Children’s Personal Bible Time

Again this month the topic for the Mom’s Corner comes from a specific request. Here is what was asked:

“I’d like to know more of how you have taught your children to have their own personal devotion time. Is it modeling and the enthusiasm from your family Bible time that encourages them, or have you ‘taught’ them how to do it? I wonder if you give your children journal questions to get them started, such as ‘what did you learn about God from this passage?’ etc. I suppose my bigger question is how do you encourage your children to think about what they are reading as opposed to reading, checking it off a list, and moving on?

“Do you require it or wait until they desire that time themselves? We have devotions as a family, but our children seem unmotivated to have their own personal time with the Lord.

“Although I read the Word, I’ve realized over the last year, with great disturbance, that I, myself, have never learned how to ‘study’ the Word beyond simply reading it. I can understand their frustration at not knowing where to start, what certain passages mean, etc. I am trying to learn by reading books on ‘how to study the Bible,’ because the Holy Spirit has given me the hunger and desire to learn; but how do I encourage my children?”

“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). We want our children to have the sword of the Spirit available to them, and we want the Word to work continually in their hearts. We know that this comes through the personal familiarity they gain in discovering what the Bible says and teaches.

We desire that our children would take with them throughout their lives a habit of spending time every day personally reading their Bibles. This habit has to be developed and nurtured while they are living in our home. We believe it begins with the example that Steve and I set for them. If we don’t make personal Bible reading a priority in our lives, we can’t encourage the children in it or expect it of them. That means that Steve and I both, faithfully every day, have time alone with the Lord for Bible reading and prayer.

We have seen the vital importance of Dad setting the example of personally spending time in the Word every day, in addition to Mom. Steve verbally encourages the children in the importance of their time in the Word. He often shares his enthusiasm for his Bible reading time, his desire for even more of it, his joy in what he is learning, and highlights of what is exciting to him from what he read that day. Certainly, this is important from Mom as well, but Dad is the spiritual leader and head of the home. It is critical that this is Dad’s heart if it is to be passed on to the children.

As soon as our children can read fairly well on their own—usually around age eight—we give them the family, large-print Bible we have kept specifically for our younger readers. At that point, they are given the privilege of getting up earlier in the morning when the older children are rising so that they may also have their time in the Word, like their bigger siblings. “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee. . .” (Psalms 63:1). In our family, personal Bible time is scheduled for the same time in the morning so that there isn’t noise and distraction from other family members’ activities while we are reading.

Steve and I work together on bedtimes to allow for a reasonable amount of sleep for the children while maintaining the priority of early-morning individual Bible time. Five of our children have their Bible time in the living room at the same time Daddy is having his Bible time in the living room. The others have theirs in another room of the house. While there are several people who are all in the living room at that time, there is no conversation because each person is individually reading his Bible. Steve loves having his children gathered with him spread out through the living room reading their Bibles in that early-morning hour before the busyness of the day begins. It also helps him to make sure each one is staying on task. Steve is always communicating with his children concerning the importance of their time in the Word and encouraging them in it.

When a child begins to have personal Bible time, Steve gives him a reading assignment—usually he has him begin in the New Testament. After the child has had daily Bible time for six months, then Steve buys him his own Bible and Bible cover. Most of our children have a Thompson Chain Reference Bible, a Study Bible, or both. They read during their personal Bible time and have the chain reference or study notes available if they have questions about what they have read and want to do more study.

Our family Bible time in the evening teaches the children how to read passages, think about them, ask questions about what they mean, look at cross references, and most importantly, how to apply it to daily life. These are all tools that they learn together and then have at their disposal during their personal Bible time without having to go through a Bible study book or class to be taught what to do. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

As the children grow, Steve continues to work with them as to where in the Bible they will be reading. He is watching them, considering areas for them to read that would be helpful for specific struggles they are having. Sometimes a child will have a particular book or two that he wants to read. Other times a child desires to read through the Bible or through the New Testament. Once the children reach twelve or thirteen years of age, Steve generally allows them to choose where they will read for their personal Bible time.

About two years ago, Steve was given a wide-margin Bible, which he uses for his personal time in the Word. As he reads, he writes notes in the margin. He has realized the benefit of that for his own spiritual growth. Resulting from this, we have begun to purchase wide-margin Bibles for some of our children, and Steve is encouraging them to make personal notes in the margin as they read.

Our children’s personal Bible time is not a time that we have felt should be invested in deep Bible study. Rather it is a time for relationship building with the Lord Jesus Christ. We want them reading with an eye for how the Word applies to their daily lives. We desire that they would have a hunger for the Word and a delight in it.

When our children are in high school, Steve has them read through the Bible, outlining it as they go. They do this as a combination of individual Bible time and some school time. In addition to the Bible outline, they will also develop a personal doctrinal statement with verses to back up each point of doctrine on the statement.

We like to see our children take the habit of daily Bible reading with them into their adult lives. Steve and I know the importance time in the Word has had in our lives and our personal relationships with the Lord Jesus. We also hear regularly from people who have major spiritual problems in their homes and personal lives. Almost always they are not reading their Bibles consistently. As we prepare our children for life, we are choosing to give them the most solid foundation possible—one built on the precious rock of the Word. “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24-25).