Engaging with God’s Word when you have little kids

April 10, 2019

“I used to be really good at reading my Bible but then I became a mom.”

“One day I’ll be able to think deeply again.”

“I just need sleep first.”

“I am barely surviving on podcasts right now. I can’t even imagine sitting to read my Bible.”

These are words that I (and many other parents) have uttered, often in despair or jest. Motherhood, with all of its glorious gifts, has a peculiar ability to turn pre-parental life habits into no longer available aspirations. Overnight you become life giver, caretaker, and soul sustainer to this tiny child that did not come with an instruction manual. Previous routines and rhythms go out the window with no hint of coming back.

When I first became a mom, I could barely figure out how to eat or sleep. Things like showering or reading my Bible felt like luxuries. American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, even has a hierarchy of needs that echoes these sentiments. He proposes that unless your basic needs in life are met (water, food, shelter), you cannot have your psychological or self-fulfillment needs met. As Christians, we cannot afford to place Bible reading and communion with God as a secondary need: It is the nutrition and sustenance for spiritual health. And yet we have multitudes of women trying to press pause on walking with God until they get their kids and their lives under control. This is a deadly habit for Christians. We don’t stand still in holiness until we can resume godly activity. Abiding deeply with Jesus must happen in the chaos of motherhood and the demands of the day. Jesus calls us to follow him in every season of life (John 15:4-7).

Now before you begin to despair, take heart. Salvation and sanctification happen through great weakness and need on our part! Remember that “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12). Abounding in God looks like laying prostrate on the rock of ages more often than it does standing tall with arms lifted in victory. So how do we begin? So what does it look like to engage with God when our kids are young and underfoot?

1. We must recognize that our children are not a hindrance to walking with Jesus.

As moms, we need to live for God with and not in spite of our children. If we think the only way to commune with God is in silence with pleasurable surroundings, then we will view the silence intruders (our children) as an obstacle to walking with God, and that is the exact opposite of Jesus’ message. Not only did he overly welcome the little children any time they were around, he met with sinners in the midst of life. Yes, he took time away to hilltop teachings and isolated prayer and solitude, and we should create space for that too. But the majority of his ministry happened while intersecting with ordinary life, and we need our walks with Jesus to intersect our lives too.

Jesus did not wait for perfect, pristine, holy seeming moments to commune with his people when he was on earth. His entrance on to earth was in a messy, smelly, dirty, noisy manger with insufficient accommodations (sounds like most of my mornings) and his entrance in to our daily lives can be the same. The holy redeemed the mundane.

2. Daily effort is required.

Discipline, boundaries, and intentional effort are required in order to walk with God with little children around. When I was a young mom with one kid and now that I have just had my fourth child, I have stumbled (quite literally) time and again into the same truth. You will not magically carve out time for scripture reading if all you do is give in to the impulses and demands of your day. If a child’s whines, naps and coos instantly became what your life responds to then they will be what defines your life. It is a fight to put Christ first in the midst of motherhood, but let’s remind ourselves that our children need a mom who knows and abides in God more than they need one who immediately grants all their wishes.  

One idea is to learn to read the word with your children around and start when they are young. A year into motherhood with my first child, I was physically weary and spiritually dry. I had tried unsuccessfully to rise early and read my Bible and failed time and again. It was hard to join Bible study groups with time commitments while I nursed a baby. Finally, out of desperation more than anything, I decided I had to read the Bible when my daughter was around.

I’m not going to sugar coat it, it wasn’t any easy habit to develop but one that has reaped infinite rewards. It took about three weeks of daily practice and redirection for my daughter to learn that while mommy sits and reads her Bible she could play very quietly around me. At first, it lasted a glorious fifteen minutes. Now that we’re years in, on a good day I can get 30 to 45 minutes while the kids play in their room or quietly around while I read my Bible. And as my kids have grown, in each new season of life, we re-learn the same habits.

It has become a daily family choice to choose God first. It’s a choosing to say, “wait” and letting Christ be first. Now, my prayer is that as my children watch their mother pour over the scriptures they are also actively learning that their demands do not trump God’s glory. And it is worth the effort.

3. You need the church around you.

We live in a culture where it’s easy to have our only window into godliness be from what happens on a public platform. Public platforms are great for exhorting, preaching, teaching, encouraging, and remembering, but they are not where the actual living happens. Walking with God happens in little moments of everyday life, as you are going through your days with people you know.  Motherhood is a great catalyst to live life with people in the church as lifelines.

The church came to my house the first couple weeks of motherhood and helped me go to the store for the first time. The church would come have play dates in my house and cry, pray, and laugh with me during this season. The church started scripture discipleship groups to hold me accountable to reading the Word. You are one part of the body and you need the rest of the body surrounding you! Praise God for the church. It’s not an optional part of God’s plan. We need the body to thrive.

This morning, as I stumbled downstairs to coffee, my seven-year-old daughter was waiting for me on the couch with her Bible. “Mom, I waited for you to read this Psalm with me,” she said like it was no big deal. Because it wasn’t. She has seen a mother sit and cry and daily surrender and repent for years and now it’s normal. She knows mommy needs Jesus because she watches me commune. She is a child who has seen by sight that her mother is not all sustaining. Mommy is sinful and needy. She has watched me cry and recount stories to her about the amazing God of the universe who is better than life. Most of these while she was playing with dolls, or throwing tantrums next to me, but she watched all the same. She has experienced the holy meeting the mundane for the past seven years and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

So dear friends, for those of you who are parents, let me encourage you to towards the same discipline. Do not forsake spending time with God’s word during this chaotic season. It will not only strengthen your relationship with the Lord, but it will be a model for your children as well.

Sarah Welch

Sarah Welch is a pastor's wife with a background in education. She resides in Raleigh-Durham, NC, where she's raising her four young kids for Jesus.  Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24