Years ago before I had kids I read an article from a dad who’d just finished reading the whole Bible with his son. It had been a long haul, but it had brought great benefits. I was convinced and wanted to give it a try.
Years later we’re nearing the end with my oldest son and well on the way through with the next two. Our aim is to read the whole Bible individually with each of our children. I’m still convinced that this is a great way to go.
How it works
When our children start school they’re given a full text Bible. We’ve found the International Children’s Bible to be excellent.
The aim is for my wife or I to read one chapter a night to them individually. We read Genesis to 2 Kings, then Matthew to Philemon, then 1 Chronicles-Malachi and finally Hebrews to Revelation. The kids are free to interrupt with questions whenever they want.
We talk a little bit about what we’ve read. I’m never very good at having structured questions. Sometimes we have a long conversation that links into all sorts of Bible topics. A lot of the time I just say something profound like, “wow, God’s really kind, isn’t he”, or, “Gee, those Israelites were messed up, weren’t they?”
I lead a prayer in response to the passage. I don’t have any clever formula. The prayer usually falls into one or two of these categories:
- Thanking God for his character.
- Thanking God for his actions.
- Asking God for forgiveness because we’re like the people in the passage, or not like them.
- Thanking God for his salvation.
- Asking for help to be, or not be, like what we’ve just read.
- Asking that more people would know what we’ve just read.
The whole thing takes about ten minutes.
Why we think its great
Grasping the fullness of God’s word. By covering every part of the Bible we don’t just fall into saying the same thing over and over again. Saying Jesus died for me is a nice summary but it barely begins to grasp the fullness of the majesty of God’s plans. Reading the whole Bible means they get the whole picture in all its technicolour.
A full picture of God. This is almost the same as the last point but its worth saying here. As my kids go through all the pain and suffering of life I want them to be able to trust God completely. The more they know him the better they’re equipped to do that. By reading the whole Bible they’ve seen God’s faithfulness to David and Barak and Zerubbabel and Simon Peter. They’ve seen his hatred of sin in Exodus and Amos and John’s Gospel. They’ve heard him pouring out his broken heart to Hosea and his ongoing commitment despite it all. They’ve seen his saving plan in Deuteronomy, Psalms, Isaiah and Hebrews. They see that the God of Genesis 1 is the same as the God of Revelation 22 and they know him deeply.
You get to talk about sex and other hard stuff. My kids started hearing about sex in graphic detail from other kids in their first year of school. We’re not caring for our kids by delaying these sorts of conversations. The Bible gives the best framework for these discussions. When my son and I read Song of Songs there was lots of embarrassed grinning and lots of great discussion. Even from Genesis you see all the good and the bad. The more often you talk about it the easier it is.
No imagination required. I’m exhausted by dinner time. I love that my imagination only has to formulate the words, “what chapter are we up to”.
Helps your own Bible reading. We have four kids. That means by the end we’ll have shared reading the whole Bible through four times, apart from any other Bible reading we do. Forget the kids… we’re on a winner!
Individual time with kids. Although it’s really hard to give each child this time its really worth it. Sometimes we rumble or tickle at the end. Sometimes we flow into chatting about the day. It forces us to have quality time with each child.
Of course, life isn’t simple. Here are some things we’ve found over time:
- We don’t get to it every night. We don’t do it on Sunday night. Three kids have swimming on Tuesday nights so we skip it then. Along the way we’ve done stuff like move house which throws us out of whack. But we live by grace and we keep trying to move forward. We take December off to do a Christian advent Calendar and we use the Resurrection Eggs leading up to Easter. We've also had to give ourselves a bit of a kick sometimes, stop letting things get in the way and get back into routine. It’s tight, but we might finish the first one by the time the oldest is 13 in three months time.
- Sometimes we’re so tired we just pick one of the kids Bibles and read a chapter of that to everyone. That’s on the good nights when we don’t just give up.
- It’s harder the more kids you have, but still worth it (we have 4).
- Some bits of the Bible are hard. You don’t have to know all the answers. If the kids have a really important question that you can’t answer promise to find out. Just keep reading though. You’ll be amazed at the way the Bible answers your questions as you move on. Fear not, God is with you!
I can’t save my children. That’s up to God. The best I can do is pray and read the Bible with them. Remember, the sword of the Spirit is the word of God.