Have you ever heard that old children’s song, “Read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow”? For many of us who grew up in church, this song—and this sentiment—may be nearly as familiar as “Jesus Loves Me.” I frequently heard exhortations from the pulpit for Christians to have daily devotions and for Christian parents to have regular family devotions as well.
But I have to wonder how many of us have actually followed this advice. My mother, to her credit, did do a Bible time with my siblings and I almost every school day. Evening family devotions were much more sporadic, however. And although I would often spend an hour or more in my personal devotion times as a teen (as I thought a good Christian should), these times were far from regular, and I often felt guilty that I wasn’t doing them as often as I should.
Naturally, this expectation of spending an hour every day in devotions did not work out well when I got married and became a mother. Feeling rather defeated in my personal devotions, I honestly didn’t really consider teaching much to my kids. But around a year or so after we started school, I realized that taking the kids to Sunday school wasn’t the same thing as personally, regularly educating my children in the Word as we are commanded in Deuteronomy 6:7. Taking a hint from my mom, I decided to try to add Bible study as a regular part of our school day.
How did that go? Let’s just say at first it was about as successful as my personal devotions in my teens. There were times when I spent an hour developing a fill-in-the-blank Bible study for my kids each morning. And there were other times where I was in a hurry to get through school, and Bible study got skipped completely. Most of the time, we started out well at the beginning of the school year or the spring semester. But the will to continue soon withered away and eventually died as the months went on. It’s convicting to realize that academic subjects will continue regardless, but when we get busy, the part of our education with more eternal significance tends to get pushed to the back burner.
To be sure, new habits can be difficult to develop. But for me, I think the primary source of this Bible study fatigue is that I tend to make it too complicated. I’ve had to come to the same conclusion I finally did about my personal devotions: when you’re struggling to change your habits or try something new, doing something is better than doing nothing. It doesn’t need to be fancy. Consistency is the key. Keep it simple. Find what works. Change it up when needed. If you skip a day (or a week, or a month), don’t let it defeat you. Habits can still be formed even when they start small.
I once read about a single dad (who is busier than single parents?!) whose family devotions started by simply reading a few verses with his children at the breakfast table. It later blossomed into deeper discussions and study, but really, how difficult is it to read a few verses together each morning? I don’t need to write up a whole page of Bible study questions every day. I don’t even need to read ahead every time and prepare my thoughts for what I’m going to teach. Sometimes I can just pick up a Bible and start reading.
With this freeing thought in mind, our Bible studies have become much more consistent in the past couple of years. Our routine often changes depending on what we have on our schedule. Lately, I have been reading out of a children’s Bible study book,* following up with a brief discussion. Sometimes I read a story out of a children’s Bible or pick a book of the Bible and read no more than one chapter a day. Sometimes (when I’m not feeling up to the planning) I ask one of my kids to pick a passage to share with the rest of us. And every once in a while, we simply take a few minutes to pray together before we jump into school.
As you can see, our devotional time isn’t always so much of a study as simply sharing a bit of the Word together. But some days (and you don’t always know when these days will be!), we find an interesting verse or subject and end up delving deeper. Our devotions typically last about 15-20 minutes, but sometimes they last an hour because we’ve hit on an important topic. Come to think of it, that’s how it works with many of our school subjects. . . . Why shouldn’t it work for the Bible?
I know it’s late in the school year, maybe nearing the end for some of you. But perhaps some of you have been wanting to get into more of a habit of doing Bible study with your children. If you are just starting out, or struggling with getting into a routine, or falling off the wagon as the school year winds down, I hope these thoughts are encouraging. Remember, something is better than nothing. Start small. You never know when something simple might take root and grow in ways you never imagined.
Photo Credit: Image courtesy of author.
*Here is the link to the book we are currently using. We have read some of the other books in this series and have enjoyed them as well.