I was amazed.
My ten-year-old son’s notes during the Wednesday night Bible study rivaled my own. I didn’t have to force him, or even cajole him. He simply held out his hand to receive the study materials offered by our pastor, and got to work.
His spelling wasn’t great, and his sentence structure was lacking. But in this situation—who cares? He was taking the initiative to hear, ponder, and record spiritual truth, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled with this son of mine.
My son—who is working hard to overcome attention-deficit hyperactive behaviors.
My son—who usually struggles to sit through the Sunday morning sermon without being a distraction. And certainly, my hopes that he’ll glean a spiritual truth are often in vain. (Though I don’t stop hoping!)
I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me years ago, but this Wednesday night revelation has prompted me to start encouraging each of my kids in the habit of Bible journaling.
Bible Journaling for Kids
Journaling isn’t a new concept, of course, especially in the academic world. Many Christian adults also use journaling for spiritual reasons with great success, and for good reason.
You see, it’s no secret that humans are extremely forgetful. We forget our keys. We forget to turn on the crock pot. We forget to set our alarms and floss our teeth and get the oil changed.
If we’re so forgetful about those things we experience through our physical senses, how much more do we need to be reminded of spiritual things?
In particular, spiritual journaling aids us in memorializing God’s faithfulness. Just as God commanded the Israelites to pile up stones as a monument after the miraculous crossing of the Jordan (Joshua 4), we also do well to commemorate His work on our behalf. Doing so surely builds our trust in Him as we purpose to remember His past provision.
Journaling also assists us in internalizing God’s truth. Studies show that we tend to both process information better and remember it longer if we write something down (as opposed to simply reading it or hearing it). We have our kids write spelling words and math facts. We have them take notes when listening to historical lectures or completing a science lab. We should encourage them to attend to spiritual truth just as carefully.
Starting a journaling habit as a child will pave the way for reaping lifelong benefits from this practice. So what kinds of things should kids journal about? Here are some ideas:
1. Prayer requests. These might include personal requests of the child, or requests on behalf of others. The best part of this practice is recording the answers and rejoicing in a God who hears our pleas and cares enough to answer.
2. Sermon notes and family devotions. For young children, this could include watching a parent or older sibling take notes, and copying what they are able. It could also mean simply writing out part of the Scriptural text. Adjust your expectations to your child’s abilities, while being diligent to teach them more as they mature.
3. Personal devotions. It’s one thing to record what you learn from your pastor or your parent; it’s a whole new and exciting world when you’re able to record what the Holy Spirit is teaching you personally from the Bible.
5. Scripture they’re memorizing. Not only does this help with the memory process, but it also serves as a great way to review Bible verses kids have already committed to memory.
There are plenty of things a child could journal about, but how do you get them to want to? I have a couple of suggestions.
You know best when it comes to how your child is motivated, but I would encourage you to let him have some ownership of the process. There are lots of decisions to make when you’re implementing this habit, and kids will enjoy having some input into some of them. These decisions will vary depending on the age of the child, but they might include:
- What will I include in my journal?
- Will I have a digital journal, or the old-fashioned paper kind?
- Will I have one journal with various kinds of entries, or a separate journal for each purpose?
- What will my journal look like?
- What should I write with? A fun-colored pen? A pencil?
- When will I journal?
- Who can see my journal?
- How can I remember to use my journal when I need to?
Something else that has motivated my own children is to let their spiritual journaling count as part of their weekly academic work, acting as a replacement for one writing assignment they would otherwise have to complete. My husband and I don’t require journaling (though some parents understandably go that route), but we do try to reward it, in moderation; after all, we do want our kids to learn that journaling offers its own rewards.
Bible journaling is both fun and beneficial, having the potential to bless your child’s walk with God for decades to come. Have you implemented this practice with your kids? If so, what ideas can you share with us?