By Patrick Showers, Associate Elementary Pastor
Woodland Hills Church
As a parent, there are so many things to figure out. Every child is unique, and as they age, their needs, abilities, and wants change, creating a whole host of other factors that can really make parenting feel like a lifelong apprenticeship. Don’t get me wrong – I love being a dad, but just when I think I’ve figured out something, then a child grows into a new age group, or the next child doesn’t follow the same pattern, or life gets booked up so much that time just seems to go in fast-forward. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that figuring out how and when to guide my children’s spiritual development is equally challenging. Here’s the part where I bear my soul (extreme vulnerability) and admit – gulp – that even as a trained professional children’s pastor, I struggle to teach my own children consistently and effectively at home. Incorporating faith discussions, devotions, and Bible studies are important to me, yet they can’t seem to get any momentum for the long term. Teachable moments are valuable and often great opportunities for children to develop solid faith foundations, but if I’m too busy or unprepared, I miss a prime learning moment. I’ve had successes and failures at being intentional or prepared, but I have diligently tried to model a real, transparent, and humble faith when I think my kids are watching and even when they aren’t. Just as kids pick up language, facial expressions, and mannerisms by watching their parents, they can learn a lot about God through our lives. This takes some of the pressure off and helps to keep me from feeling like a failure. However, it is still good to have some easy-to-use tools to help our kids grow in their faith. So, I want to share a few apps that have become wonderful tools for intentional spiritual development with my kids. They are user-friendly, quick, and can be used anywhere your phone or tablet can go. Incorporating devotions or Bible reading into normal life patterns can be made easy by these apps.
During a family meal, we read a short entry from the Jesus Calling Kids app. This daily devotional based upon the adult book of the same name provides a Bible verse and a short devotion written in God’s voice. Each day’s content is short, easy to read, simple enough for a young preschooler to learn from, and deep enough for adults to be challenged, as well. Sometimes, I’ve found it helpful to reword a passage to be about God and not from His voice to make it easier to understand for our younger children and to avoid confusion of them thinking it is the reader’s personal opinion. The downside to this app is the cost at $9.99.
Another great dinnertime app is called Gabbit Family. Instead of devotions, this app focuses on providing interesting questions or activities to spur on discussion and relational connectedness in short time frames. There are varieties of questions in the free version, and you can purchase more content later if needed. There is also a Gabbit Travel app for fun road trip games and discussions, as well. When kids feel like parents are listening, they are more likely to open up when an issue or question arises, thus providing a teachable moment.
For bedtime Bible reading with children ages toddler through early elementary, check out a free app called Bible for Kids. This multimedia Bible provides interactive Bible stories. Each story has a narrator, interactive illustrations, various quests and challenges, and at least two questions to check for learning. Kids will enjoy the extras while listening and learning. The content is well done and engaging. I love that I can pull my phone out and look at a Bible story anywhere with my children, whether waiting for food at a restaurant or sitting at the library.
Finally, my kids have also enjoyed an app called Superbook. This interactive and multimedia Bible is great for older elementary children (readers). Kids can read a Bible story, take quizzes or play games, watch video clips about certain stories, or look up other facts. There are so many options that our family hasn’t even explored them all yet. This app is also free, which makes it even better in my book.
These apps are helpful tools as we engage, equip, and empower our children in their faith journeys. We can still be intentional in developing a strong faith foundation by modeling our faith and being available for teachable moments, as well, but it sure is nice to have some easy-to-use tools to help us along the way.