I’ve long wrestled with ways of striking the balance between allowing a child to develop the discipline of reading the Bible on his own, and requiring the discipline of this reading.
We’ve done a lot to encourage Bible reading, short of requiring it.
- Made learning to read, and a new Bible a major life even to look forward to.
- Allowed children to stay up late if they read their Bible.
- Encouraged them to highlight and underline verses that they want to remember (and refraining from criticizing when the underlines are a little crooked.
- Encouraging listening to the Bible.
We read it together, teaching them how to use their Bible. Looking up verses, using a concordance, using the center margins, all give a familiarity with the Bible that is conducive to more reading. Talking about how the Bible affects their concerns and lives motivates them to read those verses later on their own.
But still, children, being children, often prefer playtime to reading the Bible. They haven’t yet seen the value of a lifetime of studying God’s Word. And although they will tell you that they need to read it more, other activities crowd out eternal ones more often than not. Is requiring spiritual behavior a good idea?
I’ve seen how requiring some habits allow them to see the benefits of that discipline. We’ve required that they save up money over a period of weeks or months for desired toys. As they compare the toys they buy from the dollar store with ones that hold up to use, they have all seen the value of saving to buy something they really want, instead of buying just because they have money to spend. We’ve seen this pattern play out with other disciplines.
But I still have hesitated to require daily Bible reading for X minutes each day. I don’t want them to be dependent upon a mother’s reminders to maintain their spiritual lives. On the other hand, I’ve started wondering whether requiring some reading, but giving them the choice of when and what, may not be a good approach. I tried it today, with good results. I don’t think I will do it every day, but it bears considering.