Kids are sponges. What they’re exposed to as they grow up will largely define who they become in adulthood. There’s nothing wrong with Phineas and Ferb (I want my kids to be creative), or Moana (and adventurous), or Super Why (reading is cool!). But more than any of those, I want my kids to know a God who designed them for an adventurous life of purpose. The best way to do that is through sharing the stories of how God’s done that with others, and those stories are largely collected in an old book we call the Bible. But I get it, engaging kids with the Bible is a bit more complicated than just firing up the Roku.
Good news: getting your kids into the Bible isn’t as hard (or awkward or migraine-inducing) as you might imagine. Whether you’re a Bible scholar or still figuring out what you believe—and whether your kids are newborns or ready to leave the nest—there are simple ways to make the Bible a normal part of your family’s life together. Not in a weird, or boring way, but in ways that are fun, creative, and feel natural. As the stories of Scripture get under the skin of your family, you’ll not only see your kids changing but yourself as well.
Make it visible.
It probably goes without saying that your kids first learn their values from you. To get them to engage the Bible, you’ll need to find ways to do the same. (This might help.) As our friend Kim’s kids got older, her husband Mark changed his own Bible reading spot to the most visible place in their home: the kitchen. He literally stood at the counter with his Bible open. Mark knew his kids would see him while they were eating their breakfast or getting school lunches ready. He didn’t quote it to them. He didn’t quiz them. He just let himself be seen. How he spent his time showed them it was valuable. He found it was just as important to read the Bible, as it was to be seen reading it. Find a place and time to read Scripture for yourself—and if your kids interrupt, it might actually be a good thing.
Make it casual.
Kids pick up on your attitude and emotions. If every time you bring up the Bible, it causes anxiety (here comes the Thou Shalt Not), your kid may decide the Bible is like a school test or homework—something to be avoided. So make it casual. Keep it upbeat. If your kid is a teen, try not to make it weird. Admit when you have questions. Make jokes. Talk about the Bible the way you would a new TV show or podcast you’re binging. Bring up what you’re reading over dinner, or ask your kid if they learned anything new recently. If your kid is small, get a kids’ Bible and read it before bedtime (we like this one). If they’re older, get a comic book Bible and read it together (we like this one). If your kid has a phone, use a Bible app together. The Bible isn’t going to Raiders of the Lost Ark your face off. You can remove fear around engaging with it by keeping it casual with your kids.
And if you want a real Bible-reading-parenting-lay-up, you can get a weekly text with ideas from our church. Text “KCWeekly” to 970-00 to opt-in.
Make it meaningful.
Your kid is craving your true, authentic self. They want to spend time with you (whether they admit it or not) and want to experience the things you find meaningful. So if you read something in the Bible and it authentically has an impact on you, tell your kids. Think about how meaningful, say, asking for forgiveness might be: “Hey buddy, I read in the Bible that fathers shouldn’t speak harshly to their kids, and that’s what I did yesterday morning when we were late leaving the house. I’m sorry about that. I shouldn’t have done that. Will you forgive me?”
On a related note, this is the real heart behind memorizing Bible verses. It’s easy to live by words you can remember. Is your daughter struggling with body image and self-worth? Memorize Psalm 139:14 together: “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Are your kids struggling to share their toys? Try Acts 20:35: “It is more blessed to give than receive.”
The Bible will become more than just a book on a shelf when your kid sees you embedding it into your family’s life together.
Make it creative.
God is creative, and creativity is one of his good gifts. While you should be careful not to add, skip, or change words of Scripture (for reasons we’re not going to get into right now), you can also have fun with it—yes, FUN! When you read parts of the Bible aloud to your kids, try reading all the dialogue in funny voices. (You can start with Jonah 1-2, but every time Jonah speaks, he’s a Texas Ranger. Or a stoner. Or British. You pick.) If you want an example of what this looks/sounds like, our church offers a weekly “Bible Storytime” on Facebook.
Other ways to put your creative spin might include: shortening or updating super long Bible names (Daniel = Danny, Jehosophat = So Fat, Zacchaeus = Zach), making comic-style artwork of mind-blowing stories (try 1 Kings 18), or watching Bible stories on YouTube. The Kids’ Club YouTube Channel is a great starting point for kids, and for older kids and teens, check out The Bible Project.
Spend time in the car together every morning? Consider listening to a Psalm or a passage about the life of Jesus. There are free audio bibles available online, including many embedded in the popular YouVersion Bible app.
Anything new feels awkward at first. But aspirations won’t change your life. Only action can do that. Choose an idea from the list above (or something that sparked in your own mind) and try it on for the next thirty day. We’ll call it a little Bible experiment. Even if you’re just dipping a toe in, I think God will be pleased with your attempts. He actually promises to be found by anyone who seeks Him (Matthew 7:7). And that promise applies across the board, from grandparents to parents, teenagers to toddlers. Time to get seeking!