02 Discovering Scripture

Discovering Scripture


“The B-I-B-L-E,” goes the old Sunday school hit, “yes, that’s the book for me!” Generations of young Christians have proclaimed their readiness to “stand alone on the Word of God”—beginning their discovery of the Scriptures, which St. Augustine called “our letters from home.”

The place of the Bible remains central for engaged Christian families today and, as we’ll see, regular Bible engagement carries a host of benefits for the spiritual lives of growing kids. But not all parents are sure how to bring the Bible into their family’s daily life. They’re looking for help and reliable resources from their church community.

Benefits of Bible Engagement

Engaged Christian parents actively involve their children in faith-developing activities, and most are doing a thorough job of it. In fact, eight in 10 report their child engages with the Bible at least weekly (81%). These are “Bible-engaged” families and children. And this single discipline is connected to a host of spiritual benefits. Bible-engaged kids are more likely to engage in a wide spectrum of other spiritual-formation activities. Overall, the data paints a picture of growth guided by God’s Word. (See the infographic below.)

Of course, any spiritual picture is bigger than Bible engagement alone. Even children who don’t engage with the Bible on at least a weekly basis interact with other spiritual formation resources, including church and extracurricular experiences. However, only two in five parents say they are very satisfied thus far with the spiritual development of their less Bible-engaged child (40% vs. 60% parents of Bible-engaged children). In other words, most parents whose children are not regularly engaging with the Bible are aware something is missing from their child’s spiritual formation.

Two-thirds of Bible-engaged children attend church every week (66%)—significantly more than less Bible-engaged kids (41% weekly). Add to that two-thirds the 27 percent of Bible-engaged children who have missed only one Sunday in the past month, and a strong link emerges between habits of Bible engagement and of church involvement.

Younger parents are significantly more likely than older parents to report weekly engagement; the consistency across children’s ages is notably absent when Bible-engaged kids are sorted by their parents’ age. Parents over 50 are least likely to report their child is engaging the Bible weekly (67%), and each younger age bracket increases until we see nine out of 10 parents ages 24 to 34 with Bible-engaged kids. Again, younger parents are likelier to have younger children—so they are more apt to engage the Bible alongside their young ones. Older parents may need a combination of resources and encouragement from church leaders to ensure their life stage (or their older child’s) isn’t leading to passivity when it comes to leading their family to interact with the Bible.

Children's weekly Bible engagement

Bible-engaged children are deeply involved in their local church. Nearly six in 10 engage in activities other than weekly worship (58% vs. 27%). They are also more likely to participate in Bible studies (37% vs. 9%) and youth group programs (52% vs. 31%).

Overall, children who engage with the Bible at least weekly are more likely to engage with spiritual activities as a family in every way. Parents who care about getting their kids into God’s Word seem to foster a variety of ways for their family to take the faith journey together. Volunteerism, spiritual conversations, Bible discussion, church attendance, prayer and more are experienced at higher levels in families where the Bible is read regularly.

Weekly family spiritual activities

Eight out of 10 parents of Bible-engaged kids have at least one child in the household who has made a profession of faith in Jesus, compared to 57 percent whose children interact less with the Scriptures.

Children who engage the Bible weekly are less likely to also be media-engaged kids. (This doesn’t necessarily mean that opening the Scriptures reduces screen time—only that there is some correlation between these two factors.) Just 43 percent of Bible-engaged children are also media-engaged, compared to nearly six in 10 less Bible-engaged kids (57%).

In what ways are Bible-engaged families interacting with the Scriptures? In a variety of ways, but most often with a book— right along with families who engage the Bible less often. Fewer than half use other media— so far.

Frequency of Bible engagement formats all parents

Encountering the Bible Makes a Big Difference


The data reveals a strong correlation between a child’s regular engagement with the Bible and other spiritually formative family activities such as church involvement and prayer. Regular church engagement, while likewise seeming to go hand in hand with spiritual development, does not appear to have as significant an effect as regularly interacting with Scripture.

Child's Bible EngagementFamily activities done together at least once a week

A Worshiping Home

By Davis Carman

Deuteronomy 6 impresses on parents the necessity of diligently teaching our kids how to love God with all of their person. This lesson is to be reinforced constantly: We’re told to talk about these things with them when we’re at home and when we’re walking, when we lie down and when we get up.

