Guest post by Jessica, mother of two, who is joyfully serving alongside her husband as they minister as international church planters in Eastern Europe.
How Did We Start the Biblical Education of Our Young Children?
When my son was a year old, I felt very convicted that my husband and I were not fulfilling our biblical responsibility to be teaching him. We were sporadic in our Bible reading with him and we were not having any family devotionals or worship. I was working very hard with him on counting, the alphabet, and colors but I was not spending our days saturating him with the Word of God.
After talking with my husband and asking him to begin leading our family in regular worship, I began to research what my role in the biblical education of my children would be as a wife and mother.
To aid me, I tried to pick strategic friends that would encourage us in this area. We had growing relationships with families who were ahead of us in the raising of their children and we could learn from them. We had friendship with families who, like us, were trying to figure out what types of practices were good for teaching our children. We tried to absorb as much as possible from people who could teach us in this area.
We also read a lot of books and listened to a lot of sermons on the subject of family worship and the biblical education of children. Whenever possible, we would both read the book or listen to the sermon and then try to discuss it.
We built theological library for every member our family. By shopping the used books on Amazon, we found some great deals and began to develop a great collection of books and CDs on parenting, biblical manhood and womanhood, marriage, basic doctrine for children, devotionals and hymns, etc. I thought of it this way- if I was willing to spend money to buy resources to teach my children to read and write, how much more should I invest on books that point them to God?
The Components of Our Children’s Biblical Education
Probably the most important aspect of our children’s biblical education is our family worship. It is so important for the family to come together to worship our Lord.
Our family worship has looked different at different times. When we started out, we would sing a few hymns or worship songs and then my husband read through Genesis and then later through Paul’s epistles. Now that we are overseas and without a church in English, he actually prepares a sermon for us. We sing songs, we read scripture corporately, and we listen to the Word taught.
Another aspect of our biblical education for our children is daily Bible time. This is a time of the day where every family member has his or her quiet time in the Word. We start out by reading from the children’s Bible to the children. Then we read in a devotional and discuss it. After that, our son goes to his table and looks at his Bible and devotional book. If he chooses not to read, then that’s ok also, but he is expected to sit at his table quietly until he is excused. Most days he really enjoys looking at his Bible and devotional book.
My husband and I have some quiet time in the Word also during this time. Since our son is 3, we require him to sit quietly for somewhere between 5 to 15 minutes. After that I give him another quiet activity for him to do at his table for an additional 5 to 15 minutes- like coloring or looking at other books. We hope that when he does come to faith that he will already understand the importance of daily spending time in the Word because he saw us do it everyday. And because he will have grown up having a quiet time, it will already be a habit for him.
It has taken a lot of time to train him to sit still during that time. We discovered that he did best having a set place for this quiet time. We will start training our daughter in this also soon. Since she is not a year old yet, I will start training her to have this time in a playpen.
Another aspect of our biblical education for our children is scripture memorization. We started this when our son was 2 but I realize now that he could have started sooner. If he was young enough to memorize books that were read to him again and again or songs that we sang, then he was capable of memorizing scripture. We are trying to pick key verses that are key to shaping his worldview in addition to verses that will help him with sin patterns.
One thing I do to help all of us out with the memorization is I come up with hand motions to correspond with the verse. They are sometimes silly motions, but I learn the verses so much more quickly and then can lead our son in reciting the verses. After he has the motions down, I stop reciting the verse with him and just remind him of the motions. Usually within a week, he can recite the verse without any help!
We also recently started memorizing passages with him. This is so easy and really helpful to me as well! Every night before bed, after we read from his children’s Bible, we read through a passage in our Bible. Right now we’re reading through John 1. We stay on the same text for about a month and by the end of the month, we all have it memorized!
I cannot explain to you the joy I had when I heard my son recite all of Ephesians 6:10-20 by himself. I will also hear him singing it in little tunes he makes up or reciting scripture as he plays.
Keys for Biblical Education
Consistency is probably the most important thing in your teaching of your children. It is so much easier for everyone involved when the time and date is set.
When my husband was home less because of work, we would do family worship every week on Monday and Friday mornings. Now that he is home a lot more, we have this time on Sunday evenings when we would be at church if we were in the states. Having those set times that work with our schedules has been important to making sure we set aside that time.
Your husband doesn’t have to have a seminary degree or even experience teaching to lead your family. When we started, my husband would just read a few chapters from Genesis to us. Encouragement and appreciation of his leadership and guidance will help your husband to want to make this a meaningful time of learning and growing for everyone.
As a wife and mommy, it is not right for me to lead family worship. My husband, the head of the home, needs to lead this time. He takes charge of it. He chooses the songs (often seeking the family’s input or choosing some of our favorites), he determines what scripture passages we read, and he teaches. I am there to learn and worship.
There are times though, that the husband isn’t home and the mommy needs to do the teaching. Two years ago, my husband was gone at work five nights a week until 9:30PM so I put our son to bed alone. I led my son in his nightly devotionals during those times.
Don’t underestimate your children. They need to hear the scriptures from a real Bible! They need to hear words like salvation, sanctification, and grace, even if they don’t quite understand it yet. Hymns are a great way to teach your children theology- even if the words are big or the syntax slightly outdated- and your children will love whatever music you play regularly.
A Final Thought
This is one area of parenting that really excites me. I long for the day when my children have come to salvation and are thirsting for God’s word. I pray that my husband and I are faithful to be teaching them of the of the truth and are daily growing in our intimacy with God and our knowledge of Him.
In Part Two, I will share with you some of the resources we use to aid us in this journey.