throughout history. All ages young and old can enjoy the songs from The Bible Album: The Greatest Story Ever Told.
There are definitely parts of the Bible that are best saved for when your child is older and more mature, but from the very beginning they can learn that all of scripture is part of God’s amazing story.
2) Search for who God is from the pages of his Word
People might make up the stories of the Bible, but they aren’t the main characters. God himself is. Instead of trying to place yourself into the story, let the story show you who God is. Teach your kids to get to know him on the pages of his word. After all, how can they follow a God they do not know? Instead of focusing on just the “dos and don’ts” of the faith, introduce them to a God worth following.
3) Christ is the foundation we gradually build upon
As we work to disciple our children in God’s Word, let’s remember two important truths: first, all of us are merely the Lord’s servants, it is Him who ultimately brings the growth. And second, let us always be looking to Christ as the foundation of everything we are teaching and building in our children. (See 1 Corinthians 3:5-11)
Through each of our children’s ages and stages, we are laying a foundation of God’s Word and the truth of Jesus Christ, and slowly building on it as the child grows and matures. This is a helpful mindset to have because we remember that we do not have to attempt to stuff our children with every bit of truth all at one time. To borrow another metaphor from scripture, you can think of them like a tree – slow growing, and often the growth of roots is unseen and underground. However, once fully grown, that tree “planted by streams of living water” (Ps 1) is strong, steadfast, and bears much fruit.
Just like we continually return to scripture again and again, renewing our minds and being taught and retaught truth, our children do the same. There is no rush, no race. Just faithfully inviting your children to follow Jesus alongside you, trusting him to bring the growth throughout your child’s life.
A Simple Method for Teaching Your Kids the Whole Bible
It is one thing to know that your kid’s faith will be made stronger for digging into the whole story of God’s Word, straight from the source. It’s another thing to figure out HOW you are going to teach your kids the whole Bible! It is such a gift and a privilege to walk this road alongside our children, but there are an overwhelming amount of options when it comes to studying the Bible with them.
We have had the best success by keeping things simple! The following method is easy to implement, yet also has been so beneficial in getting my children straight into God’s Word. It has the added benefit of training them to interact with the Word using their own minds, not just relying on pre-made studies or devotionals, fill in the blanks or worksheets, or pre-thought out application points. First, I select a section of scripture to work through (we are currently reading the gospels).
Then, our Bible study method is broken down like this:
📖 REVIEW – briefly discuss what we read previously and where we left off.
📖 READ – read the section we are currently on, keeping it between 10-20 verses generally.
📖 RETELL – each kid takes a turn retelling the passage in their own words (we usually go youngest to oldest, with each old kid filling in more detail). There is so much brain work happening here! It seems simple on the surface, but they are really mentally digesting the passage when they have to retell it.
📖 REACT – we go back over the passage and share our thoughts. Are there any questions? Were there any unfamiliar words? What did we notice? What did we learn about who God is? I add in a little of my own thoughts, being careful to not overload them with information! They will be adding on layers with every rereading, for the rest of their lives!
📖 RECORD – right now we are using simple notebook journals to draw and/or write anything we want to remember about what we read. However, there are many creative ways you could record your thoughts and ideas! The import thing is that we don’t micromanage what our kids produce. Let our kids do the work themselves, being happy with whatever that results in. For my boys, some days what means is an in-depth drawing and some days its a quick stick figure. It’s about the process, not the end product!
We’ve been using this method to slowly work through the gospels, roughly chronologically. I print out a reading plan and we just take it a little bit at a time, for as long as it takes us. I especially love how this can easily work with all ages, letting each level of maturity take what they can at that stage!
You can download a printable version of the “5 R’s Bible Study Method” by CLICKING HERE.
Making it Fun!
Afraid your kids will be bored when you start teaching them the whole Bible and you read straight from scripture instead of a storybook Bible? Here are a couple more tips to help you:
🌟 Start with your own joy and excitement! Kids feed off of the vibe we are spreading. Do you find God’s Word fascinating and joyful? They will follow that. If you are struggling here ask God to open your eyes and heart. Oftentimes we don’t need to do anything crazy to make the Bible “fun” – we just need to open our eyes to the awesomeness that’s already there.
🌟 Have fun while reading. No monotonous renderings allowed! 😂 I’m reminded of the time we gave a *very* dramatic retelling of John’s calling the crowd of Pharisees a brood of vipers. While it’s got it’s slow parts, overall the Bible has some wild stories. Play it up!
