I’ll be the first to admit that Catholics could stand to know their Bible better.
People of all denominations could do a better job with Bible study, but some denominations have done a better job of starting young and starting simple. It goes a long way in instilling a love for God’s Word.
For all my Catholic (and Protestant) moms and catechists out there, here are some ways to get the ball rolling at a young age:
1. Read the Bible yourself.
Sounds simple, but this is a MUST. Don’t bother reading the rest of this article unless you’re willing to read God’s Word yourself. Kids need to know that Bible reading is something that adults want to do, not just something that kids are made to do. Not only should you be setting an example, but you should be allowing the Word of God to nourish, edify and challenge you so that you are growing as the parent/ teacher you need to be.
2. Make Bible reading enjoyable.
This is true of any reading in general. Find age appropriate material. If you are reading with babies or toddlers, get picture Bible books and read them out loud snuggled on a couch. If you have small children that can read on their own, have them grab pillows or blankets and spread out on the floor. My fourth grade teacher did this for reading time and I absolutely loved it, so I started the practice with my kids and they love it too. Consider playing classical music.
3. Tell Bible stories.
Jesus told stories. The Old Testament is full of compelling stories. Christ came down and lived out the greatest love story of all time. We understand and remember things through story on such a deeply rooted level. Make sure your children know all the stories – Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, Abraham and Isaac, David and Goliath, Joseph, Esther, Christ in the Gospels. These stories are no longer permeating our culture so it is easy to take for granted that our kids know them. You can share stories over dinner, on drives to school, or have your kids act them out in your living room. Our kids constantly put on shows for us, it would be very easy to help them act out the story of Jonah for example.
4. Memorize the books of the Bible.
Kids are sponges for memorization. As a kid I memorized Genesis to Revelation without a song or trick. It took some time, but wasn’t any harder than memorizing times tables. There are a few songs online that could be helpful to teach your kids, either in class or at home. I couldn’t find one that I love, so please share if you know of any other songs (there are more options for the Protestant Bible). Memorizing the books helps to find passages more easily and builds familiarity.
5. Memorize verses in the Bible.
Bible verses are building blocks of truth that children can draw on for the rest of their lives. There are plenty of great Bible verses that are simple for children to memorize.
- Acts 16:31 – Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.
- Philippians 4:4 – Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
- 1 John 5:3 – This is love for God: to obey his commands.
Here are some other great options:
- Joshua 1:8 – Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
- Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
- 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrong. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
6. Have kids read out of a Bible instead of a missal or textbook.
Missals help readings in Mass go smoothly, but it is important to gain a familiarity with the Bible on its own – know where the books are, have an idea of how long or short a book is, and get an idea for its place in history. Maturity in Christ means having the confidence to go straight to the source.
7. Have kids make covers for their Bibles.
As a young adult I made a cover for my Bible when attending a Biblical Studies course in England. It has become MY BIBLE for the next 15 years. The writings, highlights, notations – they are part of my spiritual journey. Personalizing the Bible meant something to me. Have kids cut out pictures or drawings and paste onto the cover, then laminate with clear contact paper. You might be wondering if my Bible would have been a Protestant Bible 15 years ago? While I was very much an Evangelical and studying with the non-denominational organization Youth With A Mission, there was a hiccup with the Bibles ordered for our class. A few students were given Catholic Bibles instead of Protestant ones, and guess who was was given the originally canonized Bible? God is the master weaver of our lives.
8. Read on your favorite e-device.
Now I just told you to give your Bible a makeover, but using a smartphone or tablet can be a great tool for Bible study. There are plenty of apps out there. You Version is widely popular and has easy access to both the Protestant and Catholic Bible. If you are looking for some Bible apps specifically for kids, there are plenty of those too.
9. Make a reading chart.
Watching your progress and having a plan can really help motivation. While the reading plan found here is more designed for adults, you can come up with something simple for kids, perhaps focusing on the New Testament like the one above.
10. Play Bible verse look-up.
Grade school kids love this. Have a group of kids, each with their own Bible and a list of verses. For kids that are younger, or less familiar with the Bible, it is helpful to pick verses in recognizable books – think Genesis, the Gospels, or Revelation (it is an easier find once kids know it is the last book of the Bible). It can also be helpful to start with “Chapter 1:1” to allow kids to gain confidence with how chapters and verses are laid out. You can also choose verses around a theme, such as virtues, peace, or forgiveness. The first person to find the verse then raises their hand or stands up. The teacher or parent calls on the student to read the verse aloud – if they are right they can get a point for their team, or themselves or a piece of candy, depending on the group and how you want to set up the game. If they are wrong, they sit down and someone else gets the chance to earn the point. Make sure you have the verses in front of you in order to verify that the passage being read is correct. I did this both when I was young and lead it as an adult, and kids get really into it. I’ll probably play this with my own kids in a few years as a game night, because I’m kind of a nerd that way.
Please feel free to share your own ideas! What did you do as a kid, or as a parent with your own children?