When it comes to teaching kids, the Bible has quite a bit to say—especially about passing on your faith and helping them learn to love Jesus. Here are five passages that demonstrate what it looks like to communicate your values and share biblical truths with children.
1. Impress them on your children (Deuteronomy 6:4–9)
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
In Deuteronomy, God lays out the relationship between Himself and Israel. This is the part of the law that Jesus quotes when asked about the most important commandment (Matthew 22:36–40). The Israelites are to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, and God encourages them to imprint it on their hearts.
Lead by example
The writer of Deuteronomy is about to talk about the importance of teaching God’s commandments to children, but he starts by focusing on personal responsibility. Before imprinting God’s commands upon your children, they must be written in your heart.
It’s easy to fall into the trap that suggests that what you tell your children about Jesus is the most crucial part of leading them to faith. But the simple fact is that the example we set speaks volumes to the children in our lives. When they see the fruit of this love in our own lives, what we have to tell them about the love of God will have so much more meaning and value. But it’s obvious when we try to instill values we don’t possess—even to children.
We lead by example when children see us apologize for making mistakes and treat others like we’d like to be treated. They know these truths are vital to us when they see us worship, spend time in God’s Word and make personal sacrifices for the good of God’s Kingdom.
Impress them upon your children
Once we’ve internalized the Lord’s commands, we can impress them upon our children. The writer goes on to tell us how to do that. He says, “Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
This is a way of saying that this should be an integral part of our daily lives and not a topic sequestered to specific religious moments. We can discern a couple of encouragements from this passage.
- It’s not enough to send them to Sunday school
Many parents feel somewhat inadequate when talking to their children about Jesus. You might assume this problem is solved by taking your kids to Sunday school or other church activities. And while these kinds of programs are critical and helpful, no other teacher will ever have the opportunities or influence a parent does. Don’t be afraid to talk to your kids at the level of your understanding and experience, but make plans for personal growth so that you can help them in their development, too.
- Organic instruction is so important
Maybe you have family devotions and prayer time. This kind of faith-focused family time is helpful and important. But poetically, Deuteronomy is telling us that faith should be a natural topic of discussion that happens throughout the day. When we work faith into daily discussions, it’s easier for kids to understand how faith should intersect with every part of their lives.
2. Start children off on the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6)
Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
Regarding this passage, it’s critical to highlight the difference between a principle and a promise. The Book of Proverbs is wisdom literature. It’s full of essential insights to make life fuller and more productive. We can set ourselves up for heartache when we read them as promises.
The principle here communicates the importance of intentionally raising children who love and honor God. But we all know wonderful Christian parents who were thoughtful and intentional about raising their kids to know and love Jesus, and their kids went their own way. If they viewed this proverb as a rule and not a principle, they’d spend the rest of their lives feeling responsible and guilty for failing.
Think about it this way. Growing a garden requires strategic effort. You have to tend to the plants you want to thrive. Some need to be watered more than others. Some need to be sheltered from the sun, and others need direct sunlight. You must watch for weeds that steal the soil’s nutrients and pests that destroy them. But every gardener knows that all the care in the world can’t mitigate every threat and collapse every variable, and things can go south. You can do everything right and have less-than-ideal results.
If you don’t put in the effort, the chances of creating a thriving garden are incredibly diminished. You might end up with some healthy plants, but it will be an accident reliant upon the will of the plant and other external factors instead of your intentions. The principle stands: if you want a thriving garden, you have to put in the work. Otherwise, chances are you’ll have an overgrown, unhealthy mess.
This principle says the same thing about Christian parenting. If you begin with the end in mind, and you take steps to help your children learn to love and serve Jesus, the chances that you will hit the target are much greater than if you simply allow things to progress on their own, but it’s not a promise that your efforts override your childrens’ free will.
3. Parents tell their children (Isaiah 38:19)
The living, the living—they praise you,
as I am doing today;
parents tell their children
about your faithfulness.
King Hezekiah writes this passage after an illness that should have led to his death. Because he repented, God spared him. Hezekiah’s writing speaks of his near-death experience and God’s kindness. Toward the end, he points out that those who go to the grave can no longer praise God, but the living can—and Hezekiah will. He goes on to say that parents will talk about God’s faithfulness with their children.
