Me? Teach my kids the Bible?
I dislike football.
As a teen, I had no idea what classmates were talking about on a Monday morning when discussing the matches of the weekend. I never saw the appeal of kicking a ball around at picnics or social gatherings. And that miserable party-pooper at University who turned down multiple invitations to go and watch football at the pub?
Yup, guilty as charged.
Because God has the most incredible sense of humour, He gifted me a son who is football-mad. And when I say “football-mad”, I mean that he was kicking a soft ball with his knees as early as four months, sat in the baby bouncer. We have footage of him scoring an amazing drop-kick past his dad, a few weeks off his 2nd birthday. Football has dominated his life and his break-times as long as he can remember.
These days, at the ripe old age of 12, he has plenty of outlets for playing football: at school with friends, at home with siblings, after church with the random assortment of people that an after-church kickaround usually attracts.
But do you know what?
Sometimes I play with him. Yes, really.
Sometimes I listen to him chat about players, transfers, injuries and referee decisions. I ask questions and try to understand more. Sometimes I watch matches with him (OK, the Euros were pretty good, I’ll grant you that). And sometimes (hang tight, this surely deserves some kind of parenting accolade) I even let him talk me through his Match Attax cards.
What has happened in the last twelve years? Who have I become? I certainly haven’t become a football expert.
What’s happened is that I’ve fallen crazy in love with my son. I want to enjoy life with him, and because football is such a big part of his life, I can’t connect with him unless I make some attempt to connect with the football he adores.
It doesn’t matter that I don’t know very much about it. It doesn’t matter that the only area in which my football knowledge surpasses his is in the area of football anthems (“Three Lions” and “Vindaloo” both being chart hits of my adolescence). What matters is that we do it together.
I honestly don’t think that teaching our kids the Bible is much different. It doesn’t rely on our knowledge, just our love for our children and our willingness to get alongside them in something hugely relevant to their lives (and ours). But somehow, the very thought scares us off.
We believe we don’t know enough about the Bible. We worry that we’re too young in our own faith. We expect we won’t have “the answers” (whatever that means). We wonder whether this kind of thing is best left to the professionals: church pastors, children’s workers, camp leaders.
The truth is, the best person to teach your child the Bible is you. Yes, you – with all your unanswered questions, rarely-read Bible books and limited understanding. You are the one your child trusts the most, the one who sees them at their best and worst, the one who loves them unconditionally, the one they’re watching to see faith in action.
Deuteronomy 6:7-9 says:
“Impress [God’s commandments] on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
The Israelites, to whom this passage was written, would have had ‘formal’ occasions to learn about God just like our children do in church. And praise God for all the amazing people who invest in our children on a Sunday. But Moses is saying that that’s not enough! God’s Word is not just to be heard in a weekly church service or youth group. It needs to be chatted through, thought about, mulled over, discussed, questioned, tested.
A modern paraphrase of that passage might go something like this:
“Impress God’s Word on your children. Talk about it when you’re chilling at home, and when you’re on the school run. When you’re going to sleep and first thing in the morning. Write it out, hold it, wear it. Display Scripture around your home; surround your family with it.”
We don’t need to have all the answers. We don’t need to read huge long chunks. And – you’ll be pleased to hear – we don’t need to start with Deuteronomy.
There are some brilliant resources to help – I have a helpful run-down of over 20 of the best Bibles for children and youth on my blog, as well as lists of children’s devotional resources and some great resources for family devotions too.
But you could just open up your Bible, read a couple of verses from a gospel, then ask your kids what they thought. Just like I’ll go and have a kick around with my son, even though I have no idea what I’m doing, teaching our kids the Bible is about being willing, getting involved, learning from our kids and sharing what God has taught us.
Lucy Rycroft is the founder of The Hope-Filled Family, a resource to equip Christian parents and adopters. You can connect with her on Instagram, where she’s currently sharing encouragements to #teachyourkidsthebible. Lucy lives in York with her vicar husband Al and their four kids, and is the author of Redeeming Advent and Deborah and Jael.