Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Devotionals for Children

The more devotionals I read for parents and children, the more I am growing to see the strengths and weaknesses of one compared to another.  Often I have been surprised by some, but disappointed by others.

On my lovetopaint.wordpress.com blog, I have posted a list of Children's story Bibles and devotionals.  

For ages 4-7 years old, I have found these books which I love:

Read and Share Bible, a biblical story Bible with pictures and language that my children loved
The Big Picture Bible, explains to children what the point is--what the Big Picture of the Bible is
The Jesus Book: The Who, What, Where, When, and Why Book About Jesus by Stephen Elkins, a unique book because it has maps and a timeline of Jesus' life written with age appropriate language for this age group
Get Wisdom! by Ruth Younts (Grades K-4), a wonderful book that will help you explain why we desire to be good, what Christian wisdom is, and what the characteristics of such wisdom are

For ages 6-10 years old, I have these books listed:

Mighty Acts of God by Starr Meade, is a more detailed reformed story Bible which explains such concepts as predestination and why missions are important
Church History ABCs by Stephen Nichols, introduces children to people who have had significant parts in the history of Christianity
God’s Names by Sally Michael, a devotional on how the names of God reflect who He is, essentially it's a devotional about who God is
Get Wisdom! by Ruth Younts, described earlier
Biography Series for Young Readers by Simonetta Carr Ms. Carr has written books on John Owen, John Calvin, and Augustine so far.
For Middle Schoolers, I have these books listed:
God’s Mighty Acts in Salvation by Starr Meade, addresses topics from Galatians including who wrote Galatians and to who, Paul's authority, freedom in Christ, salvation plus nothing, faith producing works, and real fruit
God’s Mighty Acts in Creation by Starr Meade, 
explains and talks about how all of creation points to God
Recently, I read a book that would fall in between these two categories for children 9-12.  The book is for children 9 and up, but I would limit it to students 10-15.  The book is called Big Truths for Young Hearts.  The title might make you think it would be for children ages 5-10, but it really isn't.  I read the first entry to my daughters, 5 and 7, and we had to stop half way through it.  I quickly realized it was over their heads.  
In Big Truths for Young Hearts, Bruce Ware talks about the basics of the faith for young people.  I hesitate to say children, because I think of children as 10 years of age and younger.  (Everything a Child Should Know About God by Kenneth Taylor covers these basics on a level appropriate for 3-6 year olds.)    
This book is a good resource, but the question I've begun to ask myself with such books is "How would one use this book?"  Would I use it for homeschooling, for family worship, for personal devotions, as a reference to answer my children's questions, for Sunday school or midweek church youth group, or for another purpose altogether?

The topics that Mr. Ware covers are God's Word, the Trinity, God as Creator, Human Nature and Sin, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, salvation, and the church.  He covers all the bases.  All the subtopics are important ones that young adults need to understand.  The short essays address the questions well and thoroughly.  They would be more easily read independently than aloud.  If you wanted to read them aloud as a family, I would read ahead and consider where you wish to pause and discuss.  I would also read while encouraging your children to stop you when they don't understand so that you might pause and address their questions.

This book might also be a good reference for you as a parent if your children ask questions that you aren't sure how to answer or can't remember the biblical references for (as often happens to me).  You could also use it to guide  your family worship and ground your children in sound doctrine.  It is important for them to know what they believe and understand God's Word.  It is easy to get carried away by emotions and experience and the scripture says that 

Proverbs 22:6 NIV  Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
That is our hope as parents--that if we teach our children, then they would choose as adults to walk with the Lord.  And it is our responsibility.  

I have been pondering the question of how much we should teach our children and want them to learn and understand.  How much can they understand?  Sometimes we expect too little of them, but we can also expect too much.  This is a book that will help you answer a lot of tough questions kids can face about God as they grow up and want to understand.  What we and our children believe about God, the Bible, and who God is will help us all when our hearts fail us.  Doctrine--what we believe about God--matters.  This is a book about doctrine.  It isn't a Bible story book.  It may be a book that you will pick up with your fifth grader and realize that it is not connecting with them.  So, you set it down for a year or two and come back to it when they are older and more mature--emotionally and intellectually.  It is also a book that may help you understand how to explain the basics of the Christian faith to someone who doesn't believe in God when they have questions.  I find that often books written for children are very helpful.

This is a book with much potential, its purpose depends on the person in whose hands it is.  For my family, it will probably be a reference more than a read aloud devotional.  I may also hand it to one of my children to read if they have specific questions.  I know many families for whom I think this book would be a great fit for family worship times and devotionals.  

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of Big Truths for Young Hearts from Crossway Books for review.

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