I hope our last post inspired some fun around your table this week! At the very least, hopefully we got your creative juices flowing and gave you some encouragement that family meals can be FUN! If you missed our ideas on storing up fun family memories at the table, you can find that post here. It’s not too late to leave us a comment with your family’s fun table games and be entered to win a gift certificate to the Throne of Grace Shop!
Today we are going to tackle the task of using time at the table to SHARE God’s Word. I’ll admit it. This one is a challenge for me! It’s hard to find creative and captivating ways to make the Bible applicable to the lives of little ones! It doesn’t come as naturally as I would like and my husband and I have had a hard time finding curriculum and teaching “aides” geared toward kids 6 and under. The other challenge I’ve faced is that in the early years of my kids’ lives, my husband’s job didn’t allowed him to be home for dinner as much as we would have liked. That put the burden more on me to steer conversation at the table to biblical topics and, as I’ve mentioned before, by the time I get the food to the table, I’m often worn-out!
Thankfully, our Lord is faithful! He cares even more about the seeds of His Word being planted in the hearts of my little ones than I do. As we’ve prayed about this struggle, He has brought several good tools to our attention that I’ll share with you here. I still see this area as a weakness for us and am constantly on the search for new ideas – especially as my children get older – so if you’ve got some good resources, please take the time to leave us a comment with your thoughts so we can all benefit!
Read a Bible Story From an Age-Appropriate Bible
Let’s start with the basics. Bedtime, of course, if often used for Bible story time but why not mealtime? The audience is captive and hopefully a little more energetic than the end of the day. The key is finding a Bible that is engaging for everyone.
My current favorite is The Jesus Storybook Bible. I should seriously get some royalties for the number of these I have purchased and given away in the past couple of years! The Bible is condensed and told in story fashion (rather than a word-for-word translation), the illustrations are fabulous, they will appeal to adults as well as children, and, if you buy the Deluxe version for just a few bucks more, you also get the whole book on audio CD. If you’ve got a way to listen to CDs from the table, everyone can eat without needing to read at the same time! What I particularly love about The Jesus Storybook Bible is that every story (Old and New Testaments) points to Jesus and beautifully connects the whole Bible as all part of God’s sovereign plan to send a Rescuer for His people.
For the younger kiddos, The Beginner’s Bible is a classic. Very short, well-illustrated stories (again, not word-for-word) that cover all the major Biblical events. Many preschools and Sunday schools use these Bibles along with a complementary curriculum. These stories are also appropriate for beginning readers to start reading on their own.
For the older kids, my 6-year-old recently received The ESV Seek and Find Bible. This was exciting because it is his first real Bible that contains word-for-word every chapter and verse in the English Standard Version translation of the Bible. He is now learning to look up verses and see the context of stories and relate them to other parts of the Old or New Testament. As far as using this Bible at mealtime, what is unique about it is that while containing the entire Bible, it also has condensed story versions of all the major Bible events. For example, my son can read the entire text of the account of Noah in Genesis 7 and 8, or he can read the summarized version that includes illustrations.
Time at the table provides a wonderful opportunity for hiding God’s Word in the little (and big!) hearts in the family. Throne of Grace offers the perfect tools to help with this one! God’s Word for a Child’s Heart and God’s Word for a Teen’s Heart are laminated memory verse cards with scriptures that are specifically chosen to be easy for memorization and applicable to their hearts. My kids each have their own personalized versions that we keep in a small basket in the center of the table along with our Beginner Dinner Games tin, napkins, etc. We quiz each other on verses and then use a dry-erase or wet-erase marker to mark off the cards that have been memorized. They love that part! It doesn’t hurt to offer a little incentive for learning a few verses, either!
Bible Study Take-Home Papers
You may already have some great tools at your disposal that just need to be used! For example, our church provides a Sunday School Take-home page that summarizes the Bible story told that day, the memory verse for the week, and an activity or song to reinforce the main ideas. I also attend a mid-week women’s study through Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) International. They have a wonderful take-home resource that summarizes the week’s lesson, breaks down the week’s study into daily reading passages, and even has a couple questions per day – all designed to be shared with the family. Take inventory of the supplemental resources that you may already have from church, school, Bible studies, Awana groups, etc. and use those to reinforce what the family is currently learning.
Okay, I saved the biggie for last! This is the one that most intimidates me! It sounds so official and formal, and try as I might, I just can’t reproduce in reality the image I have in my mind. The family sitting around the table…singing hymns and sharing in deep biblical discussions…with the kids leaning in closer SO eager to hear the next word Mom and Dad have to share! Perhaps I need to rethink my expectations?? Other than having a skewed perception of what ought to be, I also have the problem of not having the time to devote to planning these family Bible study sessions. As a result, I have searched and searched for books with ready-made family devotions. By far, the best resource I have found to date is not a book, but a fabulous website! Discover God 4 Kids (www.dg4kids.com) has endless resources for families like mine that need a little hand-holding in this area! Click on the “Family Adventures” tab and you’ll find a 13-week series of family devotions with 5 days of pre-done sessions covering 13 different attributes of God. Each week includes stories, scriptures to read, verses to memorize, games and activities – even word searches and crossword puzzles! Really, there is way more to choose from than you will probably have time for but it gives you flexibility to customize the devotions to your own family’s needs with very little time required for preparation.
So, there you have it! A few suggestions to encourage you and your family in your quest to SHARE God’s Word together. If you’ve got some of your own ideas to spur the rest of us on, please share them by leaving a comment below!