Another idea for strengthening families is reading something other than the Bible at the breakfast table. (It's not often you'd see a Sola Panellist reading something other than the Bible!)
However, as you have probably guessed, I'm talking about something that aids our understanding of God—something that has provided a helpful change of pace to straight Bible reading and discussion. In other words, a bit of systematic theology.
I want to recommend Bruce Ware's book Big Truths for Young Hearts. (Australian readers can find it here; others can find it here.) The book has 10 major topic areas—each with six short chapters of 3-4 pages:
- Revelation and God's own being
- God as Trinity
- God as creator and ruler of all
- Human nature and sin
- Who Jesus is
- Jesus' unique work
- The Holy Spirit
- Our great salvation
- The church
- The end
I have to admit that at the moment, we're not quite halfway through it. But anyone who's taken family devotions seriously knows that you need some variety. We've found it here.
Many Christian children attend Sunday School regularly, as well as receiving some form of Religious Education in their school. (This is true in New South Wales—even in state schools). In addition to that, hopefully you read the Bible with them at home and encourage them to do it on their own on a regular basis. (If not, start now as it won't get any easier the more they grow; set the pattern while they're young!) But one result of this is that information-hungry children can become over familiar with many of the stories of the Bible. The cry of “I've already heard that story!” is not unknown. That's certainly true of our kids.
Bruce Ware has helped us come at things from a fresh angle—doctrinally, rather than in a narrative way. (This means his book is probably more suitable for kids from about the age of 8 to teenagers, rather than for younger kids who still really need the stories.) We read half a chapter aloud after breakfast (which is about 1.5 pages). Sometimes we discuss it. Sometimes they ask questions. Sometimes we do. Sometimes we just pray about the things that come up from the reading.
It's worth noting that the book has been written to be read aloud to children. If you read it silently to yourself first, it can feel a bit repetitive. The author says things in different ways to reinforce the basic truth he unfolds in that section, and repetition of the big idea is part of his strategy. However, in our experience, it's not boring if we keep the sections short. In addition, I suspect many adults will learn a fair bit themselves from the simple and systematic way Ware deals with topics like the Trinity, God's sovereignty and human responsibility, and being made in the image of God.
Interestingly, it was Ware's own two daughters who urged him to publish the material, which came out of things he had shared with them at their bedside. That's a pretty good recommendation!
You can get more information about the book and read an interview with the author at Justin Taylor's blog.