Beyond Ourselves: Making Bible Study a Family Practice

“Family discipleship is leading your family by doing whatever you can whenever you can to help your family become friends and followers of Jesus Christ.” -Matt Chandler

by Emily Lehman

I was standing in the kitchen trying to clean up the last of the breakfast dishes when the sibling bickering began. It was usually over someone’s personal space being invaded (again), and this time was no different. I couldn’t push away the annoyance in my heart. Couldn’t they at least wait until I had a clean kitchen before they decided to fight? As I listened to my five year old daughter’s voice begin to amplify across the house, I was immediately convicted by her tone of voice. “I sound just like that when I’m frustrated,” I thought to myself.  Without even knowing it, I had unintentionally taught my daughter ways she could respond to others. I was discipling her in ways I didn’t even know.

But just like our children learn their first words by listening and observing our conversations, so our children learn what it is to follow Jesus by finding us with our Bibles open in the early mornings. They learn what talking to God sounds like by hearing our prayers spoken aloud throughout the day. They understand what it is to walk in obedience to the Spirit of God in our lives as they see us living with open hands, extending generosity, and caring for our neighbors. They taste repentance when they see us confessing our anger and irritation to our spouses. They glimpse forgiveness when we stoop to their level and whisper, “Will you forgive me? Mommy shouldn’t have yelled like that.”

As I read the Old Testament, I am reminded of the responsibility Jewish families felt in providing both physically and spiritually for their children. Young Jewish children would not just hear a few things about God; they were to know the entirety of the stories. Beginning at age six, a child’s instruction in the Jewish synagogues would involve memorizing the first five books of the Bible (the Torah). They were to know everything from the miracles of Creation to the fatal deception in the Garden of Eden, the whispers of a coming Redeemer made in the covenant with Abraham, to the Great Exodus where God so faithfully delivered His people.

The Lord, knowing how quickly and prone to forget His people would be graciously instructed them, “Take care, and keep your soul diligently lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children.” (Deuteronomy 4:9)

Somehow in the passing of generations, our Christian culture has become obsessed with an individual “quiet time.” This idea that our pursuit of loving and knowing God is to be done alone, quietly, away from the presence of others (especially the noise and distractions of children). We can become easily convinced that our personal time in the Word and the discipleship of our children need to be two separate things altogether.

“Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.(Deuteronomy 6:6-9, the message)

As I meditate on these verses, I can envision moms reading aloud the gospel accounts of Jesus being the Bread of Life as their children’s hungry bellies are being filled with breakfast. (John 6:35-40)

I can see moms opening the curtains to let in the soft morning light as they speak of how Jesus is the Light of the World of whom the darkness will never overcome. (John 1:1-5)

As they sort the laundry and teach their children how to get the stains out of clothing, they are reminding them that Jesus is the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. (John 1:29)

When they break up another sibling dispute, they gently instruct their children that the tongue is like a fire, with the power to destroy. (James 3).

When they are treated differently because of the color of their skin, they teach their children the promise that God is ransoming people from every tribe, language, people and nation. (Revelation 5)

As often as they are sitting at home (at the kitchen tables), walking by the way (pushing the strollers), and lying down (tucking kids in for the night) they are finding ways to point their children to the greatest story ever told.

Just a few days later, I was standing in my kitchen preparing breakfast when I heard my 3 year old squeal, “Mommy look at the sky! God painted us a picture today! Look at all the colors He used!”  You too my friend, have the greatest opportunity in the world to disciple your children in what it looks like to walk with Jesus. It will not be found in one significant event in time, but rather in those small, ordinary, everyday moments that are all around you.

5 practical suggestions from one mom to another.

  1. Have children’s Bibles available and accessible at all times to your children. Have a copy of God’s Word they can look at, touch, and experience. Keep it in the same place in your home so they know where it is.
  2.  When your children are little, read from their children’s Bibles together every day (starting from the beginning and working to the end.) Teach them to see and understand the storyline of Scripture and the promises of God to His children.
  3. Model the spiritual disciplines in front of your children. If your children are never actually seeing you read and study your Bible how will they know that you do? As you do your Bible study time, encourage your littles to look through their own picture Bibles.
  4. As your children get older, set aside a time each day to teach them what studying God’s Word looks like. Read a passage of Scripture together, write down some verses that stood out to them, ask questions, and pray together.
  5. Make conversations about who God is and what He is doing normal, ordinary, and expected.

*This article was first published on Wandering Wilde.

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