Bible Study vs. Devotional Reading
Educating the WholeHearted Child: Chapter 10 (part 2)
Last week I talked about three goals I had when it came to my children and the Bible. After some prayer, I ended up amending the third goal, which was to start encouraging Ian to have a daily devotional time on his own. It was a lesson for me in seeking the Lord’s will before making my own plans. (Back to that Word for 2014: Pray!)
As I finished Chapter 10, I noticed that the Clarksons have almost an opposite approach to mine.
“Serious, systematic Bible study is important, but it can wait until the high school years. In the childhood years, you are building spiritual appetites and habits for the Bible that will become personal commitments to serious Bible study later” (page 191).
They encourage Bible reading and developing a habit of daily devotions with younger children, but put off serious study until they are older. In some ways that makes sense to me. I really resonated with this statement:
“Too much formality risks turning the inspired Word of God into just another curriculum” (page 191).
I remember feeling that way in college. I loved my Bible classes, and I felt so blessed to be at a Christian college where God’s Word was an important part of many of my classes, but I struggled at times with it becoming in some ways like another textbook. I want to be careful to keep God’s Word as holy in our home, to not let it become “just another curriculum.”
However, I’m not sure I quite agree with what the Clarksons are saying. Without serious study I worry they will be prone to take Scripture out of context (as I see so many Christians doing). I see the early years a chance to fill my children’s minds and hearts with Scripture, and I feel that systematic study is an important part of knowing what they are reading. My approach has been to focus on the stories and principles of the Bible, learning about the Bible itself, and memorizing as much as possible, laying a foundation for when they are older and their hearts/faith have caught up.
Also, as I wrote in my “amendment” last week, I want to hold off on encouraging Ian to have a daily devotional time until I know that he is resting on his own faith. I don’t want to push him into “religious” habits that aren’t flowing from a heart that loves Jesus. On the other hand, I know God can work through those times alone in prayer and Bible reading to help that loving faith grow and develop. And I do think it’s a wonderful habit to help our children develop.
So I guess what I’m saying is I think it’s important to have both serious study and a more heart-focused devotional time. For now, I feel God is leading me to wait until Ian expresses an interest in being baptized before guiding him toward a habit of devotional reading. I suppose the best thing to do is continue to pray and seek God for wisdom in how to help my children walk along the path of faith.
Each Mentoring Monday I share my reflections on what I’ve been learning from my “paper mentors.” I am currently joining in a book discussion of Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay Clarkson (with Sally Clarkson), so my Monday posts are all being sparked by things I’m reading in this fabulous book!