The Annual Goals and Planning (GAP) Retreat: A Powerful Tool for Communication and Productivity in Marriage
We have found this annual event is the most important factor in the success of any of our endeavors as a couple.
As a couple, my husband and I have worked hard at communication. That doesn't mean we have always succeeded; we have had our fair share of communication mishaps, like most couples, where we plumb forgot that we hadn't mentioned to our spouse that company was coming, or that we volunteered them for (fill in the blank), or that so-and-so was getting married.
However, when it comes to the basics of family life, we have managed pretty well. This, in spite of living increasingly busy lives filled with ministry, mission trips, hospitality, homeschooling, furloughs, and other travels.
And I can tell you exactly the reason why.
We call it our annual Goals And Planning (GAP) Retreat. Once a year, usually in January, we put our lives on hold for 24 hours in order to get away as a couple for the explicit purpose of planning and prayer for the upcoming year.
During that 24-hour retreat, we hole up somewhere quiet and discuss all the issues that we face as a couple and as a family and plan ahead for everything that needs to happen that year and in the future upcoming years. We do both long-term and short-term planning, making individual, family, and ministry goals.
Since we started doing this, we haven't missed a year. We have found that this is the single most important factor for success in all of our ministry and family endeavors.
IS IT WORTH IT?
Years ago I worked at a major pharmaceutical company in America, and one of my responsibilities was to help my boss organize and run their Annual Business Planning Retreat. Employees flew in from all over America, taking valuable time out of their busy schedules, in order to gather at a conference center for a few days and plan the direction of the company for the next year. The cost of that week, both in time and money, was staggering. And yet, I have no doubt it was worth it.
When considering your annual GAP Retreat, you may wonder if it will be worth the cost in both time and money for you and your spouse. I can assure you that if you do this properly, your investment in this one day each year will be more than worth it.
Couples with young children, especially, may have trouble finding a babysitter and wrangling this time alone. Don't let that stop you. You probably need this more than anyone else! You who are so immersed in diapers and pacifiers often find it hard to poke your heads up for air and make time for your spouse or for life planning. It's easy for you, especially, to get lost in the trees and lose sight of the forest. The long-term welfare of your family can easily get drowned out by your short-term, sleep-deprived need to survive.
I understand. There have been years where the first thing on our agenda for our GAP Retreat was a good nap.
Maybe, on the other hand, you are empty nesters and don't feel a need to leave your home in order to find some time alone. You may find time alone while in your normal daily surroundings, but will it be distraction free? Investing in a one-night stay at a nearby hotel or bed and breakfast will ensure that your focus can remain on your spouse, God, and the necessary planning you need to do.
As a couple, the two of you are yoked together. In order to accomplish the work God has for you to do, you must be pulling at the same load, pulling at the same speed, and pulling in the same direction. Otherwise that yoke is just slowing you down and messing you up. This GAP Retreat will give you a vision, as a couple, for how you can help each other complete the work God has commissioned you to do. It will help you live with a shared mission, a shared ambition.
The twenty-four hours you spend with your spouse nailing down your goals and activities for the upcoming year will be an investment that pays dividends. Yes, it is worth it.
WHAT TO DO ON YOUR GAP RETREAT
Each couple will find their own rhythm when it comes to this retreat, but let me share some of the things we do.
THINGS TO DISCUSS ON YOUR GAP RETREAT
We each get our own list. This includes things like health and fitness, Bible reading, other personal reading goals, writing goals, and random stuff like taking online courses in modern Hebrew or Ugaritic. (Bonus points for you if you can guess which one of us wants to take the Ugaritic course.)
This includes all the things we want to do together as a family or want to incorporate into our parenting. We include Bible reading and memorization, reading out loud (we are currently working through the Sugar Creek Gang books), any specialized skills we want our children to learn, music lessons, and any specific homeschooling goals. We often discuss gift possibilities for the year because we are intentional in our gift giving for our children, always seeking gifts that promote their education, physical fitness, skills, or spiritual growth.
We sometimes discuss our financial situation or financial or budget-related goals that we wish to set. We take a look at the projects we are giving to, and what we might want to give to in the future. Sometimes we set goals about how we can increase our giving.
