Chapter 3

Reading the Bible as a Family

“Give them the Bible, the whole Bible, even while they are young.” —J. C. Ryle

The Bible was always meant to be read in community. There is a corporate dimension to reading the Scriptures that you don’t get by reading it alone. The Old Testament was written for the people of Israel (see Deuteronomy 5 and 6; Nehemiah 8:6). The New Testament was written for Christians who gathered together in homes (see Acts 2:42). Therefore, it could rightly be said that the Bible isn’t just for individuals, but for the people of God.

Many people, including myself, would say that the Bible is God’s book for the family. Many of the books of the Bible were originally read aloud in a family setting where adults and children were gathered together. Think about it for a moment: most of the early church met in peoples’ homes (see Acts 20:20; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 1:2). I can imagine firstcentury Christian families sitting around together listening to the Bible being read aloud from pages freshly delivered from the hands of the apostles themselves. When we gather in the home to study the Bible together, we are doing the same thing that Christians have done since the time of Christ.

The Bible is God’s holy Word given to us. As you read it every day, it will help your family mature and grow together spiritually. As you study the Bible it will strengthen your faith, speak to your heart, and guide you in all of life’s tough decisions. As you continue to read the Bible, God will reveal His plans and purposes for your life. Take some time to see what God is trying to tell you from His Word. The Bible is one of the best ways for the Lord to speak to us.

Reading the Bible is very important for families to grow together. Jesus told his disciples, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31–32). Families need to immerse themselves daily in God’s Word, like the people who lived in Berea and who searched the Scriptures daily (see Acts 17:11).

Time and time again, my wife and I have gone to the Bible to find personal strength and encouragement for life’s greatest challenges. Although the Bible isn’t a question-and-answer book, it is the place where we learn about God’s plan and purpose for our lives and for our families. The Bible offers foundations of faith for the family so that we can find answers to many of life’s toughest questions.

What Is The Bible?

So what is the Bible? The Bible is a collection of many different books with a unified theme. As a whole, it is a massive work made up of sixty-six books, divided into the Old Testament and New Testament, and spans thousands of years. Together, the books paint a picture of God’s redemptive plan for the world. They are ancient documents that have been preserved over time and were eventually translated into our language. To give you a better grasp of the story these books tell, I want to share what they are, and where they came from.

The Old Testament is made up of thirty-nine books, covering a two-thousand-year period beginning with the creation of the world, and closely recording the origins and history of the nation of Israel. However, it’s not called the Old Testament because it’s old, but because that testament reveals God’s first covenant to humankind. A covenant is a special agreement between two parties that establishes a relationship based on mutual obligations and responsibilities. The old covenant refers to God’s special relationship with the nation of Israel, which was based upon their obedience to God’s law (see Genesis 17:1–19; Exodus 19–24).

The Old Testament includes history, poetry, and prophetic writings. It also contains some of the greatest stories ever told, such as the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments, Jonah in the belly of a whale, Daniel in the lions’ den—and let’s not forget the story of Samson and Delilah.

The New Testament is about Jesus Christ and is considerably smaller than the Old Testament; it has twenty-seven books. If you’ve never read God’s Word, the New Testament is the place to start. Begin by reading the Gospels—the first four books of the New Testament—which tell about the life, ministry, message, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Here you can find out more about Jesus’ life and message for today. The Epistles are letters written to churches throughout the ancient Near Eastern world to address a variety of topics about the Christian life. The New Testament closes with the book of Revelation, which discusses futuristic events and the return of Christ.

Grow At Home

Reading the Bible as a family may seem a little overwhelming at first because it is absolutely massive and contains many different doctrines, characters, stories, and themes. The good news is that we don’t have to be systematic theologians to read and understand God’s Word. Reading the Bible is more like a marathon than a sprint, so I recommend that you start small. It will take a lifetime to study the entire Bible, and even then, you and I will never know all there is to know about it. Below are several suggestions that I would like to offer for getting the most from studying your Bible as a family.

The rest of this chapter offers simple scriptures to memorize with small children and then progresses to offer more advanced passages for older age levels. This is also ideal practice for parents who want to memorize along with their children. There is a place for you to date each step as your child memorizes a scripture. This will help you and your child chart their progress. At the end of this section is a list of Bible stories that you can look up and read with your children. These stories will capture their imagination and help them develop a love for the Bible even at a young age.

Reading the Bible Together

  1. Read the Bible daily. There is no substitute for a regular study of Scripture. You would be surprised how much you and your children will gain from a daily study of the Bible.
  2. Memorize scriptures. Begin with the following scriptures for memorization with your children. As you repeat the scriptures they will sink down into your heart and soul.
  3. Recite a verse or question several times a day in your child’s presence so it becomes familiar to them. It usually takes repeating something several times before you learn it.
  4. You can make flash cards with Scripture on one side and the book, chapter, and verse on the other.
  5. Put the verse to music or to a rhythm. Your child will enjoy singing and clapping their hands.
  6. Think of activities to make the verse fun and easy to remember. Be creative. Specialize your learning time in a way that is unique to you and your child.
  7. Reward your child when he/she has memorized a verse. Rewards could include small treats or prizes, a trip to the store, or special time with mom or dad.
  8. Tell them you are proud of them and have them recite it to someone else like a grandparent or teacher. Children love to share what they have learned.
  9. Date each step as your child memorizes a scripture or one of the catechism questions. This will help you and your child chart their progress.
  10. Lastly, share what you learn in the Bible with others in your family. Teaching is one of the best ways to reinforce what you have learned. Let your children be the teachers as well as the students.


Scriptures for Memorization

Genesis 1:1: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Psalm 118:24: This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 119:105: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Psalm 136:1: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.

Luke 6:31: And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Psalm 23:1: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son.

John 8:12: Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world.”

Matthew 22:37: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

Matthew 22:39: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Ephesians 6:1: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

1 Peter 5:7: Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Psalm 19:14: Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Psalm 139:14: I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

Matthew 1:21: She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

Matthew 28:19: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

John 1:1–2: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.

John 14:1: Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

Ephesians 4:32: Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Psalm 19:1: The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

1 John 4:7: Let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

Proverbs 3:5–6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Isaiah 40:31: But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Matthew 7:7–8: Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

John 10:14: I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.

1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The Ten Commandments

  1. You shall have no other gods before me.
  2. You shall not make for yourself any carved image.
  3. You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain.
  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
  5. Honor your father and mother.
  6. You shall not commit murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not bear false witness.
  10. You shall not covet.

The Twelve Disciples

Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon, Judas, Bartholomew


Bible Stories

Creation: Genesis 1–2

Adam and Eve: Genesis 1–3

Noah and the flood: Genesis 6–9

Promise to Abraham: Genesis 12, 18, 21

God cares for Joseph: Genesis 37, 39–47

A baby called Moses: Exodus 1–2

Samson: Judges 13–16

David and Goliath: 1 Samuel 17

Daniel in lion’s den: Daniel 1–2, 6

Birth of Jesus: Luke 2:1–20