When it comes to my kids, I tend to overcomplicate things.
I’m always three steps ahead of them, fretting over things I worry they’re not learning, planning ahead for ways to challenge them in areas they are growing. Like when I started making baby food for my 2-month old, four months before I planned to give him any solids, because it was July and I was worried about what fresh produce would be available in November, when he turned 6 months old.
So if you’re overwhelmed with the idea of trying to help and your train your sinful, disobedient children, and show them how to become disciples of Jesus, I completely understand. It is the biggest, most important job we will ever undertake.
Of course, to truly disciple our kids, we do have to create a culture of faith in our home. We can’t just throw soundbytes at our children without backing them up with a lifestyle of serving and following Jesus and expect they won’t (eventually) see through our hypocrisy. We have to follow Jesus ourselves, and show them how.
But beyond that, when it comes to actually teaching our kids about our faith, there’s one simple thing I think every family can do that would make a tremendous impact in your kids’ lives: read them Bible stories.
It sounds too simple, I know, but stick with me.
Biblical illiteracy is a huge (and growing) problem in the church, but if we would all adopt this one simple practice, we could ensure that the next generation actually knows what the Bible says.
Most families with small children read some sort of stories to their kids before bed. All you have to do is swap out those fairy tales or superhero stories for Bible stories.
We read Bible stories almost every night with our kids, ( we’re not perfect!) and it never takes more than 10 minutes. But it’s made a tremendous impact in their lives already. At six and seven years old, they have a better grasp of the Bible than a lot of the kids in our youth group did when we were youth pastors.
And if you’re not doing this already, December is the perfect time of year to start. Begin with an advent storybook, and then when Christmas is over choose another children’s Bible storybook, and keep going.
I know it’s not quite December yet, but I wanted to share this with you now so that you’d have time to order something to read with your children throughout the Christmas season. Here are some of my favorites:
For little kids:
An Advent Calendar with a Nativity story – There are a bunch of these, but something like this what what we used at Christmas when I was growing up, and it became a beloved holiday tradition. This is perfect for little ones, because each night’s reading is only a sentence (or sometimes just half a sentence), so there’s not much time for them to get wiggly and bored. You can just read the portion of the story that corresponds to that day, or you can do what we did in my family, and start over at the beginning every night. Even if you do it this way, lifting the little flaps will keep your kids engaged while you read the story.
The Jesus Storybook Bible – Okay, I know that this is in almost every Bible list on this website, but it is that good. And the stories fit an advent reading plan perfectly–if you start on December 1st and read every night, you’ll read the tree Christmas stories on December 22, 23, and 24. If you’ve never read this before, grab this one and start reading it with your kids even if they’re older. We still read through this at least once a year, and will for probably several more years.
For older kids:
Unwrapping the Greatest Gift – This is Ann Voskamp’s follow-up to her Christmas devotional A Greatest Gift, and there are downloadable ornaments you can print out and color to go along with each reading. We love this one.
The Jesse Tree – This frames each Bible story within a larger narrative of an old man carving a Jesse Tree in a church and a little boy who has questions for him. It’s a sweet, sweet story, and a great place to start if you’r unfamiliar with the Jesse Tree concept.
Even if you have big kids, don’t underestimate the power of starting a family devotional time now. It’s not to late t o share stories from the Bible with your family; when Christmas is over, just pick up a family devotional, or read aloud together from a Bible reading plan.
The Story of God’s Love for You – This is the basically same as The Jesus Storybook Bible, minus the illustrations in a really nice, leather-bound format. But it’s a great place to start if you’re trying to cultivate a new Bible reading habit.
The Greatest Gift – This wonderful Christmas devotional address why the gospels include genealogies, and why knowing the major stories of the Old Testament is crucial for understanding Christ and Christmas. It stars with creation and the fall, and points out the thread of redemption through the entire Old Testament. And there are reflection questions for each days reading that you could easily discuss with your family.
Bonus: a video series
Buck Denver Asks: What’s in the Bible? – I really do believe that reading Bible stories to your kiddos is irreplaceable, but if bonding over videos is your thing, you should check out this series, too. Start this holiday season with Why Do We Call It Christmas? Then after the new year, pop some popcorn, snuggle on the couch together, and catch an episode or two together every weekend until you’ve watched the whole series.