We have our ministry at BJMBC and all our goals associated with that, but this section also includes other ministry endeavors. We list any requests for us to speak or teach in other places in the Philippines or in other countries and the preparation we need to do for those events. We also try to prioritize our children's ministries, like their Children's Choir at church and the neighborhood Bible Club our children minister in. Often we try to plan for ministries of hospitality or small group gatherings of one sort or another.
This is exactly what it sounds like. Surprisingly, we usually have many miscellaneous goals. We are both life-long students, so there is much we want to learn and accomplish.
It seems like our prayer and discussion times often result in a family or ministry theme for the year. One year we were burdened about strengthening marriages and families. That informed our acceptance of speaking events. When we were asked to do two separate weekend events on two separate islands, we knew right away that the one we were supposed to accept was the one that would further our goal of strengthening Filipino families. God led clearly through the theme He had already given us.
That same year we also hosted small-group events at our house for couples from our church to gather and watch a DVD series on the topic of marriage.
Another year our burden was for encouraging believers to plan their lives God's way. This resulted in a book and a seminar that Tim has taught in many places.
I cannot overemphasize the power this retreat has had in pushing us forward in our goals.
RELATED: The Three-Part Goal Setting Series.
TAKE TIME FOR FUN!
We don't just work on this GAP Retreat. We also take time out to do some fun things together as a couple. Depending on where we are and what we have time for, we will play games, go on dates for meals, spend time doing a favorite activity such as swimming or hiking, or just go out for coffee and dessert.
This isn't just about work. It is about reconnecting as a couple and taking a break from the world in order to focus on each other. It should be the most romantic, wonderful day of your year as a couple. We find this is often the highlight of our year as a couple.
THE BENEFITS OF AN ANNUAL GOALS AND PLANNING RETREAT
Between you and me, this annual Goals And Planning (GAP) Retreat has been one of the best investments we could have made in our marriage, our family, and our ministry. What are the benefits we have seen?
I'd like to encourage you to consider taking a GAP Retreat with your spouse. It will be life-changing for you as a couple, as you take the time to plan out your year and your future, examining your life from all angles and making both long-term and short-term goals.
How to Respond to God's Redirection
No doubt as you have entered this new year, you have laid out some plans for what you would like to accomplish for God. Those plans may be exactly what God wants you to do. On the other hand, you may experience some divine redirection as the year unfolds.
How should you respond to God's redirection?
HOW TO RESPOND TO GOD'S REDIRECTION
I will be leading a Footsteps of John and Paul Study Tour to Asia Minor (Turkey) and Greece later this year. In the course of our travels, we will mimic the track (as much as possible) of Paul’s second missionary journey that took him from Troas to Corinth.
Thinking about Paul’s travels that took him for the first time into modern-day Europe reminds me of one of my favorite passages on divine redirection: Acts 16:6-10.
Twice in these verses Paul is stopped by the Holy Spirit from continuing on a course of action he had chosen.
Why? Is Paul fighting against the Lord’s leading?
In my opinion, that’s the least likely explanation. More likely is that Paul simply did not know exactly where God wanted him to go. He knew his calling was as the Apostle to the Gentiles. He knew his burden to preach the Gospel in places where the name of Christ was not yet known. The two places he was forbidden to go (Asia and Bithynia) both qualify. Both would end up receiving a gospel witness. But neither place was God’s will for Paul at the time.
To me, this is a great example of how a believer may not always know exactly what God wants him (or her) to do. If the church’s greatest missionary (Paul) did not know exactly where God wanted him to go, how much more you and I?
What should we do in times like that?
What I gather from our passage is that we should work the plans that we have made (the plans that fit God’s call and our ministry burden), knowing that God will direct or re-direct us as necessary. God has works which He has prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10); He will not allow His surrendered servants to get off track.
Furthermore, what our passage suggests to me is that God may close one door of ministry in order to open a better one. Paul was thinking locally—Asia and Bithynia. God was thinking more globally—cross the Aegean Sea into modern-day Europe. Divine redirection demands that we trust divine omniscience: we would have made the same choice if we knew what God knew. Through God’s providential redirection, Paul was able to plant churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, and Corinth. What a great open door!
