How should you introduce your 6- to 12-year-old kids to the most important passages and big-picture storyline of the Bible? How can you best answer your children’s questions about the Bible when you don’t know the answer yourself?
Bible Gateway interviewed David Murray (@davidpmurray) about his book, Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids (Crossway, 2017).
Is it correct to assume that parents don’t read the Bible to their children as often as they should?
David Murray: Many parents do read the Bible to their kids, but they’re probably in the minority. The two main reasons parents don’t do this are that many parents have not prioritized this and others are too busy to do it. Unless it’s made a family priority, and it’s scheduled as part of our everyday life, it’s not going to happen.
Why is it important for parents to read the Bible to their kids and to model the reading of the Bible for their kids?
David Murray: We believe that God blesses Bible reading not just in the shaping of our children’s character (Ps. 119:9) but in the saving of their souls (2 Tim. 3:15). We should encourage children to read the Bible for themselves, but reading it with them gives them an opportunity to ask questions and for us to explain the Bible to them. We can also show our children how to apply this ancient book to modern life to help them see how relevant it is to them. The earlier we can get them started the better (Prov. 22:6).
The Bible includes stories of sin, sex, and violence. How should parents handle that when recommending the Bible to their children?
David Murray: Yes, it does, although there are not that many places with these themes and they’re usually described in ways that are a lot more discrete than R-rated movies (for example, Gen. 4:1). However, yes, there are still parts of the Bible that we might think would be best to save for later when they’re a bit older and able to understand it better (Gen. 19:30-38). Having said that, our family has been in the practice of simply reading through the Bible consecutively for 21 years and we don’t miss out anything. We simply trust God with it and if questions are raised we try to answer them in age-appropriate ways or encourage them to wait until they’re older to get answers.
How can parents establish a routine of Bible reading?
David Murray: One of the advantages of Exploring the Bible is that it takes kids from Genesis to Revelation in the course of a year. Its daily readings are only a few verses long. Although that means that large chunks of the Bible are not covered, the main highlights are; and connecting paragraphs help to keep the story linked together. Parents could go through this with their kids in no more than five minutes a day.
However, I think parents can also begin with a Gospel and gauge how much to read each day depending on the ages and capacities of the kids.
It’s best to do a little every day than do larger readings just when you can manage (Isa. 28:10). I recommend doing it after the family meal each evening if possible because that happens every night and hopefully most of the family will be there.
What should parents do when their children ask them questions about the Bible that may be difficult to answer?
David Murray: Admit it. Say, “Well that’s a difficult question and I’m not sure I know the answer. However, I’ll find out and get back to you.” Then either look up some books or ask your pastor. We want to encourage questions and we want to show our children that there are answers.
What should the goal be for parents who want their children to establish themselves in the Bible?
David Murray: Reading together with them is the first step. And then, hopefully, once we’ve got them in the rhythm, we can use a plan like Exploring the Bible which encourages them to interact with the text and write out responses. The goal again should be a little every day. Make it do-able, establish the habit, and then it can grow and develop from there.
How does your book help 6-12-year-olds get into the Bible?
David Murray: It helps them get into the Bible by giving them a big picture view of the whole story of redemption in the course of a year. It’s systematic in that it guides them through the Bible book by book. It includes summaries of books and chapters to keep the narrative going. And it is interactive, encouraging them to think about what they’re reading.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
David Murray: My favorite Bible passage is Jesus meeting the despondent disciples on the road to Emmaus and cheering them up with a Christ-centered study of the Old Testament (Luke 24:13-34). My passion is that by helping children read the Bible, they’ll discover Jesus in it and also experience burning hearts as he talks with them through his Word.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?
David Murray: I love Bible Gateway and use it almost every day in my studies. I especially appreciate how many versions of the Bible it gives me quick access to and therefore helps me to see the differences between different translations, highlighting areas for further study. I also use its search function when I need to find a verse of Scripture and all I have is a few words or a phrase.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
David Murray: Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the famous London preacher, once advised Sunday school teachers that whatever else they taught their students, they had to communicate joy and excitement in their lessons. He said that the children may not remember all the details of what they taught, but if they consistently conveyed their own delight in and enthusiasm for the Bible, the children would be “infected” by that and pursue Bible study themselves.
As we read the Bible with our kids and encourage them to read it themselves, let’s make sure that whatever else they remember, they remember our joy. Bible reading is not a “should-do” but a “get-to-do.” We get to hear God’s voice speaking into our lives for our good and the good of others.
Bio: Dr. David Murray is Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Seminary. He is the author of Christians Get Depressed Too, How Sermons Work, Jesus on Every Page, The Happy Christian, Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture, and Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids. Read his blog at HeadHeartHand.org/blog. David is married to Shona and they have five children ranging from 4 to 21 years old. They love camping, fishing, boating, and skiing in the Lake Michigan area.
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