A very real battle is taking place between good and evil today. Satan wants to convince our sons and daughters that his way leads to happiness and fun.
What are some of the lies he tells our children? That we as parents want to prevent them from having any fun and so we shouldn't have any authority over them. That to be popular, they need to think, talk and act as modern culture tells them to. That there's no need to worry about tomorrow—that they should go for all the pleasure they can get today. That illicit sex is fun and everybody is (or should be) doing it. That drugs and alcohol are a wonderful escape.
As we can see, Satan has been remarkably successful in his efforts.
To counteract this influence, parents must tell God's story to their children as soon as they are able to grasp it. This is done by parents exposing their children to the Scriptures, sharing what God has done in their own lives and helping each child connect to God's love and His plan.
Each child is unique
Each child is a unique individual. As such, he or she will naturally express different talents, gifts, fears and desires. The challenge of a parent is to meet each child at his or her point of need and interest. We should help them connect to God in the context of their individual emotional and intellectual makeup—not simply according to how everything is filtered through our lives as parents.
In embracing the way of God, a child will have to identify this way with his or her own personal circumstances and thinking. Our educational efforts as parents have to be tailored to the individual child. Parents should ask God in prayer to help them see the ways that they can make His existence and truth relevant to their children.
It may be helpful to list the name of each child and write down his or her unique leanings and talents. These could then be linked to biblical figures who had those same talents and proclivities to show how God was able to use them in a special way.
For example, King David was an accomplished musician. Solomon liked to study animals and nature. Dorcas really enjoyed sewing. Peter and other disciples were avid fishermen. Paul was a bookworm who loved to read and study. Many biblical figures were called to serve God at a very young age.
Making such connections with your children's interests will help them connect to others who walked with God successfully. They can and should picture themselves as having the potential to be servants of God just like the many men and women of faith recorded in the Bible.
Parents must attempt to connect with their children by perceiving what is in their hearts, their feelings and emotions, hopes and dreams and what they aspire to. These can become the basis for discussion of how God and His truth can impact their lives. They will gradually learn that God is there as a friend and a help. It needs to become very personal or else they will feel it doesn't apply to them.
Consider prayer as an example. We should help our children see that prayer is a very real conversation with God Himself —showing them how to share what is on their minds with Him (see "Teach Your Children How to Pray,").
Another example is helping them relate what is going on in school with God's desire to be there for them and make a difference in their lives. Biblical principles must become real to them.
Strategies in teaching the Bible itself
The Bible is a large book, and to introduce its study to our children we must first present it in small, manageable portions. We should decide what basic subjects we need to cover with our children and then think about how to present them in a user-friendly way. Often we may choose to cover a certain topic over several sessions.
We should focus on presenting important biblical teachings that they can use throughout their lives. Examples could include the life of Jesus Christ, the coming Kingdom of God , the Ten Commandments, lessons from the various heroes of the Bible, the history of the New Testament Church and the proofs of God's existence.
The publishers of The Good News offer free booklets on many of these crucial subjects that will provide you with plenty of material for teaching and discussion. For a current list of available material, visit www.gnmagazine.org/booklets. Many other teaching materials for youth of various ages can be found at www.ucg.org/youth/.
After making a list of subjects you would like them to learn, write down the benefits your child might gain from the study to help orient how to present it. It would be good to even note some potential obstacles beforehand and work out a plan to get past them. Also, realize that some subjects will be easier to teach while others will take more effort.
Identify other helpful sources for material such as those noted above, a conservative Bible commentary or even Internet research. Most children love to play computer games and this interest can be guided into learning about the Bible as well.
Create a specific plan of action that breaks each lesson down into small manageable parts and set a target completion date for each area of study.
Be sure that each of your children has a good "working" Bible in which he or she can write or mark scriptures. It should be a true Bible, not a "pseudo-Bible" or a child's storybook-type volume.
A version such as the International Children's Bible or New Century Version is good for younger children, with the New King James translation more suitable for older children, elementary through adult. Thumb tabs are very helpful for a young student of the Bible to navigate around this big book more quickly.
Make Bible study a habit
Try to establish a regular time to study the Bible with your children, as this helps develop the habit—a habit that we want our children to carry with them into adulthood. To begin with, set a length of maybe 15 to 20 minutes. Never go on too long at one sitting, and be attentive to when the children lose concentration.
Start out slowly until you're comfortable with some of the techniques and ideas. Don't try to cover too much in one session and don't let the sessions drag by going into a single subject too deeply. Move
It's a good idea to sit at a table when possible, where the setting and atmosphere is clearly "study time" and the family comes together in attentive respect for God's Word.
