At the time, her 14-year-old daughter was lying on the floor, her 12-year-old son had his head in his hands and her six-year-old girl was doing cartwheels around the room. Why the tears? Well, all this was happening in the middle of her family Bible time.
And so, when her latest question landed with silence, her tears fell. If the scene of chaos was rare, she might have laughed it off, but it was sadly an all too familiar sight. The cumulative effect of Bible studies ending in despair, disinterest, and … gymnastics finally pushed her over the edge. ‘Why do I bother?’ she thought. ‘Why would any parent introduce another source of strife, frustration and despair into their life?’
My answer is to think about bricks and marbles. Let me explain.
Imagine a Lego competition between a parent and all the youth and children’s workers in your church. Each participant is given one brick for every hour spent with the child during the year. Who would build the better Lego house? However brilliant and hard-working any regular Sunday School teacher is, they will struggle to build what any parent can build, because they have less bricks to work with. Simply put, parents have the greatest opportunity to influence their children for Christ.
However, this is not just a numbers game. The Bible explains that parents have the responsibility to tell their children about God, His ways, and all that HSe has done through Christ (Deuteronomy 6:6-7; Ephesians 6:1-4). A recent survey asked adult Christians: ‘Who were the most significant people to show you what faith was about?’ 65% said Mum. 47% said Dad. (30% said the Minister. 12% said their spouse. 10% said their Christian friends). Parents need to be reminded that their children are listening (even when it doesn’t always look as if they are). Parents need to open the Bible with them.
Imagine a jar with 936 marbles in it. It’s about the size of a spaghetti jar and full of marbles. Each marble represents a week in a child’s life, from birth until adulthood. Each week is a wonderful opportunity for Mum and Dad to show them Jesus. Every marble matters. Parents must not lose them; they must use them for Christ. By the time a child is nine, half the parent’s marbles are gone, but equally, half their marbles are left!
Ultimately a child’s eternal destiny rests with Christ. Parents must thank Him that He is the one who opens blind eyes, softens hard hearts and brings life to the spiritually dead. Yet parents must also weave into the fabric of their homes routines that show their children what loving and living for Jesus looks like. Many of us might feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of family devotions, but the potential fruit makes the frustration worth it.
So if you’re a parent who has tried to do family Bible times before and it hasn’t worked? Try again! Do something different. Mix it up. Morning? Bedtime? Outdoors? All together? Once a week? Every day? With one or two children at a time? Try something different. Do whatever works for you and your family. But do something.
Remember Amanda’s kitchen table disaster? At that time, she was a brand-new Christian and a single mum. Fumbling her way through, she was uncertain of what she was doing. But, in spite of her tears, she persevered. A few years later, when asked about memories of her childhood, the older daughter said that she was most grateful for the way that her mum had consistently taught them the Bible. Amanda felt the tears welling up again.
Ed Drew is the Director of Faith in Kids, which supports churches and parents in raising children to trust in Jesus Christ. He is the author of The Wonder of Easter (34 family Bible times to prepare families for Easter) and the presenter of the Faith in Kids podcast.