As Christians we feel a joy and duty to teach our children about God. We know that this is not something they will naturally learn, but can only come through intentional instruction and prayer. God is the one who transforms our children’s hearts; He is the only one who can open their eyes to the truth of the gospel. We teach our children and pray that God would work through us to accomplish this.
I do not claim to be an expert on this topic, but I am learning as I go. Here are some resources and rhythms we are using with our kids (age 4, 3, 1). We like these resources and they seem to work well for us in this stage of life.
We utilize several different children’s Bibles and books to help our young ones hear and engage the stories and truths of Scripture. I think all of these are very well illustrated and theologically sound.
1. “The Big Picture Story Bible” by David Helm. This illustrated story Bible has short enough chapters that allow a very young child to stay engaged. Helm utilizes the biblical theological theme of “God’s people in God’s place living under God’s Word” to take the reader through the Bible.
2. “The Jesus Storybook Bible” by Sally Lloyd-Jones. This illustrated story Bible has longer chapters than the “Big Picture Story Bible,” but is still fairly accessible to very young children. The author shows how the various events and truths and stories of Scripture find their climax in Jesus. Such an approach helps one avoid moralizing and leads one to view Scripture through a gospel-centered hermeneutic.
3. “The Biggest Story” by Kevin De Young. This is a biblical theology for children made up of ten chapters. I would say this is probably geared more toward children older than ours, but mine have enjoyed it still. The author uses a biblical theological approach to speak about how Jesus, “the snake-crusher, brings us back to the garden.”
4. “Everything a Child Should Know About God” by Kenneth N. Taylor. This is a mini-systematic theology for children. Each lesson is one page long (with a one-page picture) and has questions or a prayer at the bottom of each page. This is a good resource to introduce different theological concepts to young children and it is very accessible.
5. “The New City Catechism.” Our children are learning this 52-question catechism. It is written from a Reformed perspective and reflects the classic catechisms of the Great Reformation. There is also a really great app for smartphones which has a song for each question; the songs are really useful in helping a child memorize the words of the question and answer. Learning a catechism is hard work—for the parent and the child—but lays a solid foundation of knowledge for a child that can shape their thinking about God and reality. (I would suggest parents learn the adult version of the questions as a great resource for their own edification).
We utilize these children’s resources and have recently been introducing the Bible to our children. To begin with, we are reading small portions of the Gospel of John together. Our hope is to start with John and then work through all the other books of the Bible over time and make reading the Bible together a regular and consistent thing we do as family. In the past, I have also read several longer narratives from the Bible that our children have grown to love from the children’s Bibles (David and Goliath: 1 Samuel 17; Raising of Lazarus: John 11; Conversion of Saul/Paul: Acts 9); our children really enjoy listening to these longer stories and I think younger children can grasp far more than we give them credit for.
Morning: In the morning I have breakfast with the girls and work on catechism with them. We typically review a few questions they already know and try to work on a new one. Some days the children do many questions and others just one or two. I try to add variety to the way we review the questions and we regularly utilize the songs.
Evening: In the evening we try to have a time of family worship together after dinner and right before bed. We pray and ask God to help us understand His Word then we read short passage from the Bible (right now the Gospel of John) and one or two stories from the children’s Bibles/books—we let the kids pick the story book bible/book. Then we pray together: I pray over some truth we read in Scripture and we pray for different people in our lives—we ask the kids whom they might like to pray for—and every night we try to pray for the children in our congregation. After this, we sing a few songs together and send the kids to bed. We try to keep this over family devotion short, but sometimes it goes longer. Some evenings are really wonderful and it is encouraging to hear the questions and insights of our children, but other evenings are really difficult and it feels like there are a million distractions. In all things though we try to remember that is God who changes our children’s hearts and not us.
We don’t manage to do these rhythms everyday, but we try to as much as we are able. What are some resources and rhythms you utilize with your young children?