Quiet times. The dream is as a family sharing what you’ve read from Bible around the breakfast table before heading out the door. The reality is being too scared to ask if any of the kids have done theirs and wondering whether to add it to the chores list whilst telling yourself you’ll definitely remember to have yours before going to bed.
It’s a tricky line to tread. How do I help my teen to build a discipline of reading the Bible without making it feel like a chore? How do I encourage a love for God’s Word in my child when they treat it like homework?
How would you explain reading the Bible? One of the biggest hurdles for young people in this area is understanding what it means to read the Bible.
Often, the Bible studies they’re used to give off the misconception that our own quiet times are comprehension assessments. Through out the whole study they feel like they’re being tested on reading ability and whether they’ve paid attention to the details.
Help your teen understand that reading the Bible is about shaping their thoughts, heart, and attitudes so that they might be pleasing to God (Heb 4:12, Rom 12:1) and being inspired to praise him.
Having helped them understand what reading the Bible is all about, it’s good to find ways to encourage them in reading the Bible.
One way to do this is to give them ownership. Help them find a version they find easy to read, or maybe just one with a cover they like! You could show them their options with notes to read alongside. If you’re stuck, ask your youth minister, or have a look on websites like The Good Book Company.
Another way is to respect when they’re doing it. Most evenings, as a teenager, I would be asked to lay the table. The expectation from my parents would be that I’d stop whatever I was doing to go and set up for dinner. Occasionally, “whatever I was doing” was having my quiet time. Don’t get me wrong – had I told them that, they would have let me carry on! But I unfortunately had just assumed the same rule would apply and didn’t finish my quiet time. Try to be aware of when your teen is reading the Bible and try to not interrupt.
We’re often so set on making sure reading the Bible is a priority in our children’s lives, that often we miss the fact it isn’t in ours. Having gotten in from work, I might remember I’d missed my quiet time in the morning, shrug my shoulders and turn on the TV. What message does that send?
Are your children aware of when you’re reading the Bible? And do you tell them when you missed a day? Or even a week? We can model reading the Bible in our successes and failures! Letting them know when we’ve missed a day is a great way to talk about what difference it made to your day not reading the Bible.
Reading the Bible can be a great way to connect with your teen. Taking them out for a coffee to talk about what you’ve both been reading, what you’ve learnt and what you’ve been changed by is such a privilege.
It doesn’t even need to be as intimate as that! It could be that over dinner you mention what you were reading through and what struck you. This might encourage them to share too.
The toughest decision often for a Christian parent is to just leave it. But we must remember that ultimately a love for God’s word is not something a parent or youth minister can make. The desire for reading God’s Word is crafted by the Holy Spirit, convicting their hearts, and drawing them in as they read more and more.
It can be so hard to let go and trust God to act, especially when we see a teen walking away from their faith. However, sometimes it is more powerful for them to see in you the joy of reading the Bible than for them to feel pushed into reading it.