“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” 3 John 4
We’ve been given the incredible stewardship of helping our children on their path home to their Heavenly Father. While they are with us, one of our responsibilities is to give them the tools that will help them succeed. One of the most important of those tools is the habit of daily scripture study.
I used to work with teenagers a lot during my pre-Mormon days. One day one of the young women came up to me and said, “You’re always saying how important it is to study the Bible, and you know the Bible really well, but the rest of us don’t know how to study it or even understand it for that matter. How can we be expected to enjoy doing something we just don’t get?”
My heart went out to that dear girl. She wasn’t being rude. She was being honest. I could hear the frustration in her voice. She wanted to study her scriptures; she just found them so puzzling that it exasperated her. I realized then that telling young people to study their scriptures is not the same as teaching them to do it. The next week I started a Bible study in my home for any of the teen girls who wanted to learn their how to study their Bible. It was not an official youth group function, so whichever teens wanted to come, could come, without any pressure if they chose not to attend. I told them ahead of time it would be more in depth than they were used to and there would be homework to help them learn to study for themselves. I started with about 5 girls. By the middle of the summer I had over twenty teenagers squeezing in to my little apartment every week, usually coming early and staying all day. I really enjoyed those days…though much of my food budget went to pizza. The growth I was privileged to see in those teens was inspiring.
I want that same growth and excitement in my own children. Some people will say that they have to have a love for the scriptures before they’ll be able to study them. I’m not sure I agree with that. I think you grow to love the scriptures by studying them. Its words become our friends and companions, as they become a part of our hearts. That being said, you still want to plant the seeds of loving the scriptures as early as possible.
Copying Mom and Dad
Foremost, your children need to know that you love and study the scriptures. If it is not important to you, they won’t believe how important it is for them. When at all possible let them see you studying your scriptures. For most mothers, it is easier to study before the children are awake. I understand that. If that is your case, just make sure you share with them throughout the day what you learned that morning. Keep a scripture journal so you can show your insights to your older children. Talk about the scriptures often. Not in a preachy, here is what you’re doing wrong way, but a look at this wonderful truth I read kind of way.
Once they see your passion for the scriptures it will plant a seed of passion in their own lives. Children, especially young children, love to mimic the actions of their parents. Because I study my scriptures with a pack of colored pencils in hand, marking the text according to my own little system, every one of my children, at some point in their toddler years, got out a pack of crayons and destroyed a page of scripture with their “studying”. I learned after my first child to have a Bible coloring book handy for my young ones while I was studying scripture, because they will want to “study” alongside me. Once you’re getting that kind of interest, they are ready for more formal training.
Daily family scripture study has been encouraged by the brethren over and over. I can tell you from personal experience just how valuable that is. No matter how busy your life is, it is worth the time investment. Not only have some of my most precious moments with my children taken place while sitting around our kitchen table discussing the scriptures together, but it sets the tone and focus of our day. Often we are reminded throughout the day’s struggles about the passage we learned just a few short hours ago. It stretches us and helps us grow. Corporate study is essential, but it is equally important for our children to learn how to have personal scripture study. Here are some suggestions to get your little ones started.
The Preschool Years
This is the time to give them small doses of scripture study. Have lots of scripture story books with colorful pictures to read to them. It helps familiarize them with the stories. But, I think it is equally important they learn the language of scripture. We no longer speak in King James English, so the scriptures can be quite confusing to young ears. Because of that I keep a list of child friendly memory verses to begin teaching my preschoolers.
We learn the verses word for word in King James, but then I spend time playing games to help them understand the intended meaning of the verse as well. It also helps to use lots of hand motions to help them with their memory. Preschoolers like movement anyway. Putting meaning to their movement is a double plus. Have a time each day set aside for their personal scripture study. Even as young as two they can sit on a bed or couch looking through their scripture story books. Once they start learning to read (even if it is just words like “and” or “the”, you can underline the words in their own scriptures that they are able to read. Then, with you beside them, you can read together. The child pays close attention to the words you are reading, so they’re ready to call out their words when they get to an underlined one. It makes it very exciting to them to realize they are reading the Scriptures themselves.
As soon as my children can read, even at a low reading level, they are required to read their scriptures every day. At first it is only one verse a day, but that quickly improves. Most of the time it improves without any encouragement for me. Scripture journals are invaluable at this age. They see me writing in my scripture journal all the time, so of course they want one of their own.