“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7).
By Dan Burton
When you sit at home.
Our family sits together for dinner at least five times a week. This doesn’t just happen . . . it is a daily challenge my wife has taken upon herself. She is doggedly determined to have the whole family together at dinnertime every weeknight (which means our starting time varies based on our kids’ schedules). This is probably the most significant forum we have to teach a biblical worldview to our children.
We discuss current events, activities of the day, and we also address specific topics that we set aside (from blogs, newspapers, missionary newsletters, etc.) as we think critically about how our faith is lived out in today’s world. We often linger around the table long after the food is gone. No one is allowed to leave without being “excused” . . . and the kids have learned not to ask too early!
When you walk along the road.
While we don’t “walk along the road” like families did when Moses penned this, we can take the idea and apply it to our lives today. We have used audio books in our van when we travel. This is a great way to introduce stimulating books and inspiring people to our kids. We also used Scripture put to music when we worked with our kids on memorization.
When you lie down.
The bedtime routine is a precious tradition that is set early on in your home. Small children love to be tucked into bed with a story and a prayer. The unspoken truth is that older kids desire it almost as much. It becomes more difficult to do as kids get older, but when you make it a nonnegotiable, it becomes a tradition that is expected each night (and it is never too late to start a tradition).
We meet in the room of our youngest son. For about 10 years we read Jesse Lyman Hurlbut’s Bedtime Bible Story Book, which is a loose paraphrase of the Bible. This was a GREAT way to reinforce knowledge of the Bible on a daily basis, and it also opened up all kinds of conversations (what kid doesn’t want to delay bedtime?). As the boys got older, they wanted some variety in our reading material, so we have ventured into reading missionary biographies and autobiographies. These are great too.
After we read, we have a time of prayer each night, and we share the responsibilities of praying with each family member. The youngest gets to choose the item he wants to pray for, and the parents get whatever no one else wants. Sometimes we pray about weighty issues, sometimes dry and seemingly trite issues . . . but always something.
The atmosphere is NOT high church during our bedtime routine. We have two dogs who think this is playtime, and three boys (and a dad) who sometimes get distracted. We enjoy the laughter and disruptions, and try to make that all part of the routine as well.
When you get up.
Let’s face it, there are morning people and nonmorning people. We have both in our family. We don’t try to have any in-depth conversations in the morning, but we are committed to praying over each kid as he leaves for school. We challenge them in our prayers to be a blessing and a conduit of God’s grace and love to those God puts in their path.
The most important part about incorporating the Bible into our life at home probably is living it out as much as spouting it out. We need to model to our kids what we’d like to see in them. I cannot ask my kids to do what I’m not doing.
Dan Burton serves as campus minister and dean of men at Cincinnati (Ohio) Christian University. Dan and his wife, Sue, are former missionaries to Ethiopia and have three teenaged boys.