No doubt as you have entered this new year, you have laid out some plans for what you would like to accomplish for God. Those plans may be exactly what God wants you to do. On the other hand, you may experience some divine redirection as the year unfolds.
If God closes certain “doors” before you, do not doubt Him or complain. Worse, do not rebel or resist. Realize that His closed doors are leading you to His open doors. In the end, His ways are always better than ours. Take comfort from the fact that the true and living God is sovereignly redirecting your path to accomplish His ends: A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps (Prov. 16:9).
You and I exist for the glory of God.
Here are twelve Scriptural ways for us to bring God glory this year.
12 Resolutions for Glorifying God this Year
Recognizing that I exist for the glory of God, I resolve to glorify God by. . .
1. Confessing Jesus Christ as Lord.
And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
2. Bearing much fruit (as I abide in Christ).
Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
3. Attracting the lost to my God by my actions.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
4. Living conscientiously before a watching world.
I Peter 2:12
Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.
5. Keeping my body morally pure.
I Corinthians 6:18-20
Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.
6. Living in unity with other believers.
We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.
7. Advancing God's reputation at the expense of my rights.
I Corinthians 10:31
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
8. Giving beyond the expected.
II Corinthians 8:19; 9:11-13
For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.
Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God. For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God; Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men.
9. Loving things that really matter.
And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
10. Allowing God to prove--and improve--my faith through trials.
I Peter 1:7
That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
11. Turning insult for Christ into an opportunity for praise.
I Peter 4:16
Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
12. Using my spiritual gift to benefit others.
I Peter 4:11
If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
A Man Lays Out His Battle Plan
Are you a man of courage, determined to obey God's commands? You need a battle plan.
He was the man who, above any other individual in Scripture, is admonished to “act like a man.” Joshua 1:1-9 is a direct charge to him to “be strong and of good courage.” God orders him to act this way in light of his gargantuan task of bringing Israel across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land. His beloved mentor Moses is dead. The weight of responsibility now lies on his shoulders. He is to take courage in God’s command—"Have not I commanded you?"—and face his task.
How does Joshua respond?
He immediately swings into action (Joshua 1:10).
He begins by commanding the leaders, “Prepare because within three days you will cross over the Jordan River.” What we must not miss is that Joshua is passing along the very command he received. God told Joshua to take courage and “go over” Jordan. Joshua has so taken courage that he now turns God’s command into a future tense verb for the people he leads: "You will cross over Jordan."
Joshua then turns to the Transjordan tribes, the two-and-a-half tribes that would receive their inheritance east of the Jordan River, and reminds them that all the mighty men of valor are to cross over Jordan and assist the other tribes in wrestling their inheritance from the Canaanites (v. 14).
If we continue to follow Joshua's actions, we see that right around the same time as his actions in chapter 1, he sends two spies to scope out the situation at Jericho (2:1). Why? Crossing the Jordan River will put the city of Jericho in their cross-hairs. Joshua is strategizing and thinking ahead.
Joshua also moves from the Shittim camp—where they had been for the last several months—by transitioning to the Jordan itself (3:1). He then readies the people (3:5) and instructs the priests (3:6). Joshua moves fast: he takes all of these steps within a few days’ timeframe (regardless of how you interpret the various “three days” of the passage, 1:11; 2:22; 3:2).
Joshua’s actions exemplify what a man does when he faces his responsibilities with courage.
The command had gone out. He had been summoned to courage. His spirit within him rose up to obey. He then proceeded to work through the steps necessary to obey the command—ready the leaders, remind the Transjordan tribes, plan ahead for the battle at Jericho, move the camp to the Jordan, prepare the people, and instruct the priests.
Once a man has determined to show courage and obey, he thinks through the logical steps necessary to accomplish his God-given task and formulates a battle plan.
Perhaps you, too, have made the decision to take courage and obey the Lord's commands to you. What is the very first thing you must do? If you are going to move forward with decisive action, you--like Joshua--must think through the steps needed to fulfill the task at hand.
This can take various forms, but it almost inevitably involves writing something down.
Each day I grab my planner or a sheet of paper and make a list of the things that come to mind that I need to accomplish that day. Sometimes something that needs to be done by tomorrow creeps onto my list, but that is okay too. There is nothing wrong with planning ahead or building a runway for the future. What I find is that making such a list gives me an objective target to shoot at for the day. It's my battle plan for obedience.
