Personal Bible study is pretty major for committed Christians. It’s something all Christians should be doing.
Unfortunately, though we all know we should be reading our Bibles daily, according to Lifeway Research, about half of churchgoing Christians don’t do it. That’s pretty discouraging, isn’t it?
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Prayer and personal Bible study are essential for a personal relationship with Christ
Christianity is not about what you know, or the rules you follow. It’s not about going to church or even setting a good example (though committed Christians are generally consistent with those things). Christianity is about whom you know and love.
Do you know Christ? If you do, chances are you know Him because you talk to Him regularly in prayer, and you read the Word. If you don’t do those things, I hate to say it, but you probably don’t know Him as well as you think you do. Let’s face it, any friend or loved one that you don’t communicate with or learn more about regularly isn’t as close anymore.
I have friends that I love dearly ( I mean, I really love these people), but I hardly ever get to see them. Every once in awhile we get a chance to visit and catch up. Otherwise, we tenuously maintain our relationships through the random snippets that Facebook and Instagram choose to show us about each other. We can usually pick up where we left off when we do get together, but our relationship doesn’t grow deeper when we limit our interactions like this. We don’t know each others’ new friends, and we don’t have a functional idea of what each other’s daily lives are really like. We know each other on a macro level, but not a more intimate, micro level.
Now, if we text each other or call on a daily basis or if we make regular attempts to video chat, our relationship can continue to grow stronger and deeper. We’ll really know each other well (and better every day).
It’s the same with God. He loves us. We love Him! He’ll always love us, and when we do get together with Him, it’s like old times. But, the thing is, if we don’t maintain meaningful daily communications with Him, through prayer and Bible study (and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives), our relationships with Him will not make meaningful progress.
So, we need to study our Bibles, but…
Finding time for personal Bible study isn’t always easy
I’ll be the first to admit that there are days that I don’t complete my full personal Bible study regimen. Sometimes I do my Bible reading on my phone during middle-of-the-night feedings, or right before I fall asleep. Life is just like that. But honestly, mamas, there aren’t very many good excuses for neglecting personal Bible study. We just need to make it a priority.
You can’t skip personal Bible study because conditions aren’t ideal
I know you feel like you can’t always squeeze it in because you’re tired, your house needs cleaning, meals need cooking, laundry needs washing/folding/putting away, you’d like to take a shower, and maybe have a conversation with your spouse. Maybe you’re working full-time, too. Oh, and you have loud little bundles of joy running in circles around you while you attempt to do all of that.
I get it. I feel the same way, most days. I’m in a stage of life in which I feel like any little scrap of time that I have to myself is filled up with tasks that need to be completed before my kids wake back up (or my husband has to go back to work, or whatever) and I’m back to just
maintaining sanity being present with them.
Ideally, I’d study my Bible curled up on the couch in a perfectly tidy living room with a cozy blanket, a steamy rooibos chai latte, and my journaling Bible, colored pencils, and pens. I’d have 30-45 minutes with nothing else to do and I’d be well-rested.
Yeah, it’s just not happening. That’s not life (at least it’s not MY life), and it’s not going to be for the foreseeable future. That doesn’t change the fact that I still need to make it happen.
My husband, who blesses me and our kids by being a great spiritual leader in our home, has started waking up an hour earlier than usual to read and study his Bible each day. He’s tired, because we haven’t changed our bedtime routine at all, and he works hard all the time. But he’s waking up early because he loves His time with God, and it’s important to him.
Here’s my pastor husband with some tips about how to study the Bible with kids:
Our personal Bible study time is an important example for our kids.
Making and/or finding the time to study is part of the battle, but we also need to teach our kids to study the Bible. This gets a little tricky because personal Bible study is, well…personal.
We study in the quiet: maybe late at night, early in the morning, or during nap time. We study in the quiet, and that’s how it should be.
The problem is that, as parents, when we study our Bibles in those quiet, tucked away times, we are all alone-and our kids don’t see us doing it.
It’s up to us to set the example for personal Bible study.
They’ve got to see us studying our Bibles, you guys.
We can’t give our kids our relationship with God. We just can’t. They’ve got to build it with Him on their own. What we can do, though, is show them how desirable that relationship is, and give them the tools to help them discover it for themselves.
So, yeah, it’s more inconvenient and noisier, and not ideal but at least sometimes you’ve got to let your kids see you (and probably interrupt you) while you’re doing your personal Bible study. You’ve got to do it because they’re watching everything you do, and eventually they’ll ask you about it. And one day, they’ll ask you if they can do it too.
That, my friends, is a discipleship parenting win.
Saying yes won’t be convenient, but convenience is not the point.
Even when Disciple Dad gets up extra early to study he’s often joined by at least one of our boys before he’s been able to complete his devotions in the morning. This slows him down, yes, but it also gives him an opportunity for discipleship! He gets a chance to show our kids what it means to read and study the Bible and love it.
And, it’s had an effect.
“Bible” is one of our 17 month old’s favorite words, joining other favorites like “cup”, “shoes”, “truck”, and “no.” He doesn’t have a good grasp of what the Bible is, or what it means, but it’s already an important part of his life. He knows it’s a special book, and he loves it! As for our 3 year old, he’s been asking about starting his personal Bible study for a few months now. The example you set is a HUGE factor in how your kids feel about things, and personal Bible study is no different.
