We all know the saying, “The family that prays together, stays together.” Reading the Bible as a family is a wonderful option for prayer for families in every phase. As my children are grown, my most valued prayer time is when my husband and I pray with the Scriptures. And if you are a family with children, it’s never too early to get your kids familiar with the stories of the Bible! Helping them establish a love and appreciation for Scripture is one of the best gifts you can offer them.

I remember my father reading Bible stories to my siblings and me when we were young. I have a particular memory, from when I was around five years old, of discovering that lepers are not, in fact, large cats. Dad took the time to read the stories, and to teach us how to break them open and make them relevant in our lives. I am certain that this, and my having been given a massive Children’s Bible with fascinating illustrations, was the beginning of my love of Scripture. Here are a few ideas for introducing Scripture to your children:

A Little Lectio

Lectio Divina is a wonderful prayer option for adults and kids. If you have a children’s Bible, set aside some time every week to share a story with them. Before you read the story, invite the kids to think about the sights, sounds, smells, and when applicable, the tastes of the scene presented to them. When the story is over, ask what their senses perceived. Ask them what they got out of the story, and how they identified with the characters. What was happening in that story? Were there any words that they didn’t know the meaning of? Were there any words or phrases that stuck out for them? Why? What do they think God wants us to understand through this story? What do they think God was saying to them in that story? Then, offer the Church’s teaching on it in age-appropriate language.

Pick a Book to Read Together

Don’t try to read the Bible cover to cover. A good place to start would be one of the Gospels, one of the Christian letters, or the Psalms. The Psalms are great because they are self-contained and give an amazing peek into what you would read in the Prophets and Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels. Except for Psalm 119, which has 176 verses, they can be read relatively quickly and are a good frame to start your day.

They will certainly spark some conversation, as well. Read one together before you head off to your various separate activities and see if a phrase or word is something you want to take with you throughout the day. When you reconnect after the day is over, talk about what that word or phrase meant to you as you went through your day.

Movies!

Some of my favorite Bible story shows/movies are from Veggie Tales, in which fruit and vegetable characters retell Christian stories through a variety of media. I even use them for adult education sometimes, but this suggestion is more aimed at families with children. After you’ve read a particular story, if there’s a corresponding Veggie Tales, watch it together. Ask some of the same questions from your first discussion, to give them an opportunity to process the story further.

Get a Bible

We use the New American Bible for the lectionary, and there are some nice study editions out there for adult use. There are also lots of great children’s Bibles, and some very good youth Bibles, too. St. Mary’s Press has a nice set that has quotes, questions (that you can borrow for the discussions) and pictures in them.

Car Chat - On the way home from Church, talk about what you all heard in the readings and what you understood from them. Talk about the homily. Try to relate the themes to things going on in your own lives.

Handy Quotes - Many Bibles have a reference section of topics and themes that will offer quotes on the issues. When someone in the household is dealing with making a decision, having a hard time with something, or needs advice, check out what the Bible says about it. Write down the quote and give it to them to keep with them.

There are so many ways to experience the Word of God together as a family. Investing time instilling a love for it now will give your kids a deep well to draw on for the rest of their lives.

Jennifer Schlameuss Elsensohn serves as pastoral associate in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold.