Excerpt from the book Dedicated: Training Your Children to Trust and Follow Jesus
By Bobby Harrington
Almost every in-depth analysis of the state of discipleship in the church today points to the supreme need for people to get into the Word of God and apply it to their lives.
Recently, the Willow Creek Association, one of the most influential church groups in America, published the results of some very interesting studies about spiritual growth and development. They surveyed more than 250,000 people in more than 1,000 churches. The chairman of the association, Bill Hybels, notes, “We learned that the most effective strategy for moving people forward in their journey of faith is biblical engagement. Not just getting people into the Bible when they’re in church — which we do quite well — but helping them engage the Bible on their own outside of church.”
From what we’ve seen over years of pastoring, there is a strong correlation between a child’s faith and their parents’ devotion to the Word. It’s amazing the difference a parent’s example makes in a child’s life.
The battle starts with you as a parent — God is calling you, right now, to get into the Word. Even if you are active in attending church and occasionally read the Bible, it’s vital that you are an engaged reader, a student of the Word.
Sometimes people settle for what they think the Bible says, but it’s vital for every parent — for every family — to know what the Bible actually says.
Here are three practical ways to get started being dedicated to the Word in your home:
Share the Word with your children.
Pray with your children to understand the Word.
Memorize the Word with your children.
1. Share the Word
The apostle Paul points out that it is impossible to believe in Jesus Christ until we hear the message about Jesus. To believe the gospel and trust Jesus, people need exposure to the Word. Paul writes,
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?…
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ. — Romans 10:14, Romans 10:17 ESV
Like the people who needed to hear the message in Paul’s day, our children need to hear the message about Christ today. After all, “faith comes from hearing.” We give our children opportunities to hear the Word of God by teaching them how to read the Bible for themselves. We do it by listening with them to teachings from a pastor or children’s minister and allowing the Holy Spirit to transform their hearts.
There are many, many ways to hear the Word with your children, but the important thing is that they are exposed to the Word in a way they can understand. Exposure to the teachings of Jesus is an essential factor in faith development and spiritual growth for children.
2. Pray to Understand the Word
The Holy Spirit enables us to be receptive to the Word, so we should pray for the Spirit’s guidance. The Spirit brings to life the teaching of the Bible and enables us to develop a spiritual mind.
The apostle Paul puts it this way:
The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. – 1 Corinthians 2:14
The truths of the Christian faith seem like foolishness to non-Christians. And our children can be like non-Christians in this way as well. Simply hearing the Word is not enough to change a heart and lead to lasting transformation. In addition to sharing the Word with our children, we must pray for the Spirit’s presence and guidance to help them understand God’s Word.
On the other hand, we sometimes meet teenagers and new Christians who simply and easily grasp profound biblical teachings. They not only grasp them; they clearly see how to apply these teachings to their lives. The difference, again, is the indwelling presence of God’s Spirit. With the Holy Spirit inside you, the Bible comes to life! The famous reformer Martin Luther described his experience this way: “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me. It has feet, it runs after me. It has hands, it lays hold of me.”
3. Memorize the Word
Throughout the history of the church, one of the most common practices of dedicated parents has been to engage their children with the memorization of Scripture. Consider this amazing truth: having your own personal Bible is a new reality for Christians.
For most of church history (and even in most parts of the world today), people did not have the Word in their homes, accessible at any time. Since access to the Word was limited, they had to find creative ways to memorize it. Think of the opportunities we have today to store Scripture in our hearts!
Many passages of the Bible recommend the practice of memorization. This habit not only enables our children to know God’s direction but also helps embed God’s truth into the way they think. Here is one passage among many, from the first chapter of the book of Psalms:
His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. – Psalm 1:2 ESV.
We have found that combining short portions of the Word of God with catchy songs is incredibly helpful. There is something about music that helps us to remember words. Think of all those silly commercial jingles you still remember from watching television as a child. They stick with you, even when you wish you could forget them. The same is true (in a positive and life-changing way) when you combine Scripture with song and teach children to memorize it.
Over and over again, I am encouraged by parents who have listened to the Seeds Family Worship music that we produce. They share with us how they are filled with joy because their kids are learning God’s Word. They look in the rear view mirror in their car as they drive and see their kids singing Scripture. Their joy comes from knowing that their children are storing God’s Word in their hearts (Psalm 119:11). Many parents have been brought to tears by hearing their children singing the Word. Music is one of the easiest and most powerful ways to memorize Scripture.
We soak up every word that comes from our Father, because we want to know him. By reading the Bible, we learn more and more about God, and he truly does become present with us as we study his words through the gift of the Holy Spirit. As we seek God through Scripture, we not only know him better; we develop a relationship with him. Then, the more and more we study it, we will come to know, experience, and love him in deeper and deeper ways.