Take a few minutes and ask yourself some questions:
• What can I do during the grade school years to prepare kids for the teen years?
• What does a spiritually strong 10-year-old look like?
• What type of skills does he or she have?
This is at the top of my list: When 5th graders graduate to youth ministry, I want them to have a habit of reading the Bible on a daily basis.
Do a random survey. Ask your 4th and 5th graders this question: “How many of you read your Bible every day?”
I find that most Christian kids do not read their Bible. They know the Bible stories. They have watched all the Veggie Tales videos, but they don’t read the Bible for themselves.
The reason they don’t is quite simple: They never have. Most kids who grow up in church have never picked up a Bible and read it for themselves. Maybe they tried one time and it was too difficult for them because they didn’t understand the big words.
What can we do about it?
The solution is to develop a Bible-reading strategy for church and for home.
Kids are not going to read the Bible just because we preach to them to “read your Bible.” We need to have a plan to help them develop this skill. Kids that read the Bible every day do so because their parents taught them to read it.
The first step is to choose an appropriate Bible for your child. But choosing a good kid’s Bible can seem overwhelming. I did a search on Amazon.com and found over 100 choices, so which one is the right one?
For the purpose of this article, I am focusing on children 8–11 years old. (For kids under 8, you will want to pick out one of the many good Bible storybooks.)
First, make a decision about which translation is best for your child. Once you make a decision about translation, you can eliminate 90 percent of the kids’ Bibles. This greatly simplifies your choice.
There are three types of Bible translations:
1) Word for Word Translation
This includes the King James Bible (KJV) and the New American Standard (NAS). Many people consider this type of translation to be the most accurate as the scholars translated the Scriptures one word at a time to preserve the original sentence structure. The down side of the “word for word” translation is that they can be difficult to read, especially for children.
2) Thought for Thought Translation
This includes the New International Version (NIV) and New Living Translation (NLT). The goal of this theory of translation is to produce the closest natural equivalent of the thought expressed by the original text. The “thought for thought” translations are easier to read; however, the scholars have made some judgment calls. They are not considered as accurate as a “word for word” translation.
3) Paraphrase Translation
This would include The Message Bible and The Living Bible. These translations are written in modern English and are easy to read; however, one man usually does all the writing, so they are not considered to be literal translations.
Personally, the New American Standard Bible (NASB) is my favorite for Bible study. It is at a 10th grade reading level. For kids, I like the NIV. If your goal is getting kids to actually read the Bible, then it is critical to use a Bible that is easy for kids to read.
Here is a helpful link to a Translation Comparison Chart: http://www.apbrown2.net/web/TranslationComparisonChart.htm
Once you have made a decision about translation, take a trip to your local Christian bookstore and check out the selection of Bibles.
You will want to ask the following questions:
• How large is the print?
• How heavy is the paper?
• Should I purchase a soft-cover or hard-cover Bible?
• Are the colors attractive to children?
• Are the charts and supplemental material helpful or distracting?
As you answer these questions, keep in mind the goal is to purchase a Bible that encourages your kids to read it.
After you have done your research, involve your kids in the process of making this decision.
You can do this by selecting three Bibles that you feel good about and then let your son or daughter make the final decision. This will give them a sense of ownership for “their” Bible.
Before you buy, let your child take the Bible for a test drive by asking them to read a few verses in the gospel of John from it. If they are struggling with the words, you may need to pick a different translation.
(This may seem like a lot of work just to pick out a Bible for your child, but think about how much work you put into preparing dinner for one day.)
Of course, you could pick out the perfect Bible for your child, but there is no guarantee they are going to read it. In fact, if you just hand them a Bible, chances are they won’t read it. You need to have a strategy for helping your kids develop the habit.
Here are my suggestions for developing reading habits:
• Have a regular time of the day that you sit down as the family for 10–15 minutes.
• Pick one Bible passage to read. Begin with the Gospels, Acts and the historical books.
• Make sure everyone has the same translation.
• Give everybody a turn reading a few Scriptures at a time.
• After reading the passage, ask this question: “What did you get out of this?”
• If nobody has anything to say, then read the passage again. Eventually they will get the point that you want them to use their brain when they read the Bible. (This is key.)
• Use the same system at church during small group time with your 3rd–5th graders.
• If one child is not a good reader, give them a pass on the reading part.
• Build Bible-reading into your programs at church.