11 Tips for Studying the Bible at the Dinner Table
- Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Because parents love their children the deepest, know them the best, and are with them the most, they are best suited to be a child's primary pastor who evangelizes them, teaches them, loves them, prays for and with them, and reads Scripture to them.
Deuteronomy 4:9 says, "Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children's children" (ESV). Likewise, Prov 1:8 says, "Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching" (ESV). Also, Eph 6:1-4 says, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother' (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.' Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (ESV).
Both mothers and fathers are exhorted to make it their responsibility to pastor their children. This does not mean that such things as church activities or Christian school education are forbidden, but rather that they are supplements to the loving biblical instruction of Christian parents.
Because parents are with their children at the most opportune times, they are wise to integrate their biblical instruction as God providentially provides teachable moments. It is wise for families to have regular and planned times for such things as Bible reading, prayer and worshipful singing. Nevertheless, there are moments throughout the course of a child's day when his or her heart is open for strategic instruction. A Spirit-led, prayerful parent will capture sacred moments to instruct and/or correct their child as needed.
Perhaps the clearest command for integrated parenting is Deut 6:4-9 ESV:
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."
While it is likely that every Christian parent would agree with these principles of pastoral parenting, most would likely also admit they struggle to know how to make this happen practically. So, as a pastor and daddy, I took some experiences with my wife Grace and our five children, ages three to eleven, and began sharing them with our church.
Some months ago we started a new tradition at the Driscoll dining table that has been a blessing. Whoever is taking their turn setting the table ensures that our "dinner Bible," as the kids call it, is sitting in front of "Poppa Daddy," as the kids call me.
Throughout the course of our dinner together, we chat about how the day went, how everyone is doing, and whom we can pray for, as well as discuss a section of Scripture. Over the years we have always made it a point to read Scripture to the children when they were little (especially at bed time), and help them develop personal daily Bible reading habits once they learned to read for themselves. However, we struggled to find a way to do regular family devotions with five children of different ages (3-11) and attention spans.
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