Do you want your kids to not just believe the Bible…but love it? I don’t know many parents who would answer “no” to that question. However, many parents I talk with haven’t thought about how to help their kids truly enjoy the Bible. They take them to church, get them in youth group when they’re older, and then hope their kids will fall in love with the Word. (But as a wise person once said to me, “Hope is not a strategy.”)
Main Topic: The Starting Point for Helping Your Kids Fall in Love with the Word
As you may – or may not – know, my second book is devoted entirely to this topic. I haven’t decided if I’m going to do this for every chapter, but for at least for this one, I decided to use the entire text of the first chapter as the “script” for this week’s podcast episode.
On the podcast, I do a short intro, and then the rest of the episode (except for the Listener Question and the Resource of the Week) is the entire first chapter of the Like Ice Cream: The Scoop on Helping the Next Generation Fall in Love with God’s Word.
For those of you who prefer to read, I’ve pasted the entire text of that chapter below. Enjoy!
Principle One: Love it yourself.
“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means.”
“Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”
Francis of Assisi
Have you ever done anything in front of the ever-watchful eyes of a child and then immediately wished you could take it back? Well, I have enough material for a book entitled Parenting Moments I’m Not Proud Of.
One story that would definitely make the cut started out innocently enough. We were hanging out in the living room when my then five-year-old son walked past me. Without even thinking about it, I gave his very loose-fitting shorts a little tug and they quickly dropped to his knees. He yelped out a surprised “Hey!” His older sister laughed, Kari rolled her eyes, Caleb then proceeded to jump on me, and mayhem ensued.
It took very little time for me to learn once again about the power of example. Several times over the next couple days, Caleb not only tried to do the same thing to me (unsuccessfully), but also to his seven-year-old sister (successfully). The yelps that followed weren’t so pleasant and the laughter was nonexistent. And of course, the request – then command – of his mother to cut it out was met with the dreaded “but Daddy did it to me” rebuttal. Heavy sigh.
Whether it has to do with what we do, what we say, or even our attitudes in general, any parent – or anyone who has ever worked with kids for that matter – can tell you that kids do what they see, not what they are told. And God knows that better than anyone. I think that is why in Deuteronomy 6; immediately after telling us to love God with everything we’ve got, we find these words:
These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them, when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deut 6:6-9,emphasis added)
When laying out all of the “how-tos” of loving God with all our heart, soul, and strength, notice where God begins. Before telling the Israelites to impress the word on their children, He reminded them that this love for God and His Word needed to start with them. The same is true today. It needs to start with us.
Make an honest assessment.
How are you doing when it comes to loving God and His Word? If your mind went immediately toward guilt for how inconsistent you are in your Bible reading – or pride for how frequently you read – then let me remind you of the analogy driving this whole book: ice cream. I don’t love ice cream because I force myself to eat it. I eat it because I already love it – whether I am currently eating it or not!
A more honest way to assess how you are doing may be to ask some of these questions:
- Do I actually enjoy the Bible when I read it? Do I ever talk about the Bible or God with anyone?
- Do I ever find myself in the car with the radio off, because I just need some time to talk – or listen! – to God?
- Do I ever think about what God’s opinion is of what I am doing, the language I use, the media I put before my eyes and into my ears, or the conversations I engage in?
- Do I ever look at God’s creation and utter a heartfelt, awe-filled “Thank You” under my breath?
- How would I answer the question What have you and God done for fun lately?
- Are there parts of my day – or elements of my life – that are “off limits” to God?
When it comes to assessing our relationship with God, we all too often boil it down to a list of religious activities that we somehow think will “make God happy.” Twenty minutes of Bible reading – check. Weekly church attendance – check. Ten minutes of prayer – check. God must be happy, right? Well…maybe. Maybe not. What other relationships would you boil down to a To Do List? None, I hope!
Now…are there things we should and shouldn’t do? Sure. Are there activities that will foster or hinder our relationship with God? Absolutely. But the “doing of the thing” is not the relationship itself. This idea is so central to everything we are going to explore in this book that it warrants repeating: The “doing of the thing” is not the relationship itself. Pause for a moment and let that sink in.
It is also not the scope of this chapter to lay out a full plan for how to deepen your relationship with God. In fact, I think many of the activities I just mentioned (Bible reading, church attendance, prayer, etc.) should be included in this process. However, the purpose we have as we approach these activities is essential. The purpose is relationship. The purpose is knowing God, not just knowing about Him. The purpose is loving God, not just appeasing Him (or our false sense of what we think would appease Him).
When it comes to the Bible specifically – which is, after all, the primary focus of this book – I know that I spent the first two decades I was a Christian not really liking the Bible very much. Sure, I believed it was true. But I can’t say I loved reading it. My first book, Falling in Love with God’s Word: Discovering What God Always Intended Bible Study To Be, tells of my journey toward loving God’s Word. It also lays out my approach to studying the Bible relationally, rather than informationally.If you haven’t read that book, it might be a good place to start.
An even better idea is to take note of the people you know who genuinely enjoy the Bible. Ask them how they approach the Bible. Listen to them tell of their journey toward loving God and His Word. You will certainly learn some practical ideas, as well as be encouraged to take the next step on your own journey.
So, it starts with an honest assessment. And this may be obvious (but still needs to be said): our personal journey toward loving God’s Word is a journey without end. This leads me right into what we do after we have made our honest assessment.
Let them see our journey.
An interesting thing has happened in the Ferrin Household this last year. I made one little change that has had great impact on family discussions about the Bible. I moved. All the way from my office to the living room couch.
Until this year, I had always had my early morning time in my office. Comfy chair. Quiet room. The laptop is right there if I want to look something up. This year, I decided to move downstairs. Now, I grab my Bible – and occasionally my laptop – and plop down on the couch. Then I read until my first child wakes up and sleepily meanders down the stairs.
The next few minutes usually involves one of them crawling up onto my lap, pulling the blanket over us both, and then just sitting silently or chatting for a while. I am not going to say that every morning we have an amazing, life-changing, music-playing, angels-singing spiritual conversation. Sometimes we just sit. Sometimes we watch the hummingbirds eating breakfast at our back porch feeder. And sometimes one of my kids will say “Dad, what were you reading about today?”Other times I will say “Hey, you wouldn’t believe the story I just read in the Bible!” And off we’ll go…
Just as importantly, there will be times when we are walking home from school, driving down the road, or eating a snack (ahem…ice cream), when one of them will mention my “Bible time” in the mornings. They might be asking a question about it. Typically they are just mentioning it as part of another conversation. Either way, the lesson they are learning is Daddy likes to read his Bible. They know it is important to me. They know it is a regular part of my daily life. They see it.
Ahhhh…seeing it. This has enormous impact on kids. It is also something that doesn’t happen nearly enough. Even if we are in the Word regularly, our kids may only see us with our Bibles on Sundays.
Do our kids know what we are reading? Do we ever talk about it with them? Do they see us in the Word? If you are a youth pastor, do you ever talk with your students about something you have been reading or studying (other than when it pertains to the “lesson” for the week)?
The next generation has got to see our journey. The lessons we are learning. The struggles we are having. The stories we are enjoying. The habits we are creating. All of it. If there is one thing I have learned about the next generation is that they can sniff out authenticity – and inauthenticity – a mile away. When they see the Bible as something that is real, relevant, and enjoyable to us, they will be a lot more likely to join us on that journey.
Listener Question (Listen at 18:57)
What is your opinion of using The Message specifically when it comes to internalizing?”
First off, let me say that I really like The Message. The word and phrase choices Eugene made always give me new thoughts and insights (even though I don’t agree with all of them). That said, I do not think it’s a good choice when it comes to internalizing. Bottom line: It’s a really good paraphrase.
When I’m internalizing, I want a translation that is tied more directly to the original language. Twenty years from now, someone will write another “Message.” After all, the subtitle for The Message is “The Bible in Contemporary Language.” Contemporary language always changes. By definition, a Bible in contemporary language will need to be rewritten from time to time. Not necessarily the one I want to use if I plan to meditate on it for the next 40-50 years!
Links (People, Info, and Resources) from Episode 29:
- Direct link to Like Ice Cream: The Scoop on Helping the Next Generation Fall in Love with God’s Word.
- Podcast Episode 15: The 4 Bible Translations I Use the Most (and How I Use Them)
- Direct link to this podcast on iTunes.
- A Step-by-Step Guide to Subscribing to Any Podcast on Any Device (with screen shots)
- Podcast Art – Pipe & Tabor (Vancouver, WA)
- Intro/Outro Music – Dan Carollo of CeltoGrass Music
- If you enjoyed this episode, would you do me a favor and share the love? (pre-written tweets and Facebook posts)
- Or…write a quick review or rate this podcast on iTunes?
- Or…you can TWEET THIS:
“Struggle with LIKING the Bible? Want to like it more? Check out @KeithFerrin’s podcast http://wp.me/P2rPgQ-FS #LikeTheBible”
Question: What is one thing you could do to either enjoy the Bible more yourself, or help your kids love it? You can leave a comment by clicking here.