God has called parents to shepherd their children. Teaching children about God, both in word and deed, is one of the main callings for parents. Instructing children in righteousness, knowledge of God, and the salvation from sins only offered through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is a common theme throughout the Bible, specifically in the book of Proverbs. Of course, children are commanded to “Hear … your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching” (Proverbs 1:8). However, for children to obey that command, parents need to teach their children well. Family devotions are an important tool in the parents’ instructions to their kids. Unfortunately, many Christian parents are at a loss as to how to hold family devotions that are instructive, edifying, and God-centered for the entire family. Many of the books written for children or family devotions embrace an individualistic and consumer mindset that turns the Bible into a self-help book or some kind of owner’s manual for humans. In contrast, I’ve listed the five books that I have found are the best at helping parents hold family devotions that speak to all ages of children as well as the parents and that point people to God and not to themselves.
5. The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
For the fifth spot on this list, I was debating between The Jesus Storybook Bible and The Gospel Story Bible, both excellent books. Unable to decide, I asked my wife. Without hesitating, she declared, “The Jesus Storybook Bible!” While specifically written with younger children in mind, the theology is still rich and will be profitable for kids of all ages. In her engaging book, Sally Lloyd-Jones “tells that Story beneath all stories in the Bible.” The Jesus Storybook Bible will help you instruct your family that the entire Bible points to Jesus.
4. Why Christ Came by Joel Beeke and William Boekestein
While this short book is specifically designed for use during the Advent season, it’s a very edifying book year round (we should be celebrating the Advent year round, anyway). Why Christ Came has thirty-one short chapters. Each is less than four pages in length; no chapter will take longer than ten minutes to read aloud. More importantly, each chapter is deeply rooted in the Bible and bears out a specific reason for why Jesus came to earth. Sample chapter headings include “To Bring Light to a Dark World,” “To Call Sinners to Repentance,” and “To Bind Up Broken Hearts.” The chapters also naturally lead into excellent discussions with children (and adults) about Jesus.
3. The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung
While written for children, I find The Biggest Story an engaging, thoughtful, and edifying book whenever I read it by myself. And unlike so many other Bible story books directed at children, Kevin DeYoung never allows the reader to assume that anyone other than God is the hero. Firmly planting the book’s trajectory in the story of redemption that is the story of the Bible, DeYoung has given parents a well-written aid for teaching children about God. As a bonus, the illustrations are eye-popping and tied directly to the part of the story of redemption being discussed in The Biggest Story.
2. God’s Big Picture by Vaughn Roberts
God’s Big Picture may very well be the second best resource to help us push back on our self-centered tendency to view the Bible through a man-centered lens. Make no mistake, as humans, little though they may be, children are naturally self-centered and will turn the Bible into a them-centered treatise that is designed to make their lives better, too. Vaughan Roberts’ book provides parents an invaluable tool to help teach their kids that the Bible is one story and that that one story is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. While parts of the book may be above younger kids’ heads, the overall book has much to offer even the youngest of children (my wife and I first read it to our daughter when she was seven). Plus, it’s never a bad thing to ask our children to cognitively reach up. To aid with family discussions, each chapter includes study questions. God’s Big Picture is a book that will profit the entire family over multiple readings.
1. The Bible
When I told my pastor the topic of this article, he asked me what book was number one. I quickly replied, “The Bible,” to which he simply stated, “Good.” I get the feeling that he would’ve fired me on the spot had I said any other book. And he would’ve been right to do so. Parents, if you are not regularly reading and discussing the Bible with your children, repent and then remedy that sinful oversight. The Bible is God’s self-revelation of Himself. We, along with our children, need to be confronted with who God is, and there is no better way to shepherd our children in this regard than by habitually reading the Bible to them. Yes, some of the passages are tough, dense, and seemingly inappropriate for children. Yet, God is clear that every part of the Bible, “is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Read all of the Bible to your kids, parents.