Though a bit arbitrary, the start of a new calendar year does give us the opportunity to start something new in our daily habits. There are many posts each year all over the Christian blogosphere concerning reading plans for adults around this time of year. This is not going to be one of those.
If you are looking for a reading plan for yourself, I would point you to this excellent post which has several options for you to take a look at. Just keep in mind, that the Bible doesn’t command that we have a reading plan, nor is God more pleased with you if you stick to a plan than he is now. Your worth is in Christ, not in your own efforts.
Instead, I want to write about helping your children read their Bible in the coming new year!
It’s Never Too Early to Start
Raising children takes a lifetime. It is one of the highest and most difficult callings that God can place on a person’s life. Loving a child in the name of Jesus begins the moment we meet them. My encouragement to your family would be to begin talking and singing and reading about Jesus before your child can even comprehend what is taking place. After all, we feed and clothe and play with our children, singing the ABC’s to them before they can talk, read, or otherwise respond. Why not do the same when it comes to Jesus?
There are many excellent storybook Bibles and other books out there that you can read to your children. For our family, we try to read something before bed. Hannah really liked the Hug-a-Bible which also has a Rain for Roots album to go along with the words on each page. Now we have graduated to the Jesus Storybook Bible. In a few more years we will probably read from the NIrV Bible (which is a third grade reading level) or even from The Child’s Story Bible by Vos. For every age and stage there are myriad resources and Bibles for your children.
As your children get older, your Bible reading and discipleship can change too. Perhaps during Advent you can do a Jesse Tree devotional, or read two or three verses from the birth story every night. There is no hard and fast rule, but we are commanded by God’s Word (specifically in Deuteronomy 6) and we take vows at our child’s baptism to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord Jesus. We should take these vows and commands seriously.
Setting Realistic Expectations
I mentioned above that we try to read from the storybook Bible every night…many nights we fail to do that. And you know what? God still loves and delights in us! What is important in all of this is to continue to press on while giving your kids and yourself some grace. Realistic expectations can help here. Don’t start out by thinking you will read a whole chapter of Scripture, or even a whole chapter of the Jesus Storybook Bible to your toddler…it may be too long for them! What if you just read one verse? Or just a page from the story book Bible?
Slow and steady is the key here. Incremental change and consistency is better than trying to do too much every three months, giving up, and declaring family discipleship or Bible reading a failure. Take it easy and start small. Set a goal of something like one-to-three minutes of Bible reading, a short and simple song or verse of a song, and a simple prayer. That’s it! Aim for three-to-five minutes total, if that!
If you aren’t doing anything now, then set the goal to start with one night a week, then slowly increase that frequency over time. You are your child’s primary source of gospel truth. We try our best at City Church to show your child Jesus, but it will never be enough. You have been called by God to speak truth and love to your children. And you can start three minutes at a time once or twice a week.
Better "Caught than Taught"
People give time to what they value and kids are more observant than we typically give them credit for. Where are you devoting your time and what does that communicate to your children as to what your family values? You don’t need to force your child to open the Bible and read for 20 minutes every day, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if your child saw you open your own Bible from time to time. Do your children know that you value and rest in Christ’s love? How would they know that?
I would encourage you to be in the Word for yourself, again setting realistic expectations for your own devotional life. Take time to pray at meals and to talk about Jesus with each other. Discipleship happens at specific and intentionally structured times, but much more so in the small, mundane, unplanned moments of life. Let’s be parents who are about cultivating a gospel rich environment for our families. To do so begins with our own walks with Jesus.
So perhaps this is a post about picking some sort of Bible reading plan for yourself in 2018. Perhaps not. But I will leave you with a restatement of this question: Do your children know that you value and rest in Christ’s love? How would they know that?