God’s Word is powerful, transformational, and trustworthy, and it contains truths that make the difference between life and death for our children. Yet as parents, we often feel ill equipped, intimidated, or simply don’t know how to read the Bible with our kids. In this article, Joanna Kimbrel, author of “The Greatest Hero,” shares 7 practical tips to make reading the Bible with your kids more impactful, effective, and fun, and encourages you that no book of the Bible is too challenging to dive into with your children.
Our kids need the Bible. God’s Word is powerful, transformational, and trustworthy, and it contains truths that make the difference between life and death for our children. But let’s be honest—much of the Bible is confusing for adults, and the thought of explaining difficult passages to kids can be intimidating.
Don’t let fear keep you from reading the Bible with your kids! You have an opportunity to model prioritizing Scripture and start meaningful conversations with your little ones about God and His Word. It’s okay if you don’t have all the answers. None of us do! But you can walk through even the most challenging books of the Bible with your kids.
Paul’s letter to the Romans is one of those books that often come with an extra measure of intimidation. It’s 16 chapters of rich theology, heavy questions, and convicting application. It also beautifully and thoroughly presents the good news of the gospel. All these elements make it a perfect case study for how to read the Bible with your kids.
7 TIPS TO HELP YOU READ THE BIBLE WITH YOUR KIDS
Here are 7 tips to ways to make reading the Bible with your kids more approachable and impactful.
We need the Holy Spirit to help us understand and apply God’s Word, so ask Him for help! Pray that He would give you understanding and wisdom to know how to explain Scripture to your kids. Pray that He would open their hearts to understand, too. Pray that you would see wonderful things in the Bible about Who God is and what He’s done. And don’t just keep those prayers to yourself—pray with your kids! Model the practice of asking for God’s help before, after, and even while you read Scripture.
2. FOCUS ON KEY TERMS AND IDEAS
Romans, like many books of the Bible, covers a lot of theological ground, and it’s easy to feel lost in all the big words. That’s why it’s helpful to identify the main ideas in a book of the Bible and keep directing your kids back to them as anchors. When you see a key theme in the text, point it out. Stop and talk about it using simple language kids can understand. Remind them where they’ve seen it before, and ask questions about it. Before you know it, they’ll start noticing those big ideas on their own.
Each book of the Bible will have its own set of key themes, and it can help to read through the book first on your own to start identifying them. Here are some examples of key ideas from the book of Romans along with simple explanations you can offer to kids along the way.
Every person in the whole world has the same really big problem—sin! You can explain that we sin when we disobey God. We sin with what we do, what we say, and what we think. We sin when we want to do things our way instead of the way God tells us to in the Bible. We sin when we want to hurt someone or take something that doesn’t belong to us. We sin when we are unkind to others and always want to be first. In our sin we love and worship things more than we love God. Sin is a big problem because it has a really big consequence. The punishment for our sin is death (Romans 6:23).
To live forever with God, we have to be righteous. You can explain that to be righteous is to have no sin and be right with God. But we all sin, so that means no one is righteous. Not even one! (Romans 3:9). That means every single one of us deserves to die. We don’t have any righteousness inside ourselves, so we need righteousness that comes from somewhere else. The good news is that we can have righteousness from God!
To be justified is to be declared righteous. You can tell your kids that being justified is like doing something really bad and going to court, but the judge says you’re “not guilty” even though he knows you are guilty. If we believe in Jesus, He gives us His righteousness, and God says we are “not guilty.” But how can God do that? Wouldn’t that make God a liar? No, because Jesus pays the price for our sin. He took our sin and died on the cross in our place, so now we can have His righteousness, and we can really be righteous.
So how are we justified? By faith in Jesus. You can explain to kids that when we have faith in Jesus, that means we believe that He is God’s Son who died for us and rose to life. When we have faith, we trust Jesus to save us from our sin and give us His righteousness. We aren’t justified because we do good things or read the Bible enough, we are justified by faith in Jesus.
Grace is when God gives us a good gift that we don’t deserve. You can tell your kids that even though we deserve to die because of our sin, God gives us grace by sending Jesus to die for our sins and giving us life that lasts forever. We can’t do anything to earn God’s grace because it’s a gift!
3. USE SIMPLE LANGUAGE KIDS CAN UNDERSTAND
The Bible can be hard to understand, and it is completely appropriate to use simple language to explain what it says. In fact, this practice is modeled in the book of Nehemiah when the Levites “read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8). Consider incorporating children’s Bible stories into your regular reading, like my new book “The Greatest Hero” from Kaleidoscope, which is a retelling of the book of Romans in chapter book form for elementary grade kids.
4. MAKE IT FUN
It’s easy for kids to get distracted listening to you read, so do something to keep them engaged. My kids love to draw pictures or do coloring pages about that day’s Bible story while we read. Consider using different voices for different characters, or letting your kids take turns reading aloud if they are old enough.
5. ASK FOLLOW UP QUESTIONS
When you read a passage of Scripture with your kids, ask questions to check for comprehension. If you read Romans 1, you might ask questions like:
“Who wrote the book of Romans?”
“Why was Paul thankful for the Romans?”
“Why wasn’t Paul ashamed of the gospel?”
It’s likely your kids will have trouble answering a lot of these questions, and that’s okay! Now you have an opportunity to explain it using simple language and have a conversation about God’s Word. They won’t remember it all, but you’re setting a foundation to build upon for years to come.
6. BE OKAY WITH “I DON’T KNOW”
Kids ask some of the most challenging questions, and you won’t always know how to answer them. That’s okay! In those moments you have a chance to model humility as you acknowledge you don’t have all the answers, point them to God as the One who does, and show them that the Bible is our authority on what is true. So get comfortable with saying, “I don’t know, because the Bible doesn’t tell us. It’s okay for us to not understand,” or “I’m not sure, but let’s see what the Bible says together!”
7. CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION
God’s Word is meant to change us, so continue the conversation throughout your day. Did you learn about how nature tells us what God is like in Romans 1? Talk about God’s beauty when you take your kids outside to play. Did you learn about loving each other in Romans 12? Talk about ways your kids can love their siblings when a fight breaks out later that afternoon. Bible reading isn’t the end of discipleship—it’s just the beginning!
So, no matter how old they are, I encourage you to start getting into the habit of reading the Bible with your kids. It won’t always be easy, and they won’t understand everything, but it’s always worth it. God’s Word changes hearts and lives, so let’s invite our children to drink deeply from Scripture and experience the life-giving truth of the gospel for themselves.
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