In today’s world, that might be at the dinner table, in the car or when we’re getting up or going to bed. When we intentionally do life together, and read and learn together, we’re developing our kids’ thinking and putting key topics into their minds. Our kids will start asking us questions we’ve already prompted through our example.

One of the practical tips I give parents is to have “family worship.” Our family called it that (rather than a family devotional time) because we found it changed our whole approach. A devotional time can make parents think, I’ve got to find a book to study with the kids, and then I’ve got to get this time in the schedule and check it off when we’re done. It can quickly become daunting, and some parents are tempted to think, We missed a couple of nights or a couple of weeks, so we might as well drop it. It’s too hard.

But family worship? That’s something much simpler, something you can incorporate into the routine of your day. It might be before breakfast in some seasons of life, or during dinner or before bedtime in others. All it means is that we are choosing to have a short time together to sit down, read the Bible, pray and maybe sing a song or two. It’s nothing fancy. But it is important, because it creates a love for God’s Word and a love for God himself.

Our children will become aware that this is part of the family routine, just like getting up and making beds and brushing their teeth. This can become a vital part of teaching them to love God and desire to know him more, with all their heart, soul and strength.


Davis CarmanDAVIS CARMAN is president of Apologia Educational Ministries. His mission is to help homeschooling families learn, live and defend the Christian faith. He is husband to Rachael and father to seven children.

Hiding the Word in Children’s Hearts

By John Murray

It may be “old school,” but encouraging kids to memorize Scripture at a young age is a biblical idea. We’re to hide the Word in our hearts (Ps. 119:11) and to meditate on it day and night (Josh. 1:8). Parents are told to train up a child (Prov. 22:6), and we’re promised that God’s Word does not return void (Is. 55:11). Scripture can shape the hearts and minds of kids, and that’s why cultivating their hearts for God’s Word and training them to love it is so important.

I’ve seen this in my own life, too. Growing up, I went to public school for first through twelfth grade, but I attended Sunday school and was exposed to Scripture—and it made a profound difference. Yes, I may have memorized Scripture for the wrong reasons sometimes, like to win a prize. But it worked!

I tell teachers not just to have their students memorize Scripture, but to also make sure they understand what that Scripture is saying and how it applies to their lives. This isn’t just rote memorization for the sake of memorization. It’s about more than the words.


John MurrayJOHN MURRAY is Founder and President of Imago Dei Leadership Forum (idleadershipforum.org) and a recognized leader in academia who writes and speaks on equipping children and parents to biblically engage modern culture. He and his wife, Barbara, are parents of four Gen Z children.

Reliable Resources

A clear sense of the benefits of Bible engagement, plus high-quality resources that prompt deeper study, can help families continue to grow—and hopefully will help kids stay the course of their Bible habit into adulthood. The data show a real hunger among engaged Christian parents to get their hands on anything that will help them form faith in their child.

The parents of Bible-engaged children are more likely than others to look for guidance related to their children’s faith development and are less reliant on their own upbringing. (In other words, they are less likely than others to be “self-guided,” under Barna’s definition.)

They are also open to using faithformation resources from a variety of sources. If it is high quality, they will use it to disciple their kids!

There is significant overlap between the families of Bible-engaged children and a group analysts call “resource parents”: those who use at least one of the resources included in the survey and who say they want training from church leaders on how to discuss sensitive topics with their child. Eighty-five percent of children with resource parents engage at least weekly with the Bible.

Who and what parents rely on for their childs spiritual formationwhat resources do you useresource used all engaged parents

Children of resource parents are significantly more likely to spend a lot of time with family (47% are family-engaged vs. 30% of non-resource parents), to be avid readers (46% “high books” vs. 34%) and to be very involved with extracurricular activities in their congregation (66% “high church activities” vs. 44%). Resource parents also do more spiritual-formation activities together as a family.

