During lockdown my mum has found recipes that require the most basic of ingredients and yet produce incredible results. I have no idea how she does it. Over the years our family Bible studies have been a little like that. God took a recently-converted, Biblically-illiterate single mum and some reluctant children and did something quite incredible.
There’s no recipe we can follow to guarantee our children becoming believers. It’s a huge relief to know that our children’s salvation rests not on our efforts but on God’s grace. Yet, having seen the impact of a (mostly) daily family Bible study on my own three children I am now passionate about helping parents get started on the adventure of family Bible study.
Before you think, “She would say that, she’s a children’s worker! She knew what she was doing”, let me reassure you that when we started, no one was less-equipped than me.
25 years ago, I had just become a Christian. I hadn’t grown up in a Christian home. I hadn’t even had a Christmas nativity play in primary school! So, when I became a believer I knew very little about the Bible’s teaching. I remember the day my five-year-old daughter rushed out of school thrilled that her teacher had put her picture of Jonah on the wall. ‘Jonah who?’ I asked. ‘You know Mummy, the man who was eaten by a huge fish.’ Then she added ‘It’s in the Bible.’ I desperately tried to hide my surprise. I had so much to learn.
When my husband left and I became a single mum of three children, I prayed more than ever for my children to know their loving heavenly Father. God answered those prayers in many ways. Firstly, he guided us to a wonderful church family, who loved and taught us well. What a huge gift that was.
Several years later, as I read a biography about Corrie ten Boom’s childhood, I felt inspired by their family’s tradition. Everyone gathered around the breakfast table every morning and their father read the Bible and prayed with them. What a great thing to do I thought, but where do I start?
I visited our local Christian bookshop and found a book of Bible studies for children. And so our family Bible study adventure began. Like all adventures there were some joys and many obstacles.
Sometimes, I had to rethink how we did things: we started off having Bible time in my bed, but everyone was half asleep so we moved to the kitchen table. We discovered that praying out loud felt scary so we wrote our prayers in a notebook so we could read them. However, mostly the obstacles were those everyday ones that we all know. I regularly had to cajole my reluctant children. There was often stony silence when I asked a question. It felt like an uphill battle.
We all remember the day when it came to a head. Halfway through, Josie lay down on the kitchen bench to go to sleep, Ollie put his head on the table and closed his eyes, and Lydia decided it was the moment to practise her cartwheels. It all felt too hard, and tears started rolling down my face. That was the moment I was tempted to give up. Tempted to think it was all a waste of time. I’m sure Mr ten Boom knew what he was doing, but I didn’t. It was only God’s kindness that motivated me to keep going, and I’m so thankful that he did.
Zoom forward ten years. The children were now, 19, 17 and 13 years old, and reminiscing about the things that they treasured about their childhood. Imagine my amazement when all three of them said, ‘Family Bible Study’! They felt those times had drawn us close together as a family. They had seen my priorities, and that had shaped their thinking. Best of all, God had wonderfully used our family Bible studies to open my children’s spiritual eyes. Each of them knew and believed the love their heavenly Father had for them. Once again tears rolled down my face. This time, tears of amazement and deep gratitude. God had taken what looked so pathetic and useless, what I had been tempted to think was a waste of time, and he had done something spectacular.
Today, I told my adult son, Ollie, that I was writing this. He messaged me, ‘Doing daily family Bible Study is the most precious gift that you gave me and my sisters. It didn’t just teach me to build my life on the Scriptures, it’s the reason I now feel so at home in them.’ Tears are rolling down my face again. For as the apostle John so beautifully phrases it, ‘I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.’ (3 John v. 4)
If you are a parent, I plead with you to read the Bible and pray with your children. Please don’t listen to the lies that you have to be a Bible scholar, or your children have to be super keen, or a quieter time is just around the corner. God delights to use the weak things of this world to show just how powerful he is. We have an awesome God and our children need to hear about him every day of their lives.
Amanda has three adult children, two sweet granddaughters and has been the children’s worker at Christchurch Southampton and will soon start in that role at Redeemer Winchester.