The big picture of family discipleship
Rebecca G. Davis
AFA Journal associate editor

April 2020“As believers, we desire for our children to know, love, believe, and live out God’s Word in their lives,” wrote blogger and author Christina Fox (christinafox.com). “While it is the job of the Spirit to apply the Word to our children’s heart, we have a duty to teach our children God’s Word (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).”

While this duty should be delightful for Christian parents, more often than not, it can be daunting.

Fox offers six practical suggestions for teaching God’s Word to children: read the Bible yourself; read it together as a family; encourage children to read it on their own; memorize Scripture together; apply Scripture to all of life; and pray for God to work.

Fox further explains her suggestions at forthefamily.org.

When it comes to discipling children, the Bible should be the primary source, but there are other resources parents can use alongside the Bible to aid them in teaching their children. These resources should never replace the Bible, but instead reinforce its truths, focus on Christ (not self), and present one big story.

“Our kids can become acquainted with many Bible stories without ever grasping the Biggest Story that makes sense of all the others,” said author Kevin DeYoung.

“We want them to see the Bible not as a collection of moral fables, but as the epic story of redemption,” added John Wells, father and former pastor.

The Biggest Story, the big picture – the gospel – is key.

Below are reviews of three resources that AFA Journal believes take the big-picture approach to family discipleship and can be used to incorporate some of Fox’s suggestions for teaching God’s Word to children of all ages.

The Promises of God Storybook Bible by Jennifer Lyell
Through the retelling of more than 50 Bible passages, Jennifer Lyell uses the thread of God’s promises woven throughout Scripture to share the story of God’s unstoppable love in The Promises of God Storybook Bible. As a preschool Bible teacher of more than 10 years, Lyell is intentional, conversational, and even whimsical in the way she communicates the Word to young hearts. It’s about more than just teaching them Bible stories; it’s about uncovering the evidence of God’s love for them – from the first promise in the garden to the promise of the new heaven and earth.

“My hope for the takeaway for parents and for children from the book is not just a knowledge of the promises of God throughout Scripture, but the ultimate promise that we are all born with hard hearts. But we have a God who is capable of changing the hardest of hearts into the softest of hearts, …” Lyell said.

The Promises of God Storybook Bible, now available from B&H Publishing, is for ages 4–8. Complete with beautiful illustrations and discussion questions to foster comprehension, the 320-page storybook is designed to aid families with young children in daily devotional time.

Lyell added: “I want them to have a fresh fuel and a fresh fire and a fresh tool to help them … believe and know that their children can know more about God than they naturally think they can understand. …”

Epic Devotions: 52 Weeks in the Story that Changed the World by Aaron Armstrong
Epic Devotions is a weekly devotional designed for preteens, especially ages 8–12. The book contains 52 stories from Scripture that use a graphic novel style approach to engage older children in family discipleship. It can be used by the individual but is intended to be a family experience.

According to B&H Publishing, “Each insightful devotion circles back to the one big story of Jesus and makes biblical events more relevant for today’s youth.”

Written by Aaron Armstrong, brand manager for The Gospel Project, Epic Devotions provides six elements to help families get the most out of each devotional reading: key Scripture verse, additional Scripture reading, summary of events for each Bible story, action items to help families dig deeper, thoughts and questions for discussion, and a memory verse. The book also contains colorful comic-strip style illustrations and text that are age appropriate.

“Our family has struggled to establish a good rhythm for family devotions,” Armstrong admitted. “We’ve tried different books and plans in different seasons, with some being more successful than others. But we’ve found that there are relatively few out there that focus on helping see the one big story Scripture tells from beginning to end, and most of them are written exclusively for adults or very young children.”

Armstrong desires for families to use Epic Devotions to help them develop a routine of family discipleship that points them to Christ.

“My hope is that the kids and preteens who use this devotional will be changed by the gospel,” Armstrong said. “Because that’s what it’s all really about.”

Exploring the Bible Together: A 52-Week Family Worship Plan by David Murray
Realistic, clear, and interactive, Exploring the Bible Together by counselor and professor David Murray makes family worship time doable and effective. It lays out a simple plan to be used each week by families.

With a basic, easy-to-use format with minimal illustrations, the book takes a family on 52 expeditions that cover key passages from Genesis to Revelation. Each expedition is divided into six days, and each contains a short passage of Scripture, two questions (one for older children and one for younger children), a brief application, and a prayer prompt. It is designed to provide “a big-picture overview of the whole Bible in the course of a year,” according to Crossway. “In just a few minutes a day, Exploring the Bible Together helps families with children of all ages have a clear plan to study the Bible and worship God on a daily basis.”

Exploring the Bible Together will be available from booksellers May 12.   

Uncovering the Love of Jesus: A Lent Devotional by Asheritah Ciuciu
The Easter season is my favorite time of year, and I look forward to observing Lent with my family. I always have big plans for Lent, but with two young, active children, things don’t always go as I envision. Sometimes, I am just too ambitious. My plans fail, and I feel defeated.

However, this year, I am excited to use Asheritah Ciuciu’s book Uncovering the Love of Jesus: A Lent Devotional. This new book allows families to observe Lent as simply or as deeply as they want.

The devotionals began on Ash Wednesday, but there’s still time for this valuable resource to have deep meaning for your family’s Easter season, leading up to Resurrection Sunday. Each week begins with a family celebration that includes lighting Lenten candles and singing a worship song together, contains five days worth of personal Scripture reading and commentary, and ends with several practical family activities. She also includes a chapter titled “What Should I Sacrifice for Lent?”

There is an online companion to the book at uncoveringthelove.com where the author provides a plethora of resources to complement and enhance your family’s observance of Lent.

It is Ciuciu’s desire for evangelical Christians to reclaim this ancient tradition and learn to die to self and live
for Jesus.

Uncovering the Love of Jesus is available at retail and online booksellers.

Rebecca Davis