This demonstrates a recursive role for families that interact frequently with church resources. Resource parents want reliable activities and programs from their church’s ministries, a desire that drives them to engage in more church activities—and their engagement in church activities increases their trust in their church’s resources. (If a church staff is looking for a reason to hire a family curriculum designer, it’s right here!) Both resources and activities play an important role in the faith development of children and youth.

Resource parents are more likely to agree that the children’s programming at their church is the primary reason they attend (64% vs. 54% of non-resource parents). This is not surprising, as it shows receptivity to input and an expectation that there will be value added by the church to their family’s faith life.

weekly family spiritual activities by resource

In keeping with this theme, three out of four resource parents (74%) look to church leadership as one of the top two influencers of their children’s faith development (vs. 56%). Three out of five resource parents want the church to address sensitive topics (61%; 65% want to know before such topics are addressed), while only one in five would rather handle tough conversations themselves (20%).

In general, resource parents think their children need exposure to conversations about sensitive topics at younger ages than parents who are more selfguided. For this group of parents—and their kids—guidance and resources from trusted church leaders exert enormous leverage.

Interestingly, though, there is little difference in the level of satisfaction that resource parents and non-resource parents feel about the spiritual development of their children thus far. There is no one “right” way to encourage a child’s faith formation—each spiritual journey looks a little different, and that’s okay. For most kids, parents are the irreplaceable guides for their Christian walk. For some, it will be a teacher, a pastor or a church volunteer. What matters is that there is an emotionally and spiritually available adult with wisdom and resources to support their growing faith in Jesus.

Passing On a Love of Scripture

By Brian Cheney

When adults say something like, “Here’s what I’m learning about God, and why I continue to read Scripture,” it makes a big impression. They’re modeling lifelong, humble learning. These kinds of conversations help kids grasp why they need to read the Bible regularly.

If we start the conversation with, “How often do you read your Bible?” kids slip into assignment mode. Instead, we must whet their appetite for Scripture and cultivate their love for it. Then they’ll say, “There’s a God who loves me. I want to understand that more.”


Bryan CheneyBRYAN CHENEY is a Christ-follower, husband, dad and Promiseland Director at Willow Creek Community Church—in that order!

Wiring the House

By Connie Musselman

I like to think of our role as parents and teachers with an electrical metaphor: We wire the house, but it’s the Holy Spirit who flips the switch on. We can set up systems and structures for God to use—but it’s his truth and power that will make them “come to life.”

We never know when God will use something these children have memorized from his Word, so it’s exciting to know that thirty years from now, what we’re teaching them could have a huge impact in their lives. I believe there are future leaders in our class of three-year-olds, people who will lead their generation. What an honor to serve them as they grow.

As we do this wiring, reaching parents is vital—and in particular mothers, who often have a special role with their kids. I’ll often say to gathered groups of moms, “Add up the number of children represented by the mothers sitting at your table.” It never fails to amaze me. Connecting with parents is an incredibly strategic way to impact kids—strong wiring that God will use.


Connie MusselmanCONNIE MUSSELMAN is director of children’s ministry at Church of the Apostles in Atlanta and mother to four children.

Tough Talks

A plurality of engaged Christian parents feel equipped and capable to talk to their children about spiritual topics, but some groups feel varying levels of insecurity or confidence when it comes to talking faith with their children.

Spiritual topics parents find hard to explain

Take It to Church?

When it comes to discussing sensitive topics at church, parents are generally open to leaders bringing them up with their kids–at an age appropriate level. Interestingly, parents who say their kids use a high level of entertainment media are more likely to want help from church leaders.

Take it to church

A key part of guiding a child to wellformed faith in Jesus is consistently high Bible engagement. There are a host of benefits enjoyed by Bible-engaged kids, including tighter bonds to their church community, high engagement with Christian extracurricular activities, a high degree of faith profession and less media consumption.

While delivery methods for Bible engagement can vary, what’s clear is that Christian leaders and parents should continue to see the Bible as central to a wellformed childhood faith, encouraging deep connection, at least on a weekly basis, among the young people in their family, church or community.

Additionally, there are significant benefits when parents partner with their church by adopting resources for their home faith life. Along with the Bible, one of the most significant ways parents can help guide their children to a robust faith is using quality resources from outside the home to prompt and encourage Christian engagement inside the home.

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