When is the best time to do this?
Some people do this at night so they can wake to a battle plan already formed. For me it works best to do it first thing in the morning, right after my personal devotional time with the Lord. Sometimes, to be honest, part of the list forms while I am still having my personal devotional time. While I am reading or praying, various things I need to do that day flit across my mind. I write those things down so that I don’t have to keep wondering whether I will remember them after my devotions. I jot them down immediately and then turn my focus back to what I am doing.
A benefit of making my list at this time is that I can take some additional time to pray through the list or even talk my list over with the Lord while I am making it. Nothing is so helpful as talking over your battle plan with your Commander-in-Chief! It is only in the power of His might that you will carry it out anyway.
This to-do list governs the actions I take throughout the day. What if you have too many things? What if it is impossible to do everything? I have found that having this list actually enables me to accomplish far more than I thought I could because I have a target to shoot at. It also keeps me from frittering away my time until I finally decide to launch into my day. It encourages me to attack my work and accomplish the most difficult things first by adhering to a strategic battle plan.
In addition to my daily to-do list, my wife and I take a twenty-four hour Annual Goal Planning Retreat each year where we strategize and make goals for the year. This long-term planning time enables us to break our large projects or goals down into their smaller moving parts, which we can then complete one by one throughout the year. This helps us to keep our focus on our greatest responsibilities and how God wants us to fulfill them.
Are you a man of courage?
Have you made out your battle plan for today?
What To Do When You Have Too Much To Do
Do you ever wake up in the morning with massive overwhelm, knowing that your To-Do List for the day is much longer than the amount of time you have to finish it? How do you respond to this kind of stress?
Here are four things to do when you have too much to do.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU HAVE TOO MUCH TO DO
1. Give Thanks.
Give thanks for your long list of things to do? Yes. You can thank God that you have worthwhile responsibilities and relationships in your life. Imagine if you had nothing to do all day? It's not as fun as it sounds. There are people in this world who just stand by and wish for a job, for a spouse, for children, for worthwhile activity, or for a goal to pursue. For whatever reason, they don't have that. Maybe they don't have the skills to do a job like yours. Maybe they don't have the education. Perhaps they are aimless, with no goals and no purpose. Or maybe their ill-health prevents them from being able to work. The first thing to do on a very busy day is to thank God for the privilege of responsibility!
2. Spend time with the Lord.
George Mueller addressed this need for busy people when he said:
I look upon it as a lost day when I have not had a good time over the Word of God. Friends often say, ‘I have so much to do, so many people to see, I cannot find time for Scripture study.’ Perhaps there are not many who have more to do than I. For more than half a century I have never known one day when I had not more business than I could get through. . . but I have always made it a rule never to begin work until I have had a good season with God and His Word. The blessing I have received has been wonderful.
Reading the Word of God and spending time with the One who made you and gives you work is the best way to start a busy day. It will prepare you for your work and give you the strength you need for the demands you will face.
What if you don't?
Just as God has dealt with people who didn't tithe by allowing them to put their money into pockets with holes, He sometimes also deals with us regarding our time. Because we haven't spent our first and best part of our day with the Lord, we make foolish decisions that end up sucking even more of our time. Of course, God is gracious and He often helps us accomplish things even if we haven't given Him the first part of our day. But how wonderful it is to go into your day knowing that, although you may have a lot to do, the most important thing in your life has already been accomplished.
3. Ask yourself these Four Important Questions about your To-Do list:
Martin Luther is often quoted as having said, "I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer." In other words, prayer is the key to a truly productive day. Once you have asked yourself the four questions above and thoughtfully deleted, delegated, consolidated, and procrastinated, again take the remainder of your list to God and ask for His guidance in accomplishing the things He wants you to do.
Yes, life can often be stressful and our lists of things to do can be overwhelming. If you find yourself reacting blindly to this kind of pressure in your life, take a little bit of time to step back and look at the big picture. Give thanks. Spend time with the Lord. Ask yourself the four important questions. Then pray and ask God for supernatural help. Continue to pray as you move through your day. You are not omniscient and have no idea what your day holds. But He is, and He is very good at prompting you to do certain things at certain times.
