This is the second post in a series about creating spiritual practices in our children. Be sure to check out the first and the third, too.
Last Friday we started a series on creating spiritual practices, or rituals, with our children. Those who are directors of spiritual formation will tell you that we are always being spiritually formed- whether that be for good or for bad. Circumstances, routines, words, and experiences are always forming how we view the world, view ourselves, and view God (most of the time we're unconscious of this). When we practice spiritual disciplines, we're not just doing something "that we ought to do", but we're participating in the formation of our spirit.
In addition to prayer, we also engage our children in the practice of playing with Scripture. Playing?! Yes, that is not a typo. I think all of us (myself included) would probably do well to lighten up a bit while interacting with the Scripture. God has given us fantastic imaginations, and we help the kids use them to better understand Scripture. We encourage them to read it, ask questions of the text, act it out, and memorize it.
In our house, we try and devour God's word. We read it and re-read it all day long, not just at a "devotion" time. While we do sometimes have family devotions, we also try and help the kids know that reading the Bible isn't something we do only right before bed or only when we get up in the morning.
I think finding an age-appropriate Bible with great pictures has been key in teaching our kids more about God as He reveals Himself through Scripture.
For those of you with elementary school kids, the Hands-On Bible (NLT) is one that I have reviewed and it's really fun too. You can check out that review here. For older preschoolers, they also have a version called My First Hands-On Bible.
Kids love to ask questions! When reading and discussing Scripture, we've heard everything from "Why was Jesus born in a manger?" to "Why did God create hell? I don't know why God tells us to love our enemies but he throws them in hell." We've had great discussions with Asante, and while we try to offer thoughtful replies when we can, we try and sometimes say, "I don't know. Let's think and pray about it over the next few months." We want the kids to be okay with asking questions and not having all their questions answered because we hope that these questions will help the kids not see Scripture as an informational, life manual, but as a living document that breathes life in us and reveals various truths to us in unusual and timely ways.
Acting It Out
Sometimes we like to take our favorite stories and act them out. In the past, we've done a lot of playing involving The Good Samaritan, Jonah and the Big Fish, Daniel and the Lions Den, and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo. Everyone in the family takes a part, we gather appropriate props, and play away. Sometimes there is some poetic license taken, but it's what happens when the kids find themselves wrapped up in the story. Each time we get to try on different characters and walk around in their shoes for awhile. Normally we use the Children's Bible version of the stories. We start by reading it aloud and having the kids act it out as we read. Then, after it has sunk in a little bit, we read less of the story and they act it out without our promptings. Finally, after a day or so of this, no Bible is needed....we're running through those stories like they are stories that have actually happened to us.
Preschoolers typically have awesome memories. Because most of them aren't fluent readers, they remember what they hear much better than those of us who rely on the ability to go back and read something to remember it. We are trying to take advantage of this slice of time and work on hiding Scripture in their little hearts (giving vocabulary for the Holy Spirit in speaking to them). This is definitely not the strongest area for us because it's not something I am personally in the habit of doing these days. Thankfully Asante is in Awana (a Wednesday night kids club where they memorize Scripture and do other fun things), so every week we have a verse to memorize. Aly likes to memorize with him.
In addition to Awana, it really is about repetition....and singing :). We try to make things verses into a song and it helps quite a bit. Sometimes we do a fun activity that goes along with the verse to help them dwell on it a little more. We also are sure to talk about the verse- what the words mean, what it means for our lives, etc. As for which verses, we try and focus on ones that the Holy Spirit may need to use with them... 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is the one we find ourselves mostly reminding them of.
Anyway, those are some ways that we practice the spiritual disciplines of Scripture reading with the kids. It not only helps shape them, but also us. We begin to see stories in a different light, and God uses those stories to teach us as we are guiding them.
What are some passages of Scripture that you think every kid should know? What are some of your favorite resources in helping your child interact with Scripture? Please please share!