Caleb looked at me with furrowed forehead and whined, “I’ve been at school all day, do we really have to ‘study’ anymore today?” The same Caleb who a month later would beg for time to ‘study’ during class. Because study isn’t about memorizing facts or lectures from the teacher. It is about diving into God’s Word and learning to listen for what God has to say to my heart, today, right here & now.
Most Children’s Ministers I’ve met who regularly practice the discipline of study with their children don’t call it study. For obvious reasons. “Study” carries with it the connotation of being boring and schoolish for most children. The last thing kids want is more school at church. Some Pastors call it “Dwelling in the Word” or “Eating the Bible.” Whatever you call it, “study” is a discipline that is so important for our children to practice now.
Historically, we have shelled out vague advice to read your Bible everyday, but that doesn’t really mean much to children who don’t know how to read the Bible or apply it to their lives. Many adults don’t even know how so why do we expect children to engage in God’s Word naturally?
Bible Study also isn’t just for the Word, Logic &/or Self-Smart Child. In Adele Ahlberg Calhoun’s book, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, she explores several ways you can study the Bible. One such way is the Artistic Method:
Artistic Method. Read a passage of Scripture, considering three questions as you read:
- What speaks to my heart? Draw a heart beside the word that speaks to your heart.
- What new thought or idea comes to me? Draw a light bulb beside the new thought or idea.
- What does Scripture move me to do? Draw a hand beside the action you want to take.
Consider how you can apply one of your insights today. Share your insights with a friend. (Calhoun, page 165)
One minister I know has children draw the part of the story that stood out to them the most. Through their drawings they are able to reflect on the story and and think about what God is telling them through His Word – how this story applies to their lives and also what this teaches them about God’s heart.
Another method of Study I learned from Lacy Finn Borgo – spiritual formation of children guru, & Sybil MacBeth of Praying in Color, is called “Eat” the Bible. “Eat” the Bible is a fun alternative name for lectio divina (which is a practice of scriptural reading & meditation). It is a practice that treats the scriptures as the Living Word of God & trusts that the Holy Spirit will speak to us – even children – through the Word. Don’t be intimidated to practice this with children, even kindergartners. Be intentional, move slowly while ensuring kids stay engaged & trust the Holy Spirit to work in kids’ hearts.
1. Pray a short prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to speak through the passage to your
group. This can be as simple as praying, “Holy Spirit, please come speak to us today as we read God’s Word.”
2. Select a story that is engaging for children’s imaginations. A Gospel story is a great place to begin. Read through once to get a feel for the story. They can follow along in their Bibles or close their eyes and listen closely. Read with inflection & animation; this will help kids stay engaged in the story.
3. Read it through a second time. This time imagine you are in the story. Ask these
questions after you read through it:
a. What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear? What do you feel? What
do you taste?
4. Read the passage one more time. Ask:
a. Who am I most like in the story?
b. Holy Spirit, what do you want to say to me?
**Accept any answers given even if it makes ZERO sense. This is so important in creating a safe space. God will work these things out over time.**
I believe teaching children how to study the Word of God is one of the most important disciplines we can teach them early in life. It’s too easy for “study” to become a 4-letter word in their minds, especially for children who may struggle in school. Handing a young reader an “adult” or “big-girl” Bible and saying, “Read this everyday”, while our intentions are sincere and God-honoring, we may not be setting our children up for success. Let’s be intentional in teaching them how to read the Word of God and how to unpack all the meaning God wants us to understand from His Words.
Because the truth is God’s Word has much to say to each of us if we know how to study His Word.
Join the conversation in the comments: How do you teach kids to engage God’s Word in practical ways?