When you take the time to do these things, even though you are very busy, your day will undoubtedly be more productive and less stressful.
Are you failing to meet your goals because of a long list of excuses?
This one simple mental adjustment will help you to banish excuses and accomplish your goals.
My Exercise Excuse Script
Laura to self: I need to go jogging.
Internal Excuse Maker: Experts say you only have to do that 3-4 times a week in order to see results. Do it tomorrow.
Laura: You said that yesterday, and the day before. I'm running out of days in the week.
IEM: Well, it's looking kind of overcast out there. It might rain. And you wear glasses without windshield wipers, so when it rains, you can't see. What if you step in a pothole? You have children to care for. You shouldn't do that to your family. Better stay home today.
Laura: Yes, I have children to care for and I want to be alive to see them grow up, so I'd better go today.
IEM: Speaking of which, they are probably going to wake up from their nap any minute. You probably don't have time to go jogging.
Laura: Well, then, I'd better go now, huh?
IEM: Remember the dog? He followed you up the street the last time, barking ferociously. You were terrified and if that nice man hadn't chased him off, you might be in the hospital right now recovering from rabies shots.
Laura: But maybe he won't be there today. Maybe I can carry a stick.
IEM: That will look cool. Go ahead. Do that. And then those construction workers will really stare when you jog past.
Laura: I'll take a different route to avoid the construction site.
IEM: Oh, and don't forget: your shoes are at the repair man, getting glued back together because they are five years old and falling apart.
Laura: Aack! I forgot about that.
IEM: So, see, you can't go. Told you so.
It's called ego depletion. After arguing long enough with your Internal Excuse Maker, you run out of mental energy to make the right choice (exercise) and decide instead to raid the freezer for a Dove Dark Chocolate Bar and drink a coffee or two.
At least that's what happens to me.
My No Excuse Policy
Something had to give, if I was ever going to succeed at my exercise goal. So I decided I would turn the excuse script off. Instead of listening to my obnoxious Internal Excuse Maker, I instituted a personal No Excuse Policy. I decided that I would not tolerate ANY excuses at all when it comes to exercise.
With my new policy, the Exercise Excuse Script doesn't even start running.
You and I both know which excuses truly are valid. All the rest are just a version of the "lion in the street" and should be sternly banned.
What are your goals for this year? Did you want to read through your Bible in a year, start a new exercise program, pay down a debt, or finally pursue a long-standing dream of yours?
More importantly, what spiritual task has God asked you to do for His kingdom that you haven't even started doing yet because of your Internal Excuse Maker?
Are you allowing your Internal Excuse Maker to run roughshod over you? Or have you found a way to turn off the Excuse Script?
Maybe you--like me--need a No Excuse Policy.
My new policy has enabled me to exercise six days a week (except when truly valid excuses come up, like sickness), and now exercising has become something I actually look forward to every day. Imagine if succeeding at your goals became that fun?
Oh, and by the way, that day that my shoes were in the shop? I borrowed my son's sneakers. They fit great and are much newer and cushier than mine. My IEM flipped out, but I jogged on air, not pavement, that day.
Try this one simple thing. Institute a No Excuse Policy for just one of your goals today.
Silence your IEM and start jogging on air.
PS--If you haven't yet formed a habit of reading the Word of God daily, may I personally encourage you to make that area your first venture into a No Excuse Policy? You will be amazed, as I have been, by the way the Lord personalizes your Bible reading to the challenges you face throughout your day.
If you are like many people, you made a list of New Year's Resolutions at the beginning of January.
How's that going?
Many of our resolutions are doomed to fail. 88%, in fact, if Wikipedia is correct.
We can try really hard to come up with ways to succeed . . .
All of these things can help.
But there one thing you cannot accomplish goals without: discipline.
I can have all the desire in the world to complete a marathon, but unless I lace up my sneakers and actually hit the jogging trail, I'm doomed to failure. You may desire a healthy body, but unless you exercise faithfully and eat properly, you are doomed to failure.
Discipline, not desire, determines destiny.*
My husband says that often. But he doesn't just talk it; he walks it.
I should know. . . I live with the man.
Discipline gets him up in the morning to read his Bible. Daily.
Discipline aids him in reading the Bible aloud to his family every morning at breakfast.
