Should we tell children to read the Bible?

Nicky Gumbel recently shared with readers of Premier’s Youth and Children’s Work magazine how he and his wife, Pippa, never needed to tell their children to read the Bible, and how we as parents should not pressurise children and young people to read their Bibles. You can read a summary of the article on the Premier website.

But is that right?

Let me say that an article like this can be massively misunderstood, and even more so as people respond to it (as I am doing in this post). As far as I can see, Nicky Gumbel is not overtly saying that parents should not tell their children to read the Bible. Instead, he is both warning parents of wrongly pressurising children into reading their Bible and encouraging parents to spend more time actively modelling the Christian life – of which spending time in your Bible is a key part – in and to our families.

Do not wrongly pressurise children into reading the Bible… yup, I’d agree with that.

Parents actively and intentionally modelling an attractive Christian life to our children… yup, I’d agree with that, too.

I just wish that Nicky Gumbel and/or the Premier editors had phrased the article to be more reflective of what was actually being said. As it is, it is so easy to misread and misrepresent the Gumbels as saying ‘Do not tell your children to read their Bible’… which is not what they are saying.

Yes… don’t pressurise. Yes… model it. And yes… be ready tell your children to read their Bible

Intentionally not telling your children to read the Bible is different from never needing to tell your children to read the Bible. I thank God that the Gumbles never needed to tell their children to read the Bible, I really do. I pray that many of us reading this post never need to tell our children to read their Bibles but are overjoyed when we see them going to God’s Word of their own accord. But adopting the approach where we read our Bibles and hope that our children follow our example – without ever telling them to do so – is like a doctor that takes his own medicine and hopes that his patients do likewise.

This article may cause some parents who will need to carefully instruct and train their children to read God’s Word to actually not do the very thing that they might need to do: prompt, urge, encourage and (shocking as this may sound) maybe actually instruct their children to spend time listening to what the LORD says to us in his Word, the Bible.

Teaching and instructing our children in godly patterns, such as reading our Bibles is a key dimension of the very thing that we, as parents, are commanded to do: bring our children up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

Godly parents want their children’s souls to be nurtured and fed from God’s Word… and sometimes this means telling them to read it; lovingly, carefully and modelled in our own good example – but nonetheless told to do it.

Be ready to be that kind of parent.