How to Teach Scripture to Children: Incorporating the Bible Into Family Life
Teaching Scripture to children from an early age is a tremendous step toward ensuring a sound and vibrant faith later in life. But what are the best ways to do this? Where do I begin? What resources are available to assist me in this important task?
Two Aspects of Scripture which Should be Taught
I would like to begin by proposing that there are to two aspects of Scripture which are important to impart to our children. The first is a basic understanding of the narrative of salvation history. It is through learning the story of salvation history that children come to know the great love of God and the mighty works He has undertaken out of love for them. In so doing, they learn their own great value. This knowledge is fundamental. It will fortify them throughout their life. It is a sure defense against the voice of the world which so often whispers messages of discouragement.
The second aspect is familiarity with the exact words of Scripture. It is important that children commit verses of Scripture to memory. St. Paul refers to the word of God as the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17). Jesus, himself, corroborates this during His 40 days in the desert. There He responds to the temptations of Satan by quoting Scripture. Hence, Scripture is an offensive weapon against the trials and temptations our children will face throughout their lives.
Tools for Teaching Scripture to Children
If we want to be successful, it is important to integrate Scripture throughout daily life. Below, I have provided 6 practices (along with specific tools) that can be employed in your home. We have personally utilized the first 5 practices with our 4 children for many years and the 6th practice is one we are just beginning to employ with our oldest child. They love learning about Scripture in this manner and routinely ask to participate in all of the activities below.
#1 Mix in a Children’s Bible on your child’s bookshelf
If one looks at our children’s bookshelf they will see bible stories filed next to Dr. Seuss. Mixing books integrates the faith throughout all of daily life. It also breaks down the notion that “church” and “praying” are something we only do on Sundays. At story time, one never knows what they are going to get and hearing the words of Scripture is as natural as reciting a nursery rhyme. Some of our favorite resources include the works of Fr. Lovasik. His works are available at most Catholic bookstores or simply search for him by name on Amazon.
#2 Bible Stories for Kids Podcasts
Bible story podcasts can be a wonderful way to impart a knowledge of salvation history. My kids love them and I like that it provides a form of entertainment without screen time. There are a number of really great podcasts out there. Two that I really like are Bible Stories for Kids and For Kids by Kids Bible Stories. Neither are specifically Catholic, but both do a great job of making the Scriptures come to life.
#3 Bible Audio Drama
As your children get a little older, you may want to switch the Truth & Life Audio Bible. The Truth & Life Audio Bible provides a dramatized reading of the New Testament which is beautifully performed by professional actors. The Truth & Life Audio Bible is a wonderful way to introduce your children to the actual words of Scripture in a dynamic and entertaining way. You may purchase the Truth & Life Audio Bible at truthandlifeapp.com You may also access it with a subscription to Formed.org which also has a variety of other resources for both children and adults.
#4 Have a Jesse Tree During Advent
Another great way to immerse your children is through the advent tradition of the Jesse Tree. The Jesse Tree takes its name from Jesse, the father of king David, and patriarch of the royal line from which Jesus descended. This year, set your tree up on the first day of Advent, but instead of decorating it immediately for Christmas participate in the Jesse Tree. Each day you will walk through salvation history by reading a passage from Scripture (feel free to use a children’s bible if you like) and adding a single ornament to the tree which calls to mind the event. You can find a great resource to walk you through the Jesse Tree tradition through the Loyola Press Website.
#5 Designate Bible Verses for Your Children to Memorize
We have selected a list of Bible verses for each child. These Bible verses are designed to remind our children of how much God loves them. Each child has their own list which hangs on their bedroom wall. They often take them down and ask us to read their verses to them. At other times, they simply walk up to us with a big smile and recite their verse from memory. Some of the verses we have chosen for are children are:
“…I have called you by name: you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)
“Even all the hairs of your head are counted.” (Mathew 10:30)
#6 Teaching children to pray through “Divine Reading”
The Lectio Divina or “Divine Reading” is a practice we are introducing to our 10-year-old son. Lectio Divina is a long-standing method of praying the Scriptures. One begins by reading a passage and then focusing on a word or phrase which strikes them. One does this by imagining the scene, reflecting on the meaning of the words in the context of the scene, and finally by reflecting on the meaning of the words in the context of their own life. The Dominican Sisters of Mary have produced some wonderful prayer journals that teach children to employ this method while building a life of daily prayer. There are prayer journals for all ages. For example, Remain in Me (grades 2-5) or Life of Christ (6th grade through adult) provide age appropriate selections and reflection prompts to guide your child through a daily or weekly Lectio Divina. The journals are incredibly affordable and can be purchased at OpenLightMedia.com.