Trying to squeeze family worship into our crazy busy schedules can feel a little like trying to squeeze into skinny jeans two weeks after having a baby. I want to do it, but it just won’t fit! Yet Proverbs 22:6 is among the most commonly known verses regarding Christian parenting: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
There are two primary ways to biblically “train up a child.” There is life-on-life discipleship and intentional Bible teaching. Life-on-life discipleship happens constantly and randomly, as you chop apples with your son and talk about his day or ride bikes with your daughter and answer her tough questions. But biblical instruction is intentional and planned . . . which means we need resources!
The following are four different Bible study resources my family has used in various seasons. If you’re in need of a devotional for your kids, perhaps one of them might be a good fit for your family.
The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones
There are three things I love about this Bible: the eye-catching illustrations, the beautiful writing style, and most of all, the way every single story is linked to the gospel. The stories are written in simple language that manages to be so powerful I’ve had to choke back tears when reading them aloud!
You could introduce this Bible to a child as young as two years old by simply pointing at the pictures and talking about them. By four or five years old, most children will be able to listen to an entire story and discuss it together. The stories do not include questions for discussion.
Long Story Short and Old Story New: Ten Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God by Marty Machowski
Long Story Short is a chronological study of the Old Testament, while Old Story New is a study of the New Testament. These resources are similar to a teacher’s lesson plans. The introduction teaches parents how to use the book and gear it toward children of different ages. Each week begins with a simple object lesson or activity to introduce the subject. Daily lessons open with a brief illustration or activity, Scripture reading, a paragraph to read out loud that explains the Scripture, discussion questions, and a prayer prompt.
It may sound like a lot, but the entire thing can take as little as ten minutes. I really like this resource because you can dig deeply or skip around depending on the day. It’s very easy to use, and I love having questions for discussion included. It does require a little preparation if you want to do some of the activities, and I recommend it for children who are at least five years old.
The Radical Book for Kids: Exploring the Roots and Shoots of Faith by Champ Thornton
Unlike a lesson plan for parents, this is a book for children to own and peruse themselves. It reminds me of a colorful, engaging kids’ textbook, with cool anecdotes in the margins, “Did You Know?” facts about early church fathers, bright charts, old-timey photographs, and cartoon-style illustrations.
My favorite thing about this resource is that it introduces children to the Christian faith, telling stories about women like Amy Carmichael and Lottie Moon, and men like Polycarp, Athanasius, and Augustine. (By the way, listening to a five-year-old say “Athanasius”—adorable!) This book is recommended for kids eight and above, and I think kids around that age will love it. While my five- and seven-year-old enjoy learning facts from it, they’re too young to understand many of the life-application portions.
One of the challenges in choosing a children’s devotional is to avoid resources that merely teach “moralism” or how to have good behavior. Ware has avoided that pitfall completely by writing a book of rich theology in simple, engaging language.
The book originated from Ware’s own “bedside theology” conversations with his girls, ages eight and four. Each chapter breaks down theological principles (such as “God’s Own Life as God”) into a handful of lessons. The lessons include a read-aloud portion, two discussion questions, and a memory verse. Although Ware’s writing is clear and captivating, sections are fairly lengthy for young children, and you may want to cover one lesson over the course of two nights for kids below eight years old. All in all, this is an excellent resource for anyone young in the faith.
Below is an “at-a-glance” summary of these four resources:
The Jesus Storybook Bible
- Ideal age: 2–8 years
- Duration: 10–15 minutes
- Distinguishing Feature: An illustrated Bible that makes the gospel central to every story.
Long Story Short and Old Story New
- Ideal age: 5–12 years
- Duration: 10–20 minutes
- Distinguishing Feature: A chronological Bible study with questions and interactive activities included, similar to a teacher’s lesson plan.
The Radical Book for Kids
- Ideal age: 8–12 years
- Duration: 10–20 minutes
- Distinguishing Feature: A colorful, interactive “explorer’s guide” to the Bible and church history.
Big Truths for Young Hearts
- Ideal age: 8+ years
- Duration: 15–20 minutes
- Distinguishing Feature: A book of theology for parents to read aloud and discuss with kids.
Don't ever forget, God is abounding in grace for exhausted parents who are doing their best. “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Ps. 127:1). As you partner with God in building a biblical home, take heart that all of the strength, power, grace, and hope comes from Him alone.