Melvyn Bragg thinks children should read the Bible
There’s no doubt that Melvin Bragg’s recent call for the reading of scripture to be reinstated in schools is a positive and helpful one that should be warmly welcomed.
Kid’s and youth workers should be excited about the possibilities that such a public statement might bring and should pray for fruitful opportunities in local schools. Of course, Bragg’s rationale for a greater commitment to Bible reading arises purely from an educational concern. He wants children to be exposed to the linguistic richness contained in the Bible. He doesn’t appear to be as concerned about the spiritual nurture and formation of this generation of children as he is about their literary education.
Why be so enthusiastic about Bragg’s pronouncement then? Well, because as Christians we know that the words recorded in the Bible are the very words of God. Paul, when addressing the Thessalonians, says: “We thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
God continues to speak today through the words of scripture, and the impact of his word is neither shaped nor determined by the intent of the reader, or indeed those who commend others to read it, but by the will of a great, good and holy God. Whenever and wherever God’s word is read, God is at work through His Spirit. He assures us in Isaiah 55:11 that his word will not return empty, but rather will accomplish that which he desires.
It does seem somewhat ironic that someone like Melvin Bragg is encouraging scripture reading with children and in the same news period Nicky Gumbel reported that he never said to any of his children: “You should read your Bible”! (See Premier Youth and Children’s Work’s September issue.) The responsibility laid clearly before parents throughout scripture is to raise children in the knowledge and love of the Lord. The language used consistently concerning this great task is that of teach, train and instruct. If it sounds like hard work, it’s because it is. While Nicky Gumbel helpfully highlights the role of modelling Bible reading to children so they can see adults who are committed to the scriptures, he perhaps downplays the importance of nurturing a love of personal Bible reading and a desire to hear God’s voice even in the youngest of children.
If we understand that it is through the pages of scripture that children meet the living Lord, we must encourage them to spend time regularly in his word. This is probably best done collectively as a family when children are young, but as children develop the ability to read independently, it is appropriate to nurture a desire in them to prayerfully study God’s word. Perhaps set aside 30 minutes after every evening meal for the family to spend time in personal Bible study and prayer or developing a bed-time habit of Bible study.
The Bible describes itself as spiritual food, and therefore it is essential for the development and growth of a believer. We wouldn’t let our children starve without physical food. We’d encourage them to eat regularly, we’d entice them with the beauty of the food and we’d remind them how good food is for them. Let’s have the same approach when it comes to spiritual food, the word of life!
Survey pinpoints the key to children’s happiness
Children’s charity Fegans surveyed 627 children and 177 parents for its Strength to share report to find out what children worry about and what makes them happy.
Of the 566 children who wrote what made them happy, 43 per cent attributed it to friends and family. 18 per cent put it down to hobbies and only 10 per cent cited religion.
Ian Soars, chief executive officer of Fegans, pointed out that the unconditional love a parent offers is vital. Secondly, he highlighted the importance of good endorsement of our children, where we move beyond compliments of something they have done, like good results, to complimenting courage, compassion or kindness within their personality. Finally, he emphasised that clear boundaries are essential. Speaking to Premier Youth and Children’s Work, he said: “That gives children the resilience in order for them to withstand the slings and arrows. This means that when the social media tide comes in, or when they are being bullied on the playground, they are not at the whim of that. They have a place of solid security.”
New parenting programme
Rachel Turner has worked with the Bible Reading Fellowship to produce new free resources for parents.
As well as sessions for parents, Rachel and the Parenting for Faith team have also developed courses to equip children’s workers and pastors in supporting parents. Speaking at the launch of the new parenting programme, Rachel said: “For too long the Church has got to see kids’ joy of life with God and families have missed out.” To find out more, visit parentingforfaith.org.
Church kids say the funniest things
Here is one of the best things our readers heard a kid say recently…
After telling the story of the Good Samaritan in Sunday school, I asked: “If you saw a person lying on the road wounded, what would you do?” A thoughtful little girl broke the silence: “I think I’d throw up.” Ruth, Middlesex