Discipline sits him at his desk in a pool of tropical sweat so he can study for sermons and classes.
Discipline requires him to reject fried chicken and eat its bland counterparts instead.
Discipline allows him to sigh instead of rant when a careless child breaks a window pane.
Discipline. Discipline. Discipline.
I tilt my head to one side and watch him. I was not born a naturally self-disciplined person. So I observe and learn from him. Since being married to him I have radically increased in my own self-discipline. This is all the Lord, actually. All grace. But I am amazed at what the example of one man has done in my life.
And my children's lives.
Because they are watching us, those little people that cling to our skirts and wipe their runny noses on our suit coats. They watch us and learn. From some of us they learn that church attendance is negotiable and that the Bible is the book to search for and dust off on a Sunday go-to-meeting morning. From some of us, I hope, they learn that the Bible is the treasure of our lives. To be delved into and lived by. To swim in and to drink up.
Maybe you have a goal to read your Bible this year. Maybe you want to read it all the way through. Or maybe your goal is just to read it daily. Maybe you have already failed in your goal, not because of a lack of desire, but because of a lack of discipline.
Well, get up. Dust off your knees. A just man falleth seven times and riseth up again. (Proverbs 24:16) So don't stay where you fell. Rise up again. Start fresh.
Today is a new day. So it's a new chance.
God's mercies are new every morning.
And all around you, there are people watching and learning from you.
So live a lifestyle of discipline.
Because discipline--not desire--determines destiny.
Other helps on this topic:
Do you need a Bible Reading Plan?
It's not too late for you to read through your Bible this year! If that is one of your goals, don't give up. Try out one of these six Bible reading plans.
Have you made goals for this year?
If not, it's never too late to make some. These goal planning worksheets can help you in your endeavor.
Are you determined to follow through on your resolutions or goals for this year?
Read this article by Michael Hyatt on How To Make New Year's Resolutions Stick.
*It is often hard to nail down the origin of quotes. I don't know who said this first, but he was wise.
How do you teach a not-yet-reader to love the Word of God?
In addition to reading the Bible to them from a young age, here are 5 other ways.
5 WAYS TO TEACH YOUNG CHILDREN TO LOVE THE WORD OF GOD
1. Listen to the Bible on CD. (Or, in this day and age, you can stream it.)
When I was a child, my father often had tapes of the Bible playing in our house. Even before I could read, I loved the intonation of the words of the Bible as read by Alexander Scourby. This year one of my goals is, whenever possible, to have my children go to sleep listening to the Bible on CD. My children really enjoy this.
2. Read Bible Stories to Them.
I remember in vivid detail the night I asked Jesus to save me from my sins. I was about four years old, and we had read the story of Christ's death on the cross during our family devotional time. Every time I think of that night, I think of the picture of Jesus on the cross from the Bible story book we read. The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes is still one of my favorite Bible story books for little children and we use it for devotional times with our little ones. My children have loved that particular book so much that we have gone through 4 or 5 copies of it. It is hard to find now; the publisher has updated it with cartoon-like pictures, which is a real shame because the original pictures are stunning. I highly recommend the original book for children ages 1-6.
3. Teach them Bible songs.
We had a favorite song we sang to each of our babies when we put them down to bed. In addition, with our twins, David and Daniel, we started singing "Only a Boy Named David" and "Dare to Be a Daniel" to them before they were even born. Do you teach your children songs at a young age? Here are some great ones to use:
4. Memorize, Memorize, Memorize.
The early years are "parrot" years. Little children are like sponges and they love to memorize. The verses you teach your toddlers will stick in their minds for years to come. In kindergarten, my class memorized a major portion of Hebrews 11 and to this day I retain most of those verses in my long-term memory. Don't underestimate the ability of even very young children to memorize. A 2- or 3-year-old child can memorize whole passages of Scripture. Memorizing is fun for small children.
5. Set a good example.
Let them see you reading your Bible in the mornings. They will automatically pick up on your love for it. Instill a respect in them for your devotional time. When my young ones wake up early and interrupt my Bible time, I try to remind them that this is Mama's most important time of the day because I am learning about God. In addition, my little ones watch the older children read the Word of God in the early mornings. Your children innately know what is important to you and it shapes their own worldview.
