You’ve heard that the family that prays together, stays together. How about the family that studies together? What are the benefits of family Bible study?
Few things are more painful to parents than to see their children suffer because of bad choices. Parents cannot always be there to help their children with the decisions they face. But they can help prepare their children to make wise decisions and avoid many of the pitfalls that come with growing up.
Teach your children God’s ways
“A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is the grief of his mother” (Proverbs 10:1). Parents hurt when their children make bad choices; they rejoice when they do well.
Our Creator, who made us and gave us life, did not leave us without an instruction book on how to live. He included in the Holy Bible guidance for parents to help us with our children and our families. If we study and use the instructions He inspired for us, we can help our children avoid many problems as they grow and mature. God tells us to teach our children about His ways, and He says that in doing so we can help add years of happiness to their lives and reduce the chances of painful mistakes.
“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Doing this can contribute to the children honoring their parents, which brings the promise “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth” (verse 3).
“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
As children mature, they develop their own personal standards and values through their experiences, the people they have contact with and the media they are exposed to. As parents, we shouldn’t leave this most important process to others and the continual negative influence of television and movies.
Parents who teach their children the right way of life are equipping them with the tools to live a more fulfilling life. The Bible shows that those who do right will be blessed:
“Say to the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their doings” (Isaiah 3:10).
“You shall therefore keep His statutes and His commandments which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which the LORD your God is giving you for all time” (Deuteronomy 4:40).
The time and effort we spend instructing our children can mean the difference between a shortened life because of bad choices or living to “a good old age.” We must convey to our children the importance of learning God’s way, as Solomon tried to do:
“Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, and give attention to know understanding; for I give you good doctrine: Do not forsake my law. When I was my father’s son, tender and the only one in the sight of my mother, he also taught me, and said to me: ‘Let your heart retain my words; keep my commands, and live. Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; love her, and she will keep you’” (Proverbs 4:1-6).
So how can we make our family Bible study interesting, effective and age-appropriate?
One method of teaching small children is to read to them. Young children love to be read to. Many parents find their children bringing them books and asking to be read to. It is a wonderful teaching opportunity, so why not use some of this time to teach biblical principles? There are a number of books that have Bible stories on a child’s level. If you choose good ones, the stories will not only hold their interest, but will help them begin to grasp the truths God provides in His Word.
As children get older, it may become more difficult to hold their attention in your family Bible studies. There are so many distractions competing for our children’s time and attention—video games, iPods, cell phones, television shows, etc. But there are things we can do to help keep their attention and help them continue to learn.
Make Bible study interactive
One of the best ways to keep the family focused is to make your family Bible study interactive. Involve the whole family in reading and discussions. Ask questions about what a verse or story means. What does God want us to learn from a parable or the life of a righteous man or woman?
Make Bible study into a game. For example, as your children’s Bible knowledge grows, you can find or create Bible trivia questions. Or try a game of “Catch Me If You Can,” which involves one family member beginning to read from the Bible, while everyone else tries to figure out where he or she is reading from. Family Bible study can be fun, challenging and still engage our children in the Word of God.
There are several approaches one can take to family Bible study. Where do you begin?
One idea is to begin where it all begins. The title of the first book of the Bible, Genesis, comes from a Greek word meaning origins or beginnings. By reading through Genesis, the family can discuss how everything that exists began through the creative act of God. He made us. He made all of the things that make life enjoyable for us, and He made us for a purpose.
So one approach to Bible study is to just begin reading the Scriptures together, whether in Genesis or 1 Samuel or Matthew or Acts—stopping often to discuss individual verses.
Another approach is to read stories of some of the great men and women of the Bible. There are the stories of Joseph, David and Esther—young people who became great because they loved God and His laws. You can read about the faithfulness of Noah, Abraham and Moses, or the wisdom of Abigail and Solomon. There are also stories of those who failed because they rejected God’s laws. Others failed because they allowed lust or greed to destroy them. These bad examples can also have clear and easy lessons to relate to our children.
The Gospels contain many parables. Jesus Christ used them to teach lessons of life and faith, and we can use those parables to teach our children as well—digging out the meanings He intended. Then we can discuss how to apply the lesson in our own lives.
Many people can name at least some of the 10 Commandments, but can you and your family name them all? More importantly, can we explain what they mean? Powerful lessons can be learned by discussing what the world would be like if everyone obeyed even one of the commandments (for example, “You shall not steal”).
The book of Proverbs is another great book to study with our teens. It is one of several books of wisdom literature in the Bible. It was primarily written to help teens and young adults learn how to live life wisely. There are more than a dozen different topics that can be researched and discussed, including:
How to acquire wisdom and understanding.
Seeking counsel in decision making.
Sex and morality.
Wise handling of our finances.
The control of our emotions.
Who should do the teaching? Solomon wrote, “My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother” (Proverbs 1:8). This shows the value of the contribution of both father and mother in teaching the children.
The opportunity to teach your children
It is important to make the family Bible studies age-appropriate. Think of the challenges that each of your children might face in their stages of life, such as choosing friends, being responsible and controlling their emotions. As our children move into their later teen years, there might be questions about repentance, baptism, relationships and, in time, choosing their future mate.
Family Bible studies may provide an avenue for them to ask you about, and for you to help them with, these important questions. What a great opportunity young parents have to teach and share biblical instruction and their own personal experiences with their children to prepare them for a successful future!