God and His people often reiterate stories of God’s faithfulness. Throughout the Old Testament, God often asks things from His people, reminding them that He’s the God who took them out of Egypt. The Lord is often leveraging stories about His past faithfulness as a tool to encourage the Israelites’ continued obedience. It’s as if He is constantly telling them, “Trust me. I have always come through for you and will continue to, but I need you to be faithful.”
If you think about it, the entire Bible is the story about God’s faithfulness intended to solicit our faithfulness in return. And while there are many incredible examples and lessons throughout Scripture, one of the most important we can instill in our children is the ways that God has been faithful to His people and plan.
Another critical element of recounting God’s faithfulness is telling your children about your own experiences. How has God proven Himself faithful in your life, in the lives of your loved ones and in your family history? These stories are significant and powerful.
4. Let the little children come to Me (Matthew 19:13–15)
Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.
This passage focuses on the time that people were bringing their children out to be blessed by Jesus. Picture the scene. A bunch of people crowded around with toddlers and children in tow. Perhaps some kids are crying, and others chase each other around or try to make themselves the center of attention. It was probably a little chaotic.
Typically, when Jesus went into these towns, he healed people of their illnesses and cast out demons. To the disciples, this must have seemed disorganized and not worth Jesus’ time. Many of us would have tried to move the kids along so the Lord could get onto more pressing matters.
Jesus rebukes them in two ways. First, He tells them to allow the kids to come to Him. And then, He instructs them not to hinder them. Not only were the disciples to grant them access, but they had better not put any obstacles between these children and Jesus.
It’s easy to read this and assume, “I’d never hinder children from coming to Jesus. “ But we might not always be aware of the ways that we do. We can impede our kids in how we talk and interact with them. We can hinder them by refusing to entertain their curiosity, or by not taking their questions and concerns seriously.
We can even hamper their ability to come to Jesus in the way that we constantly separate children from adults during “spiritual times” because we don’t want them to be a distraction during our Bible studies or small groups. Our worry that kids will interfere with our spiritual time isn’t too far from the disciples’ concerns. And while there are times to be intentional about creating a focused environment, it might be worth asking: what would it look like to include children in some of those moments?
After all, children aren’t the church of tomorrow; they’re the church of today, too. And their maturity and spirituality are contingent upon their exposure to ours.
5. Because you know those from whom you’ve learned it (2 Timothy 3:14-15)
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Paul instructs his younger disciple to keep following the faith and investing in what he knows is true. And then he says something interesting: he tells Timothy to continue in what he’s convinced of because he knows the people he’s received it from.
Considering that our beliefs don’t arise out of a vacuum is critical. We receive our faith and convictions from those around us. When our parents, teachers and ministries have demonstrated their faithfulness to us and to the truth, it’s much easier to accept the faith we’ve received from them. There’s a communal aspect to faith that we cannot overlook, and our fidelity makes it easier for those around us to be faithful, too.
Throughout this epistle, Paul talks about his own faithfulness and the ways he’s sacrificed and suffered to remain faithful to the gospel. He clearly points to himself as an example for Timothy to follow. And because Timothy has witnessed both Paul’s allegiance to Jesus—and its cost—he’s better prepared to follow suit.
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of providing kids with a consistent, trustworthy example. They’re testing the trustworthiness of the gospel by watching us and the things we value. When they see that we can be trusted, it helps them trust the values we pass on to them.
Jesus Film Project® has children’s films and resources
Looking for trustworthy films and resources to inspire and educate kids? Jesus Film Project has several great films and movies to check out. These include:
- Chosen Witness: This animated film allows you to experience Jesus’ life through Mary Magdalene’s eyes.
- The Story of Jesus for Children: Experience the gospel from the perspective of first-century children.
- File Zero: This 15-episode animated series is set in a post-apocalyptic world where a band of hackers search for truth and meaning. Their journey takes them to a place they never would have imagined that was long hidden by an evil dictator intent on keeping control.
- And more!