These are just five of many ways to teach young children to love the Word of God. If we want them to learn while they are still young to let the Word of God dwell in them richly, we must be intentional with our parenting.
Of course, we should always remember that the end goal is to teach them to love the God of the Word. It is through the Word of God that they will come to know, trust, and worship Him.
What do you do to teach your children to love the Bible at a young age?
If you are longing to experience the full beauty of the Biblical metanarrative, try a 90 Day Bible Reading Plan. Here are some of the pros and cons.
On New Year's night, exhausted from watching the unbelievable fireworks here in Metro Manila on New Years Eve, I put the kids down early for bed and picked up Women of the Word, a book I was borrowing from a friend. Unable to put it down, I finished the book within a couple of hours. In it, author Jen Wilkin mentions the idea of studying the Bible with perspective: understanding where each passage fits in the Biblical metanarrative. I was drawn to the idea of firming up my own memory of the Biblical timeline by doing a quick read-through of the entire Bible. (Many years and six children have occurred since my graduate school Bible classes.)
Because of this, I started the New Year with a prayer that God would show me what to do in my devotions this year. After I prayed about this, my husband came into the room to tell me that he had purchased a 90 Day Bible for Kindle. I was immediately struck with the idea that this was probably the Lord's answer to my prayer. So he shot it to my Kindle, and this is the plan I am currently using in my devotional time. Timmy, my 11-year-old, also wanted to use this plan. (This blesses a Mama's heart!) And I have a dear friend who is planning to do a similar plan. So there are three of us doing this and we plan to hold each other accountable.
The Pros and Cons of a 90 Day Bible Reading Plan
What are the pros and cons of a 90 Day Bible Reading Plan?
Do you want a plan for reading through your Bible this year? Here are six different options.
Shortly after we were married, I horrified my husband with my free-spirited approach to reading the Bible.
"What did you read in your devotions today?" he asked one morning.
"I finished Romans," I told him. We had a great conversation about what we had read and learned.
The next day, he asked again: "What did you read in your Bible this morning?"
"I started Jeremiah," I replied, cheerfully.
My husband cannot fathom a person who reads their Bible out of order.
Each and every year, since I have known him, he has read through his Bible. In order. Genesis to Revelation. Or maybe Chronological order. Or one of those plans where you read a passage from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament. He has read the McCheyne Bible Reading Plan. Twice he has read the Greek New Testament. He even spent one year reading the Amplified Bible. (He jokes that he read his Bible one and a half times that year.)
But never since he has been a grown man has he considered bouncing around the Bible randomly. Me? I was the ball in the pinball machine.
Now, please don't misunderstand. I loved reading my Bible. I read it faithfully. I just didn't love reading Jeremiah and Ezekiel back to back. Or Leviticus and Numbers. I liked breaking it up by reading something else in order to keep on swimming through. Catch a breather in the Psalms, for instance. Then hold my nose and dive back into the deep end of the major prophets.
So for several years he looked at me with fond discomfort in his eyes when I shared with him my unconventional devotional tactics. He was very glad I was reading my Bible, of course. Just a little perturbed about my way of doing it.
But then something happened.
One year, I finally decided to join those faithful souls who systematically read through their entire Bible in one year. With a plan.
I fell deeper in love with my Bible.
I saw new vistas. I noticed new details. I made new connections. There is an amazing blessing to reading through the Bible systematically.
This new way of reading my Bible initiated a time of real spiritual growth growth in my life. In fact, I have been so blessed by the results of reading through my Bible in a year, in a systematic way, that I now wholeheartedly encourage others to do the same thing. It is a wonderful thing. If you haven't tried it yet, you absolutely should start doing it right now.
Here are five different options for Bible Reading Plans:
That gives us six different options for using a plan to read through our Bibles this year. If none of these six options suit you, pick a different plan. Search the internet. There are literally dozens of options. If you have a favorite reading plan that I did not include, please do us all a favor and link to it in the comments below!
Whatever the case, let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly this year.
PS--In my next post I will share which of these reading plans I am using this year that I am really excited about.
Tim and Laura
Timothy and Laura Berrey are missionaries with Gospel Fellowship Association. They share a passion for missions which has taken them to several countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe. They currently minister in the Philippines.
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