God call parents to “train up” their children in the “instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). Psalm 78:5–7 sets before us the reasons why we should perform this task: God “decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.”
Let me emphasize a few of the important things God places before us in these words about teaching our children:
The reason God gave his Word is because he wants us to teach the coming generations about him! He wants the coming generations to know him. The way he makes sure they know him is by revealing his Word (statutes and law) and then commanding his people to teach the next generation.
God commands his people to teach the younger generations about him. This is not merely a wish but also a serious Divine imperative. We must teach!
Notice God is not merely concerned about our children but also about our grandchildren and great grandchildren. Isn’t this marvelous? God wants the generations yet to be born also to know and praise him. The way in which God reaches the coming generations is by our faithful teaching of this generation. If we care about the future of the church we will work hard at training the current generation.
The goal is not merely a head-knowledge of God, not merely a cold, dry intellectual understanding of what he has done but also a knowledge that would lead to faith (trust) and obedience. God wants the coming generations to know him and to love him, resting in him for all things and seeking his glory in all their life.
What is our response to this? The psalmist puts words in our mouth: “What we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done” (Ps. 78:3–4).
Sometimes parents may be committed to this task, but they are looking for good resources to help them fulfill this task. In the rest of this article I want to provide suggestions I have found helpful in pursuing this task.
Marty Machouwski. The Gospel Story Bible. New Growth Press. 2011. ($14.70 at Westminster Books http://www.wtsbooks.com).1
This is a great Bible that covers the Old and New Testaments in 156 Stories. The benefit of this Bible is that it seeks to show how every story points us to Jesus! Each story has a few basic questions to help your children interact with the story.
Sally Lloyd-Jones. The Jesus Storybook Bible. Zonderkidz. 2007. ($9.00 at Westminster Books).2
This is a beautifully written story Bible that will help your children (and you) see how every story “whispers” Jesus’ name. It is not as detailed as the first, but is a great place to start for younger kids.
Starr Meade. Mighty Acts of God. Crossway. 2010. ($16.24 at Westminster Books)3
This family Bible story book in ninety stories seeks to teach truths about God’s character from each story. The back explains: “Each story is followed by a section of application with discussion-sparking questions and prayer points that will make family devotions a time of discovery and worship.”
Marty Machowski. Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God. New Growth Press. 2010. ($13.39 at Westminster Books.)4
This is a great resource! I cannot recommend it highly enough. The publisher explains it best: “Christian parents know the importance of passing the gospel story on to their children, yet we live in a busy world filled with distractions . . . Long Story Short will help busy parents share with their children how every story in the Old Testament points forward to God’s story of salvation through Jesus Christ . . . Ten minutes a day, five days a week is enough time to pass on the most valuable treasure the world has ever known . . . Long Story Short is a family devotional program designed to explain God’s plan of salvation through the Old Testament and is suitable for children from preschool through high school.”
Jim Cromarty. The Lord of Glory: Day by Day Devotions withYour Children. Evangelical Press. 2010. ($20.99 Cumberland Valley Bookstore—http://www.cvbbs.com).
I am recommending this book based on the earlier volume by this author that we have used from time to time. If you are looking for devotional readings, this would be a good place to start. This author wrote many books to help families, and some of his biographies on missionaries are a great way to introduce your children to God’s work in the past.
Starr Meade. God’s Mighty Acts in Creation and God’s Mighty Acts in Salvation. Crossway. 2010. ($16.48 set of two books at Westminster Books.)5
These two volumes are two-page devotions for 8–14 year olds. The first book seeks to teach about how God made the world in six days, what the rest of the Bible says about God’s creation, and how we can praise our amazing Creator. The second book takes us though Paul’s letter to the Galatians to help us get the gospel right.
Ruth Younts. Get Wisdom! 23 Lessons for Children about Living for Jesus. Shepherd Press. 2010. ($ 6.74 at Westminster Books.)6
My youngest son loves this book! Paul Tripp captures its value well when he says, “Ruth Younts has produced a wisdom character manual like I have never seen before. Forget that it was written for children; I need it! I wish I has been given such a fun, street-level and Christ-centered tool when my children were still at home.” It has lesson guides in the back and is most appropriate for ages PK–4th grade.
Sinclair B. Ferguson. The Big Book of Questions & Answers: A Family Devotional Guide to the Christian Faith. Christian Focus Publication. 2003. ($10.79 at Westminster Books.)7
This book seeks to help us answer the many questions we have about God and his Word. Each day/question includes not only suggestions to talk about but also activities for the children to do, like drawing a poster with the words: Jesus is Alive and then decorating it in bright colors putting it up somewhere to remind you of Jesus’ resurrection.
Sinclair B. Ferguson. The Big Book of Questions & Answers about Jesus: A Family Guide to Jesus’ life and ministry. Christian Focus Publication. 2000. ($13.49 at Westminster Books.)8
This book is a follow-up on the first book and takes us through the life and ministry of Jesus. (As I wrote this I discovered that he has also written two more “Big Books of Bible Truths.” A set of all four books is $36.37 at Westminster books.)
First Catechism: Teaching Children Bible Truths. Great Commission Publications. 2003. Great first Catechism! Simple questions and answers! ($1.35 at Westminster Books.) (If you want one talk to me!)
Stephen Rhoda. The Young Heidelberg. Preparatory Catechism. Ephphatha Reformation Ministries, Inc. 2011. ($8.00 at http://www.ephrefmin.org/?page_id=294).
A very good shorter version of the Heidelberg Catechism with lots of room for notes.
Other Helpful Material:
Helen L. Taylor. Little Pilgrim’s Progress from John Bunyan’s Classic. Moody Publishers. ($6.25 at Cumberland Valley Bible Book Service).
Stephen J. Nichols. The Church History ABCs: Augustine and Twenty-five Other Heroes of the Faith. Crossway. 2010. ($10.71 at Westminster Bookstore.)9
This is fun, colorful, brief introduction to some of the men and women God has used greatly in the past!
Carine Mackenzie & Philip Ross. My 1st Book . . . Christian Focus Publishing. ($14.65 for all seven books at Westminster Bookstore.)10
These are seven little books covering Bible prayers, Jesus, the Church, Memory Verses, Bible Promises, Christian Values, and Questions and Answers. These books are great for younger children to teach them the basics. If you are looking for something to start for your 3–5 year olds, this would be a great place to start. Check out the sample pages to get an idea of what each book is about!
Conclusion: Where to Start!
I know what you are thinking, this is too much. Where do I start? Take your time. Look through this list quickly and then assess what your family’s needs are. Then look at the list again and mark those that might be helpful to you right now. Visit the links listed in the footnotes for the books and look at the sample pages and see if it really would fit your family’s need and be helpful. You really don’t need more than one book or resource at a time! Then order what you find most helpful.
It is my prayer that you and your family will find these resources helpful and a great blessing as you seek to raise the next generation to know and praise God.
1. You can see sample pages at http://bit.ly/UvjdWv
2. Sample pages at http://bit.ly/Uvjh8E
3. Sample pages at http://bit.ly/UvjsRr
4. Sample pages at http://bit.ly/UvjMzC
5. Sample pages at http://bit.ly/UvjXLt
6. Sample pages at http://bit.ly/Uvk75j
7. Sample pages at http://bit.ly/UvkcGh
8. Sample pages at http://bit.ly/UvkgFV
9. Sample pages on Calvin and Luther at http://bit.ly/Uvkmh0
10. Sample pages at http://bit.ly/UviBj
Rev. Jacques Roets is pastor of Redeemer United Reformed Church in Dyer, IN.