🌟 Don’t stay in your seat! Let your kids walk around, play quietly, act things out, run to get another book the story reminds them of, sing, keep a journal… the list goes on.
🌟 Follow the rabbit trails! I have a stack of related books nearby for this reason. Curiosity and wonder go hand in hand. Around here we especially love to look people and places up on maps. Click here for a collection of some of our favorite Bible study supplement books.
🌟 Have a long view. Not every Bible lesson is going to be rainbows or lightening strikes. That’s okay! That’s normal. The level of interest and excitement will vary and come and go. It’s all valuable and can all be used by the Holy Spirit in your and your child’s life. You never know when they’ll make a connection! (Often when you didn’t even think they were listening! 😂)
Preparing for a Bible Lesson
Once you start teaching your kids the whole Bible and read straight from scripture, you might have some questions. Two big ones are: “What do I actually teach them?” and “What if they ask me a question I don’t know the answer to?!” Let’s chat about these two big questions!
“What do I actually teach them?”
It can be a little intimidating to leave the predictability of a devotional or pre-made Bible study and just read straight from scripture. And while these resources can definitely be helpful and great for certain seasons – there is nothing quite like leading your child straight to the Word.
For my children (and honestly even for myself!), when we read the Word I have one big, main goal: for them to know God deeper and therefore trust Him more. When we read, the consistent question is: “what can we learn about who God is from this passage?” Within and beyond that, there is always so much to learn, meditate on, and peel back the layers on. You can’t possibly absorb it all in one sitting!
Instead of going in with a bullet pointed list of things your child must learn, try instead moving slow and watching for the Holy Spirit’s lead. There is nothing wrong with adding your own thoughts and ideas, it’s a needed part of the process! However, I’ve found its better to err on the side of sharing less words from me, as my children learn and develop the habit of personally meeting with God in His Word.
While it’s not strictly necessary, I’ve also found it so helpful to pre-read the passages I’ll be reading with the kids. During this time, I jot down anything that comes to mind that could be helpful during our Bible time discussion. As I read through the day’s passage, these questions are ones that I keep coming back to over and over to help me better break down what is going on in preparation for studying with my kids. Thinking through these things has helped us tackle some tough passages together!
- What new words need to be defined?
- What happened right before this?
- What historical context helps this make sense?
- How does this relate to what we’ve already read?
- Do I need to prepare anything to supplement this? (Pull out a book or look for a YouTube video)
- What open ended questions can I ask about this passage?
- What change does this passage inspire in my life?
- How does this relate to the gospel?
Now, I don’t ask all these questions every day! Usually I take the time I have and do what I can – often writing down even more notes and questions during our Bible time. That said, I never regret studying the Bible myself first and then teaching my kids out of that. The love we have for God and the excitement we have for His Word is the foundation for our discipleship of our kids. Let’s lead them to God’s love out of God’s great love for us.
“What if they ask me a question I don’t know the answer to?!”
When you teach your kids the whole Bible, you are going to come across some difficult passages. Kids are good at asking questions. Hard questions! It’s okay. You do not have to have all the answers. It’s impossible to! I love how discipling my children leads me to deepen my own faith. Here are a couple good answers to those “stumper” questions…
“That’s a great question…..
- …honestly I don’t know the answer. Sometimes God doesn’t tell us the answers to everything. We can still trust Him.”
- …I’ve wondered that myself. Let’s research it and see if we can find out.”
- …I’ve never even thought about that! I’ll look into it and let you know what I find.”
- …let’s ask our pastor if he has any thoughts.”
- …lots of people who really love Jesus have different opinions on this. After the studying and praying I’ve done this is what I think.”
- …let’s write that question down in your notebook and pray for God to lead you to the answer.”
Questions are a normal part of faith! It is such a privilege to guide our children and to be a safe place for them to think deeply on all types of thoughts, ideas, and questions. We want to have these hard conversations now while as parents we can guide and equip them for the future.
I hope I’ve inspired you to dig into God’s Word with your kids – or even your Sunday school class! This post was originally a month long email series for Steadfast Family email subscribers. If this post was encouraging to you, consider joining the email community for more encouragement right to your inbox! Subscribers also receive access to the Subscriber Resource Library, which includes so many great resources to help you disciple your kids, including a twelve month Old Testament reading plan. See the box below to subscribe.
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