This is probably one of the most common questions I hear from parents wanting to establish Christian disciplines in their kids.
Every Christian parent deals with this at some point. They struggle with what they should mandate vs just encourage their kids to do. And with this, how much? At what point will we defeat our purpose and discourage them?
This is what we do in our home. I am not saying it is for everyone, but we are supportive of it as a practice by conviction and experience. Our children range from 20 months to almost 16. There is quite a variety.
I’ll hit this from two angles, family and personal devotions.
Family Devotions: As a family we work through books of the Bible. We typically do this after dinner in the evening. I read a section of Scripture and talk about it as we go. I weave in questions and application. I require everyone to participate and help the younger ones to do so.
We are also going through The Heidelberg Catechism to help provide a firm theological understanding.
Personal or Private Devotions: Once the kids are able to read we require them to read their Bibles, journal, and pray.
In the morning, our older children get up, take care of their chores and hygiene and then sit down to do their devotions. We ask them to think through the implications of the passage, journal the main idea, confess sin, connect the passage to the gospel, and pray for grace filled obedience. They can expect questions about what they’ve read, not always, but often.
One objection to mandating Bible reading is that it may discourage the children who don’t believe.
First, I want to remember that I am responsible for my children. I am a steward of them. I want to do everything I can in my power to see them become faithful Christians. I understand that the way people become Christians and then grow to maturity is through the word of God (Rom. 1.16); 10.17; Joh 17.17). Therefore, I want to expose them as much as I can to the Bible. We do this as a family and then in their individual time. So, instead of discouraging them, if God is gracious, the exposure to the Bible will actually encourage them. It will be the means of opening eyes and hearts to believe.
Second, I want to remember that our home is a Christian home. While living here does not make you a Christian, it does mean that the home is going to reflect traditional Christian values and practices. Therefore, we are going to read, pray, sing, and talk about Christ and his word. I should never feel bad or discouraged about this. It is part of being a Christian.