by Samantha Hanni
One day when I was about nine, my mom came home from Mardel with a book for me. It was my first devotional book, with a colorful cover and fun stories that drew me in each day. I have vivid memories of this book (for some reason) and to this day, I can remember certain topics from those books, and their takeaway points became the foundation of my understanding about God and his plan for my life.
As a long-time lover of books, words, and Jesus, one of my goals has been to write a devotional book that impacts the next generation the same way the devotional books I read impacted me. I’ve worked with kids and teens a lot over the past 10 years. I know what an impact a regular devotion time with the Lord has meant in my walk, and I want to empower families to build meaningful, lasting quiet time habits with their kids.
While leading a youth small group earlier this spring at my church, I noticed several girls that would flip to the table of contents in their Bible before turning to the verse we we were reading next in our lesson. That grieved my heart. If they don’t even know where the books of the Bible are, they’re less likely to understand how the Bible is woven together. If they don’t understand that, they’re less likely to read the Bible on their own. A generation of kids growing up and not reading the Bible on their own will be a generation who are spiritually impoverished.
How can we change their trajectory into spiritual poverty into one of spiritual richness and depth? A spiritual depth that can weather all types of trials and storms? A depth that produces the wisdom needed to be a mature follower of Christ? A richness that in turn disciples others?
It starts in the home.
“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 door frames of your houses and on your gates.”
From these words in Deuteronomy 6, we see that instilling a love for God and his word starts with home life. It happens at bedtime, during lunch, on trips to the library and on family vacations (we all know we need lots of Jesus when traveling with kids). It happens in the moments when you least expect it, and sometimes it doesn’t happen when you do expect it. This process involves talking about God’s word, demonstrating God’s word, and writing down God’s word.
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children.”
God’s commandments needed to be impressed first on the parents before they’re impressed on the kids. As parents, you fill your kid’s vision and scope of life more than any other adult, and those kiddos are always, always watching. In addition to large memories from my childhood, I remember the tiniest details about my parents. I remember my dad’s cologne and how it made our Honda Accord smell. I remember my mom’s rabbit cookie jar and her curling my bangs. If they don’t see you reaching for you Bible, praying over issues as they come up and talking about the things of God, they won’t make it a priority because they don’t see you making it a priority.
Growing up, I remember the Bible being a consistent theme in my life. We constantly played praise music in the car (my dad played on the worship team at church so we had an abundance of music). And what I learned at church was reinforced at home, and reinforced at school for the couple of years that I attend private school. My parents’ Bibles were well-marked and worn, and even when we would visit my Grammy or her mom, my great-grandmother, their Bibles were often out on a nearby table with a pen, journal, or Bible study book. They prayed with me, for me, and talked about scriptures. Their spiritual life was evident, even to a little kid. It was not hidden.
When my mom began homeschooling my brother and I, each day started off with a Bible study and I saw how God could be seamlessly woven into every part of my life. He wasn’t just for Sundays.
“Tie them as symbols…bind them on your foreheads.”
In a 2015 post by Ed Stetzer, he records these alarming stats.
“Christians claim to believe the Bible is God’s Word. We claim it’s God’s divinely inspired, inerrant message to us. Yet despite this, we aren’t reading it. A recent LifeWay Research study found only 45 percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Over 40 percent of the people attending read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible—essentially the same number who read it every day.”
If these are the stats for adults (and there are many more that confirm the same problem), what kind of example does that set for kids?
The question I would pose to parents is, do you have a hidden quiet time or a visible quiet time to your kids?
I know it’s hard to find uninterrupted time with little ones, and so “quiet time” may look different depending on the season you are in. But the point is your kids shouldn’t have to look far to see how you spend time with God. That in turn informs how they spend time with God.
Talk & Write
How do you incorporate talking about God and his word in your daily life?
- Daily conversations over meals and while running errands
- Reading and discussing books that present spiritual topics
- Listening to the audio Bible in the car
- Listening to praise and worship albums in the car
- Memorizing scripture as a family
- Daily prayer
It’s in these conversations and activities that kids make the connection between the Bible and everyday life. They begin to see they can pray for the sick people they know, share their toys or snacks, or tell the truth about who broke Grandma’s vase. You don’t always have to have a sit-down devotion in order to impart something worthwhile. More often than not, it is in those passing moments that a bigger truth is forever imprinted on a little heart.
Seeing Scriptures or lyrics to worships songs written out around the house is another way to constantly keep God’s truth at the forefront of your family. Isn’t it funny how certain household items, pictures and other knick-knacks get embedded in the fabric of our childhood? Growing up, I can remember one framed item in particular that hung in our entryway. It was an embroidered image of Joshua 24:15, and it served as a reminder, not only to us, but to all who entered that we served God above all. Images like these reinforce what they learn and make it easier to remember. And if they don’t quite understand what the verses mean, it’s a great way to open conversation to talk about the things of God. What will you do today to help your kids build a quiet time?
- What is your favorite book in the Bible?
- What’s something about God or the Bible you find confusing?
- What are you learning about in Sunday school?
- If you could ask God anything right now, what would it be?
Every family is different, every season is different, and spiritual needs vary from kid to kid. But all the more reason to dive into God’s word and let it bear fruit in your family.
About the Author
SAMANTHA HANNI is the author of “Change the Conversation” and the “Bloom” devotional series. She is also published in the devotional book “Big Dreams from Small Spaces” by Group Publishing and blogs at mrshanni.com. Her work has also appeared on Devotional Diva, To Love Honor and Vacuum, and in the OCHEC Informer. From teaching dance classes to leading Sunday school and small groups, Samantha has taught and mentored girls since 2007. Her latest book, “Bloom Book 1: Me & God” is the first in a devotional series for girls ages 10 and up, and is available for purchase through Amazon. She and her husband Kurtis live in Oklahoma City.