Personal Bible study is for kids, too!
There are a lot of Bible studies and Bible study methods for kids that can read on their own. That’s great, but if you’re thinking about setting an even earlier foundation for Bible study, you may want to begin before your son or daughter can read.
That’s where we are.
Like I said, we have a 3 year old and a 17 month old, and although we have daily family worship using a variety of Bible story books, we want to instill a love of reading and studying the Bible itself. Plus, the more personal aspect of Bible study isn’t addressed in family worship. Our 3 year old, E, has watched my husband and I read, underline, highlight, and write notes in our Bibles, and he’s asked about being able to “draw” in his Bible like we do.
How do you know when your child is ready for personal Bible study?
Starting too early with personal Bible study is going to be counterproductive. There’s no need to push it, especially with preschoolers. We were able to start at 3 years with E, but every child is different. You may have to work up to it, if your kids aren’t already interested.
- Start by letting your kids see you study, so they have some context.
- Talk to them about how much and why you enjoy your personal Bible study.
- Once your children start asking questions or taking an interest, offer to help them with their own study in their own Bible!
How to teach preschoolers to do personal Bible study
Honestly I haven’t found a lot of information about how to work with preschoolers in the context of personal Bible study, so what I’m writing here comes from my education and professional experience with how kids learn, and from working with my own children. This guide is intended to give you ideas and inspiration, a jumping off point from which you could apply what works to your own children and add to or subtract from it as you see fit.
Before you begin…
Before you begin, you’ll want to decide what part/parts of the Bible you’d like to study first with your child. Once you’ve decided that, you’ll need to gather the supplies you need. Then, you’ll want to come up with a plan for how to teach the Bible study basics in a way that makes sense to a toddler or preschooler. After you’ve done that, you’ll just need to make time to do it!
For us, it made sense to study Jesus’ life with our son first. My husband had really been enjoying his own personal Bible studies using individual books of the Bible, and E had been showing a strong interest in what his dad was doing. So, we gifted him with an ESV Illuminated Scripture Journal for the book of Mark. (Click on the picture for more info.) It’s great because it’s relatively inexpensive, it’s got fairly large font for him to underline and highlight, and it’s only printed on one side of each page, leaving blank pages for drawing (and, as he grows older, for writing notes).
E and Disciple Dad (or sometimes, me) study the scripture journal together whenever E asks (usually when he sees us studying our Bibles). They just do a few verses at a time. E loves it, and he’s learning the (very) basic idea of personal Bible study.
6 steps for studying the Bible with Preschoolers
Here are the steps we follow:
- Pray– Ask God for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you read the Bible.
- Read– Read aloud a short passage to your child.
- Discuss– Ask your child to retell the passage. If they don’t know, reread or explain what happened in simpler words.
- Determine the takeaway– Ask your child what part they really liked, or what they learned, and why.
- Underline– Help your child underline, circle, or highlight (whatever works!) the part that they liked the best, or that they really want to remember. Reread it to him/her.
- Pray– Thank God for His word and for the lesson learned, promise given, or whatever the takeaway from the passage was.
Guys, this takes 5-10 minutes, max, and it’s very simple. But we’re finding value in the process, and I think you will too, if you try it with your kids.
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There’s not too much better than hearing your 3 year old ask his daddy to help him do his personal Bible study first thing in the morning. • E has been reading through Mark with his dad. They talk about which verses stand out to them and why. E gets to underline his favorite parts just like we do when we study our Bibles. • They only do a few verses every day, but it’s a really great start to a personal Bible study habit for our little guy. He prays before and after reading and I love hearing him explain why he chooses which words to underline. • How are you getting your (pre-reading) kids involved in personal Bible study? Is it something you’d be interested in learning more about?
Remember, keep it short and sweet. Go verse by verse if you need to. Every child is different, and attention spans are often short in the early years. That’s okay! You’re trying to establish interest and build an enjoyable habit of personal Bible study. you are not attempting complex exegesis of vast swaths of scripture. Encountering resistance? Skip all but prayer and try again tomorrow. Forcing it is not going to accomplish your goal. Just keep offering the opportunities, and make the most of it when your child is willing.
Don’t sacrifice all of your personal Bible study time for your kids’.
And you guys, I’m not saying that you need to give up your quiet time alone with God. If you have it, hold on to it! Just make sure your kids see you studying sometimes, too! And if you’re one of the mamas who just can’t seem get that quiet time, I want to encourage you. It’s okay! Study in the not-so-perfect moments, and your kids will see that it’s important to you.
Eventually they’ll learn to respect your study time, and they’ll even join you for some personal Bible study time of their own!
Let your kids give personal Bible study a try.
For the littles, especially, personal Bible study isn’t something to force. But, if you’re setting the example, sooner or later they’ll ask to participate. I hope you’ll say “yes” and that you’ll feel more prepared to help them with the tips and steps you’ve read in this post.
Have you helped your kids form a personal Bible study habit during the preschool years? I’d love to hear what has worked for you in the comments below! Feeling daunted by broaching the subject of personal Bible study? What challenges are standing in your way?
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