Says Who? Biblical Literacy and Children

This month we are examining the idea of worldview. Where do we find our source and understanding of truth? Adults and children alike wrestle with this question. From a very early age, children begin to adopt their own worldviews from their experiences and what they are taught. Our job as parents, teachers, and mentors is to help them develop that worldview from a Biblical perspective.

Raising my children to be Biblically literate — to truly know Scripture in a holistic way, and see it as foundational to their engagement with the world and as their primary source of truth — can be overwhelming.  Because in order to do that, I need to teach them the entirety of God’s story: not only the popular “Bible stories,” but also how stories and themes connect, and how they can see themselves, as broken and redeemed, fitting into God’s story.  And I need to foster in them an emotional connection with Scripture — to desire, seek out, and digest God’s Word in a life-giving way. Honestly, I often feel ill-equipped for that. So what do we do when we feel ill-equipped? Avoid? Excuse? Pass off the responsibility? That might be what we want to do. Instead, in those moments when we realize that on our own we are not enough, we pray. We admit our weakness. We ask God to grant wisdom. And we give ourselves a whole bunch of grace as we experiment.


Here are just a few ideas on how to promote Biblical literacy in your home:

  1. Model – Children learn what is modeled. As parents, we need to understand God’s Story, how to search for answers in Scripture and apply it to our lives. And we have to know truly what is in the Bible – not what we think is in the Bible. The only way to do that is to be in the Word on a regular basis. Let your kids watch you read your Bible, listen to you question, and think aloud about what you read.


  1. Consistency – Create a rhythm in your home where you and your children are reading Scripture on a regular basis. The best way to help your child know what is in the Bible is to give him/her ongoing, regular access to it.  Repeat, repeat, repeat. God’s Word cannot be read too much. We don’t ever “master” a specific story or passage.


  1. Read in Context – As often as possible, choose to read the larger story or passage with your child instead of the isolated verse. Read about the entirety of Joseph’s life over a week or two. Or read through an entire Gospel together. Set a goal to read a children’s Bible from beginning to end together.


  1. Teach Truth – Don’t teach things now that need to be undone later. Ex: Jesus will take all the bad things away. It’s an idea that sounds nice for a child, but isn’t accurate. Also, teach children that the Bible is truth even when they don’t like what it says or don’t agree with it. Talk through those emotions with your child and then point him/her back to Jesus.


  1. Connect the Dots – Help your child connect stories and passages to other ideas and themes in the Bible. Currently, Oliver and I are reading “The Story for Kids” together. We happened to read the story of the passover the same week as Easter. It was a very tangible way for him to connect the stories of Moses to God’s plan of salvation.


  1. Focus on skills – Knowing and understanding Scripture is a life-long journey. Turn your focus into teaching skills that help the Bible be accessible to your child. Give your child a Bible of his/her own. Teach them to look up passages. When your child has a question, turn to the Bible before giving an answer of your own.   Most importantly, teach your child to apply what they are reading to their own lives.


  1. Ask the right questions – When we talk with our children about Scripture, it is easy to resort to questions about time, setting, people and fact recall. To encourage Biblical literacy, try questions like this: “What characteristic of God do you notice in what we read? Why would Jesus have said that? Does this passage remind you of anything else in the Bible? What questions do you have after reading this? How might we use the Bible to answer those questions? How does this passage show us what it means to trust Jesus?


  1. Focus on the Gospel – The goal is not for your child to be able to recite the books of Bible or to have 100 verses committed to memory. (Although there is a definite place and usefulness for these things). The main goal is that your child knows who he/she is within God’s plan of redemption and that he lives out that understanding in his life.


These suggestions really apply to any of us, at any age. When we have Homes Built on Grace and Truth, we see the world through the lens of a gracious and loving Savior, and we are equipped to bring that grace to our world. Share your ideas and questions with me at [email protected].

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