DULUTH — As a children’s ministry veteran of more than 20 years, Maria Brannen has repeated often the biggest factor for children to have a strong relationship with Christ as an adult.
But that doesn’t mean she’ll stop saying it.
“The biggest predictor of spiritual maturity as young adults is that kids regularly read their Bible,” said Brannen, state missionary with Open Groups and Faith Development. “Growing up … we know that foundation [is important] of reading God’s word [and] memorizing the books of the Bible.”
Those habits, she explained, enable children to find passages when life calls for Scripture’s wisdom.
Georgia Baptist Mission Board Executive Director J. Robert White began an interview with Brannen by proving her point. White, who turned 72 on May 6, started with reciting every book of the Bible. That skill, he stated, came from him learning the books as a child.
“I remember being a Bible driller … [and] in Vacation Bible School also being taught the books of the Bible. You know, you never lose it.”
After listing the books, White wondered aloud how many church leaders and pastors could do the same also learned it as children. The implication is that when children become familiar with Scripture at an early age, it’s only natural for the lessons found therein to become part of their lives.
“As Christian families, we are probably not surprised at the importance of regularly reading the Bible revealed in the ‘Nothing Less’ study by Lifeway,” Brannen told The Index in a separate interview. “However, in the midst of busy family and church schedules, we have to be intentional in making Bible reading a priority for our Kids and families. Our Kids in the Word Challenge is a great tool to intentionally spend time in God’s Word: reading the Bible and developing lifelong Bible Skill habits of knowing the books of the Bible and memorizing scripture.
A summer strategy
Citing the LifeWay study that backs up the premise, Brannen announced a discipleship strategy for the summer that can help kids become more familiar with Scripture.
The Kids in the Word Summer Challenge builds from four initiatives, she explained:
- Every child has a Bible.
- Memorize the books of the Bible.
- Read the same book of the Bible. This summer’s book is Luke.
- Memorize ten verses.
A printable resource lists all 66 books of the Bible, recommended Scripture verses for memorization, and a place to share their favorite story or passage.
“This is a great resource to begin that foundation of regularly spending time in God’s Word,” she stressed.
The strategy can be used with families and small groups, but Brannen shared a story of a grandmother with other plans. A common practice is for children to spend a few days or even a week with grandparents during the summer. One granny saw an opportunity for an eternal impact.
At the end of a recent presentation she approached Tim Smith, state missionary in Groups and Faith Development. Looking over the initiative and summer challenge, she said, “We’re going to do this this summer.”
Smith assumed she had referred to, perhaps, a children’s Sunday School class she taught. He proceeded to ask what church she attended.
Oh no, she corrected him.
“We’re going to use it at ‘Nana Camp’ this summer. I’m going to use it as my grandkids spend time with me.”
“I love that, to hear of parents and grandparents [taking those steps] because God gives us that spiritual responsibility … to introduce our kids to Christ,” Brannen told White.
Flexible and free
Brannen told The Index that children’s ministry leaders already implementing the challenge include Rebecca Willoughby at Tabernacle Baptist in Cartersville and Susan Allen at First Baptist Statesboro.
“The great thing about this tool is it is flexible and free,” she said. “Families and churches can download it from our website and use the tool in a variety of ways: Churches can incorporate it as part of a Sunday School class or Wednesday class during the summer regardless of curriculum they are using. Churches can use it as a summer family discipleship emphasis encouraging families to spend time in the word together.
“Parents or Grandparents can download this resource and use it individually for their families. These are just a few of the ways this tool can be used this summer.”