You nag, beg, cajole, and bribe but your son’s Bible remains on the shelf, unread, collecting dust. Or maybe, afraid you’ll push him in the other direction; you’re reluctant to say anything. Either way, you yearn to see him not only read his Bible but fall in love with God’s holy Word, because you know that’s how he’ll grow. But how can you help your reluctant reader develop this important spiritual discipline?

If you have a tween, chances are, you’ve battled with this question a time or two. Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula that will turn your child into a Bible-lover, but there are numerous things you can do to help. 

Determine the Cause/s of their Reluctance

Effective parenting focuses on the heart, because that’s where life-change occurs, but reaching the heart can take a bit of detective work. This requires laying your assumptions aside and taking the time to understand your child and the cause of their reluctance.

The reasons can be numerous, from reading difficulties to insecurities.

According to Lori MacMath, owner of ICDevos and Children’s Director and Camp Adventure Coordinator at Vintage 242 Church in Dallas, Georgia, children might not know where to begin. “Many kids simply don’t have an example and aren’t sure how to read their Bibles,” she says.

We, as parents, need to show them.

It’s important for children to see us reading Scripture. When my daughter was young, I’d set my alarm, making sure to wake up thirty minutes before she did so I could have time with God uninterrupted. This was great for me, but not for her! If she never saw me reading it or only saw me doing so on occasion, her view of this important spiritual discipline could become confused or distorted. Rather, what she needed to see was that the Bible was a regular and consistent part of my life.

Luckily, God helped in that regard by waking her up earlier and earlier until I had no choice but to read while she was awake. She wasn’t too pleased with this, and would ask me again and again to play with her. This forced me to set boundaries, and though this was hard at first, I soon realized what a valuable lesson this taught her.  

This showed her the Bible was important to me; important enough that I not only set aside time to for it, but I also guarded that time.

However, modeling alone wasn’t enough, for although it showed her the what, it failed to show her the how. The Bible is a large book, and reading it can easily become overwhelming! Where does one start? How much should one read? And what in the world does it mean?

This is where a bit of gentle, age-appropriate training comes in. Hopefully, by the time they’re tweens, they’ve already learned how to locate books of the Bible, but that doesn’t mean they’ve learned to glean truth from it. By asking them open-ended questions regarding their reading, we can help them begin to seek truth from the text. At this point, we’ll want to be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19), allowing them to share their thoughts. Although we might have numerous insights, our goal is to draw them to Scripture, not to us, for answers. That doesn’t mean we can’t correct theological errors or share our opinions. Rather, it means we’ll do so gently with the goal in mind—that our children seek wisdom from God and his Word.

Break the Bible into its Engaging Stories

A tween probably won’t get too excited by Numbers or Leviticus, but they might enjoy reading about the man who set fire to a couple of foxes tails (Samuel) or the woman who became the queen of Persia (Esther). By helping them see the Bible as a collection of historical stories, you invite them to engage.