That You May Teach Your Children

by Dene Ward

Someone recently asked me what I thought a kindergarten-aged child should know about the Bible. All I can tell you is from my own experience.

I believe they should know about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit—and that all of those beings love him no matter what. They should know every major Bible story, and be able to name the books of the Bible, the apostles, the sons of Jacob, and the judges. They should have some major memorizing done, individual verses here and there, and larger passages as well, e.g., the 23rd Psalm, the beatitudes, scriptures like Romans 12:1-3 and good old John 3:16. And those things should be explained as well as a five- or six-year-old can understand them, which may be more than you think. They should have a large repertoire of spiritual songs, not just children’s songs, but some of the hymns from the songbook as well. They should be praying several times a day.

The person who asked looked at me, dumbfounded. “That’s impossible,” he said. No. It’s not. I could do most of that, and my children could do all of it. I can still hear five-year-old Lucas reciting the twenty-third psalm, and three-year-old Nathan singing all five verses of “Twust and Obey.”

What’s that? “It isn’t about learning facts.” Of course it isn’t. But tell me, which do you teach first, critical analysis of the poetry of Keats versus that of Milton, or memorizing the alphabet? They will never understand faith till they see it working in the life of Abraham; or courage, until they know the stories of David and Esther; or unselfish devotion until they hear about Ruth gleaning in the field. Isn’t that why God put those facts there in the first place? Things... written aforetime were written for our learning (Romans 15:4).

And you know what works even better? Learning about the generosity of Barnabas and then seeing a father like mine, who gave so generously that the IRS audited him. And learning about the compassion of Dorcas and then a seeing a mother like mine, who took food off her table to give to a neighbor whose husband was killed in an automobile accident, and then organized a food drive for that same neighbor and her five small children.

And as to the amount I think a child should know so early? The problem is not a child’s capacity. The problem is adults underestimating their capacity. And maybe the problem is we do not want to spend the time it takes to do this. This is not something you accomplish in 15 minutes a day of “quality time,” that great myth that has been foisted on American parents. God never expected that meager amount to be the time we spend teaching our children.

Hear, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah. And you shall love Jehovah your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently unto your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes, and you shall write them on the doorposts of your house, and upon your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

I think that pretty well covers it all, don’t you?