This is the third in our New Year bible reading series. This one is from Paul Jones who has two young sons.
Reading the bible with your children isn't easy - and I think that that's certainly true for me. I find it hard, but it's also fair to say that it is really rewarding. Our boys, 5 and 8, are both beginning to ask some really big and sometimes tough questions, which makes bible time exciting too.
We have 2 main 'slots' in the day where we do things. When we sit down for tea, we pray through the church family using the church prayer diary. We pray too, for the people we have around our table for tea that night. It's also a good time to make it a habit of saying thank you together, for our food. During Advent, we add in prayer and chat about the name of Jesus that is on our advent candle for that day. As the boys have gotten older this has been a good way to start to weave the whole bible narrative together.
The second slot is when we read the bible to the boys before bed. This has become a little more complicated recently. Our eldest has outgrown the Jesus Storybook Bible and The Big Picture Bible, so we got him the Holy Bible for Kids (ESV), which is the one he uses in Sunday School as well as the version we use in church. When we are reading the passage together, he will look up the reference in his bible and follow along with us. The Big Picture Story Bible is slightly easier for this as it provides references for each reading. This has helped to show both boys that the stories they are learning about come from the same bible as Daddy and Mummy have, and that we read from on Sunday at church. It has also allowed Sam to start linking things together - only last night he spotted that there were two instances in Matthew's gospel where God says "This is my Son with whom I am well pleased..." and so we were able to chat about that.
We then pray, normally in three ways; thank you prayers where the boys share, we pray about what we have learnt about Jesus from our passage, and sorry prayers which sometimes the boys will pray. From time to time we have to push hard on the thank you and sorry prayers - but as we say to the boys "there is always something we can say Thank You to God for!" and they are quickly learning that even if they've not been told off, there is always the need for God's forgiveness! We also make sure that we talk to the boys about what they've been learning in Sunday School. They don't always follow the sermon series - although when that happens it can make for a great discussion - so talking to them is really interesting. Seeing how their understanding of who Jesus is and what God has done is growing all the time.
Less formally, we have tried to take to heart Deuteronomy 6v4-7:
To talk about the things of God all the time. Whether they be in relation to school things, or a great view when we are out walking, a rainbow or when the boys ask us questions. One of the things that Jennie is particularly good at is praying with the boys if they are worried about something, or can't sleep, or are having a nightmare. We are conscious that whilst the more formal slots are important, showing the boys that following Jesus is all encompassing and that God is not just interested in, but in charge of, all areas of our lives is really important too.
It isn't always easy, and sometimes it is the last thing that I want to do after a long day at work - but I never feel that afterwards. It's not just your children who benefit, you do too. I'm sure we could do more and I'm sure others do lots of other exciting and encouraging things; so as parents, godparents and members of God's wider family - let's be better at talking about these things and better at asking for help, so we can all be the better for it.