When my son was just about a year old, I heard a mom friend say that she was doing scripture memory with her three-year-old because he was, “Such a sponge.” I had other friends reading a story from The Jesus Storybook Bible every night as part of their routine. And still others who were taking their school-aged children to Wednesday night church to learn the Bible with a group.
I remember feeling intimidated and wondering if I was behind. “Should I be doing more scripture memory with my baby?” (I literally thought that, even though he couldn’t talk yet!). Instead of focusing on the long road, making it a goal to consistently expose him to the word of God, I felt apprehensive about each method and strategy. I was eager to do all of the things as quickly as possible.
Years have passed. Five kids later, I’m still getting my sea legs under me in terms of Bible teaching and children, but it’s starting to feel more comfortable. And at least for the little years (I haven’t experienced older kiddos yet), I’ve decided that the goal is really quite simple.
How do you know what to teach your children about the Bible?
Well, the goal is to equip them to be a disciple of Jesus Christ — to be able to follow him in obedience as adults if they place their faith in him.
So if we are following the Lord faithfully as a true disciples ourselves, knowing, loving, and obeying God — then in theory, this really just means teaching them to do what we do. We simply integrate them into our daily habits as we follow the Lord together.
First of all, know that it’s enough to use the word of God and prayer as you live an active life in a local church body. If “all” you did was read passages of scripture to your little ones, interpreting it (even in preschool language), and praying it as you seek to live it out, that would be amazing. There mama, you did it! It doesn’t have to be complicated or overwhelming. The word of God — and the rightful study of it alongside parents who love him deeply — is a powerful thing.
But we can also think about other tools that help our children understand the word of God. Having a framework for things like vocabulary (What is sin? Baptism? Atonement? Righteousness?), doctrine (Who is God? What did Jesus come to do?), and the gospel (creation, fall, redemption, and restoration) are all helpful guideposts. We don’t teach these things as an end in and of themselves, but to give our children greater ability to interact with the holy scriptures with understanding.
Then we model. They watch us pray and read, and then pray back what we read. They watch us do this pattern day after day. They watch us reference God’s word in hard, scary, sad, and happy situations. And they start to connect the dots “...Oh, that’s not just something we read in the morning, it’s something we live by.” It starts to matter when they have a fight with their sibling over a toy and we remind them, “We don’t just look after our own interests, we look to the interests of others. Were you thinking about what your brother wanted when you grabbed that toy?”
So the question about what to teach our children — Scripture memory? Catechisms? Missionary biographies? Vocabulary words? — can feel complex, but it’s also simple. Teach them to do what you do and know what you know. And then, push all of your boundaries even further. Consistently expose them to God’s word and prayer. Let it seep into every corner of family life until it’s the very thing that upholds your life. Learn to use enriching tools and engage in helpful spiritual disciplines as a family as you grow together.
Let them see you authentically loving God, repenting when you fail, turning to God in prayer, and studying sound doctrine along with the local church. Involve them when you host neighbors for dinner, encourage them to work hard when no one is looking, and love them as an image-bearer of God. It’s hard to be faithful in this work (That’s another post for another day!), but what to teach them is actually fairly simple. Teach them to be a follower of Christ.
Emily Jensen is the Content Director for Risen Motherhood, and the Co-Host of the weekly podcast. She’s a busy mom of five, a frequent downloader of audiobooks from the library, and a lover of Friday nights at home.