Life with kids is crazy busy. That’s the understatement of the year, right?
At least in my house, it seems like weeknights and weekends are full of activities involving our three young kids. That’s why finding the time to sit down together to talk about God—and with Him—can seriously be tough!
But as my kids get older, my wife Holly and I are realizing something pretty important: It’s up to us to mold their hearts to Christ.
Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV) tells us, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” So as parents, it’s our job—Jesus, help us!—to raise our kids to love the Lord, not to mention answer all their weird and wild questions about God and the Bible. And the best time to do that is the one time of day when everyone’s together, settled and calm: bedtime.
We’ve done this in our house for years, in one form or another, with great results. So how can you turn your own kids’ bedtime into a time of prayer and learning about Jesus? Here are some tips taken straight from my own experience.
1. Start the routine extra early each night.
There’s something about bedtime that opens kids’ minds to really deep ideas like God, the Holy Spirit and heaven. Maybe it’s because they know they’re trapped once they’re tucked in (ha!), because no one is distracted, or because they don’t have to compete with their siblings for attention. Whatever the case, their little hearts are primed for talking about God.
But to keep from turning out the lights too late or losing the kids too early to sleepiness, start your bedtime routine extra early—maybe even 30–45 minutes before you kiss them goodnight. That gives you plenty of time to read from the Bible, talk about big-picture ideas (like the character of God or what Jesus thought about children and faith), and pray.
2. Be prepared for some weird, wild and really tough questions.
Since Holly and I started a bedtime prayer routine with our kids, we’ve found that they’ve had some really incredible questions. In fact, I’ve noticed that they’ve actually asked some of the more challenging questions I’ve faced as a pastor!
Case in point: When he was 4 or 5 years old, my son Max asked one night if dinosaurs were on Noah’s ark—this was in response to our conversation about how much God loves him. Talk about feeling blindsided! I honestly had no idea—and I didn’t want to guess—so I told him I’d find out.
That gave us an opportunity to do some research together the next day. Since there’s a lot of debate about the answer to Max’s question, it led to another teachable moment: The Bible doesn’t tell us everything, but it does tell us about God’s incredible plan for us—and that’s what really matters.
See where a simple question can take you? Giving your kids the time to ask questions creates opportunities for you to learn together—and it opens the doors to discuss even bigger ideas! And that’s as great for your spiritual walk as it is for what you’re nurturing in them.
3. Use it as an opportunity to teach Bible stories.
Reading stories at bedtime just goes along with childhood, right? In our family, Holly and I love reading Bible stories with our kids in a way that makes the stories come to life.
It looks like this: As we’re going through a Bible story, we ask our kids to use all five senses to put themselves in it. We want them to draw parallels to their own lives by imagining they’re right in the middle of the story.
How do the loaves and fishes smell? What does the tomb look like? What sounds can they hear as the crowds follow Jesus? How do they feel as they watch Him heal a blind man? What if they are the blind man—how would they feel before and after Jesus heals them? Their answers might be pretty creative (and pretty funny!) when they’re young, but their responses will become more insightful and meaningful as they get older.
The important thing is they’re beginning to understand Jesus on a more personal level, along with learning Bible stories and practicing critical thinking.
Try turning your kids’ bedtime into a time of prayer and learning tonight and see if it doesn’t become the richest, most fulfilling part of your day—and theirs!