Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Disciple Them

Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."  Matthew 28:18-20

Somewhere along the line in walking with God, He made it very clear that I must be careful to teach my children how to be disciples of Christ. Only the Spirit can draw their hearts to Christ and only God can give them faith, save their souls, forgive their sins. But I realized that I must show them what it looks like to seek Christ - how does a person live and walk, day by day as a child of God? Too often, people trust Christ as Savior, but are never taught how to live for Him, how to be His disciple. I pray and I wait to see my girls come to love and trust Jesus themselves, and in the meantime, I'm (we're) doing our best, by the grace of God, to guide them each in daily devotions, showing them a method and a habit of pursuing the Lord through His Word and prayer.

The best, best, best thing for all people is the pure milk of God's Word. Parents, read it! Read it to your children. Daily. More than once a day, even! It is full of power and truth and promises. They must hear it. You must hear it, too, if you (if we!) are to keep our minds set on the things of Christ and His Kingdom.

It is often beneficial to also use Biblical devotionals and Bible studies to guide our pursuit of knowing God better, and also to train us and our kids to more skillfully study and pick apart the Scriptures, with the help of the Spirit. We've found it challenging to find resources for children that are totally Bible-centered and not dumbed-down. But God is gracious, and over the years, He's led us to some really useful, wonderful books to help in pointing the children to Christ and in giving them a good handle on the whole counsel of Scripture.

That said, I've put together a list of some of our favorites, including some thoughts on each one and how we've used them. I'll go in order of age/maturity level.

Here is a very well-done children's Bible, called The Children's Everyday Bible. It is great for ages newborn to about 3 years old. I like this one because it isn't just a collection of the most popular stories from the Bible. It is basically the whole Bible, split into short daily readings, in very understandable, yet not dumbed-down language. It leaves out things like genealogies. It's a great resource for helping you and your very little ones to get into a daily habit of reading (hearing) the scriptures, showing them that taking in God's Word every day needs to be like breathing to them.

When our girls seem ready for a bit more meat, generally we've moved into Leading Little Ones to God, by Marian Schoolland. This is a devotional book that touches on most of the basics of Biblical doctrine and theology, using wording that's very sweet but direct. Each devotional includes a reading, a scripture selection to read aloud, probing questions, a song/poem, then a prayer. I'd say this book is good for about ages 4-6, depending on maturity level. My only "complaint" is that the suggested scripture reading is very short, but you can add to it easily, of course.

 We just finished going through Leading Little Ones to God with LC, our five year old. The resource we've used around this age with our older two girls has been Proverbs People, by Marilyn Boyer. There are two volumes. These books are simple, yet pure and thought-provoking Bible studies for kids between about 5 and 8 years old. LC's not a solid reader or speller yet, so we'll work through the Proverbs-based questions slowly, me reading the scripture, explaining it, then asking her the question from the workbook. I'll then write the answer in for her, if she likes. We'll just take as many verses/questions as seems best for her each day. I like these and other similar resources, because they teach children to read scripture, then think through the meaning of what they've taken in - essentially, it trains them to study their Bibles!

My two oldest daughters, who are 8 and 7 years of age moved from Proverbs People right into Kay Arthur's Discover 4 Yourself inductive Bible studies for kids. These are good for about 7 years to ?? I don't have kids over 8 years old, so I'm not sure on this one. I'd say maybe up to 11 years or so, depending on maturity level. A good thing to remember is to be flexible. Our 7 year old wasn't anywhere near ready to do a study like this on her own when she first started them, so I'd read the study to her, the related scripture verses, and ask her the questions. She'd respond with answers, and sometimes I'd write them for her (this is my I-hate-writing child :-) As her reading and writing have become more fluid, she does all the writing and most of the reading, but we still sit together and do the study, praying beforehand that the Spirit will teach both our hearts as we open God's Word.

A note on the Discover 4 Yourself series: personally, I'm a very practical-minded, no fluff kind of person. Part of the theme of these books is that there's a little storyline going on along with the (very well done) Bible study itself. I personally think this is unnecessary. My 8 year old really likes it though, and finds it engaging. Seven year old hates it, and so we skip all the non-Bible study bits of text in her studies, sticking only to the Bible work itself.

The point here in my mind is to show them how to study the Bible, and that it's a daily priority, more important than anything else in the day. These are the training days of sitting with them and teaching them (as well as learning along with them!), and of gradually transitioning, as the Spirit leads, to their becoming more independent in their Bible study/devotional time/seeking the Lord.

There are two books that I'll list last here, since we have not used them for as long as the above-discussed resources, but I've been very pleased with how true-to-scripture they are, and how clearly they explain foundational Bible truths and doctrine. They are The Big Book of Questions and Answers (good for about 1st grade level, possibly K), and The Big Book of Questions and Answers about Jesus, which is written for around a 2nd grade audience. These are more devotional in nature than they are Bible study. I found out about these when they were included as part of my big girls' curriculum at school.

Another thought I have is this - if you're reading this and sense God calling you to begin discipling or to step up your discipleship of your children, call on His Name for help! He has His own will and plan for you and your family. The resources we are using and the habits that God has called us to may be different from what He ordains for you and your family. The main thing is obedience to Him.

There are many other books and resources we've used over time, in addition to Bible reading, but the above are the ones that have "stuck."

God bless you as you seek Jesus with all your heart, as you seek first His Kingdom and righteousness. Ask Him to help you hunger and thirst after righteousness, for you will be filled. And as you are filled, you'll have so much love and truth from the Father to pour into your children and to those around you, for His glory.

Disclaimer: This blog is not used for advertising purposes. I have not, nor will I, receive compensation for any of the above recommendations. This is simply list of resources the Lord has brought our way and used to draw us and our kids closer to Himself. We hope that these books may be a help and blessing to you and yours, too. My links do not necessarily reflect the best deals or prices, but are mainly just to give you a good visual of the product. Also, there are a few places in the books discussed where we've chosen to explain something differently than the author did. Do the same, as the Holy Spirit leads you, according to His Word.
Photos - a candle EG made at see her alone behind it in the middle picture.

1 comment:

  1. I've been looking forward to this post. It's encouraging, inspiring, and a great resource. Thank you!