Try to minimize distractions. Clear the table of clutter. Leave the radio and television off. If the telephone tends to ring during study time, turn it down and use an answering machine.
Also, make this a pleasant time. By making it special, we are showing we place special value on God's Word and the privilege of studying it. Perhaps share a special drink such as juice or hot cocoa during the study, or light some candles to put on the table to create the atmosphere that this is a special occasion. Be sure to begin each study session with a brief prayer together, asking for God's help in understanding His Word.
Marking our Bibles
One way of making Bible study more interesting to our children is simply marking our Bibles in an organized way. This helps us to concentrate on the Scriptures and remember where a certain passage is found. Marking adds a certain creative and interactive dimension to learning the Bible.
Each person can establish his or her own marking system. Use several colored pencils that are distinctive from one another and that will show up clearly on the page. It may make marking easier if a thin sheet of card is placed under the page.
Each child can start a marking system by using scratch paper to practice some ideas. Once a basic system is agreed on, making up a sheet of paper with the legend or key for the system is helpful.
A simple way to mark a verse or passage is to "frame" it with a color, simply using a ruler to mark a line around the outside of the verse or passage. Different frame colors can be used for different major subjects in the Bible such as God, prayer, God's law and so on.
Other subjects could be marked by writing a short word over the passage or drawing a symbol on the passage. For example, perhaps draw a crown or write the letters KOG for Kingdom of God . Maybe draw a pair of lips over verses discussing speech or gossip. For anyone who enjoys being artistic, there are countless possibilities for marking certain passages.
Consider having a notebook or ring-binder for each child with dividers to separate maps, other drawings, memory verses, notes on Bible teachings and so on.
God reveals Himself in the Bible
Jesus Christ said, "Learn of Me" (Matthew 11:29, King James Version). In other words, "Learn about Me; learn what I am all about." God reveals Himself in the Bible. Whatever subject we choose to study will teach us something about God, His purpose and His plan. This is like God telling us His story.
Many options are available for how to cover subject matter related to God's story. Some may wish to start with Genesis and continue reading verse by verse (perhaps with the exception of continuous genealogies—yet even here interesting things can be pointed out and it might be fun for some to try to pronounce the many odd-looking names). If the family starts soon enough, they might actually read the entire Bible through together as a family.
However, please be aware that some subject matter, even included in the pages of the Bible, may not be appropriate for detailed exposition to small children, especially those of a sensitive disposition.
An alternative would be to read a selected book of the Bible, or to concentrate on a particular theme. The book of Proverbs is an excellent choice to study with children. Everyone can take turns reading, with each family member reading several verses or a passage. Stop to discuss or to mark subjects with the colored pencils as often as needed.
Reviewing sermon notes is another option, or listening to a sermon tape and stopping it as necessary for discussion and marking scriptures. This is a good way to teach specific biblical topics.
Readings in the Bible can be assigned for later discussion. Study does not have to follow the same format every time. Yet another option is to write out verses together. There is good value to writing out the Scriptures, and perhaps your family could choose a shorter book of the Bible to copy verbatim (compare Deuteronomy 17:18-20).
Advance preparation can be useful. For example, you could find maps or pictures about the geographical area where the events you will be studying took place. Make copies and then hand out a map for each person to add to his or her notebook. Similarly, timelines can be useful for covering historical events.
Memorizing specific scriptures and learning what they mean can be fun. It is not wrong to offer an age-appropriate reward such as a sticker, treat or a small gift. These could also be given when a certain topic or project is completed. Children like to feel they have accomplished something.
Your own walk with God
Besides learning about God's story found in the Bible, our children need to hear about our own personal spiritual walk with God— our story.
Parents may be reluctant and hesitant in sharing their own "testimony" with their children. They may feel they will sound too religious, or are simply private about personal spiritual matters. Pray for help in moving beyond such thinking.
God's love, mercy, faithfulness and, yes, even a certain amount of correction should be shared with our children when appropriate. Keeping these matters entirely to ourselves limits the good work God's intervention in our lives can accomplish.
Sharing also helps our children see that God is real and is involved in everyday events if we ask Him to be. This falls into the category of talking of the things of God "when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up" (Deuteronomy 6:7).
Some circumstances that could be shared with our children might be what led up to our baptism (there is no need to be specific about serious mistakes), how God has answered prayers in our everyday life experiences and why we believe in God.
Children need to share in and understand how God is working with their parents. This makes God more real to them and draws them closer to their parents. It shows that we all share in the same calling, that God's promises are real and that His way works. GN