How you can study the Bible with your kids

A tool to help children REAP from God’s Word

January 26, 2021

Through the years, my wife and I have used and enjoyed many Bible paraphrases with our young kids. We loved seeing our kids’ imaginations come alive as the authors of these children’s Bibles communicated the story and truths of Scripture in artful and skillful ways. As our children grew up, however, we became eager to help them read and learn from an actual English translation of the Bible rather than from paraphrases. While a good children’s Bible is wonderful, there is no substitute for the actual words of God.

Though there are passages of the Bible—even entire books—that are difficult for children to understand, there are many sections that a typical 8- to 12-year-old child can easily grasp. Indeed, it could be argued that there are texts that a child may have an easier time understanding than an adult, as Charles Spurgeon does: “The opinion that children cannot receive the whole truth of the gospel is a great mistake, for their childlikeness is a help rather than a hindrance; older people must become as little children before they can enter the kingdom.”1Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Come Ye Children: Practical Help Telling Children About Jesus (Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2009) Due to their intrinsic childlike faith, children can often believe and internalize the simple and beautiful truths of Scripture faster and easier than adults can.

When my church wanted to develop a resource to help grade-school kids read the actual words of Scripture, we decided to use the same method we use to teach adults, contextualized for kids. This method, called the REAP method, walks through the inductive Bible study method in four steps: read, examine, apply, and pray.

READ: The goal of the first step, read, is to answer the question, “What does the Bible say?” This is the observation step of the inductive method. When guiding kids through this step, first read the passage together, and then ask them to retell the story or passage back to you in their own words. You could also act out the passage together, or ask simple comprehension questions. Ensure that the child understands what happened in the text before moving on to the next step.

Due to their intrinsic childlike faith, children can often believe and internalize the simple and beautiful truths of Scripture faster and easier than adults can.

EXAMINE: In the examine step, we answer the question, “What does it mean?” This moves beyond comprehension to interpretation. The key word to keep in mind here is “curiosity.” Ask a lot of questions of the text such as, “Why is it this word instead of another word?”, “What do you think God thinks about what happened?”, or, “Why did this character take that action?” The good news is that you can tap into a child’s natural curiosity during this section. You may even want to let them ask you questions in this step rather than the other way around.

APPLY: In the third step, apply, you will guide the child to think about what will be different about them as a result of their reading and understanding. Is there a specific action they want to do more of, or stop doing? Is there an attitude shift that would bring more honor and glory to God? Should time be set aside today to worship God for his goodness? While it is OK to be prescriptive in this step to children, try to hold back at first and see what they come up with. You may be surprised at what applications children glean from the text on their own.

PRAY: For the final step, pray, guide kids to answer the question, “How can I respond to what God has shown me today?” Remind kids that prayers don’t have to sound a certain way, or be a certain length. Help them simply think about what they’ve learned and say something back to God. At first, it may be helpful to prompt them with phrases like, “Dear God, thank You for teaching me . . .”, “Please help me to . . .”, or “I praise you because . . .” But over time kids will learn to pray without this additional help.

Of course, if the child has trusted in Christ and is a believer, this process will be greatly helped by the guidance of the Holy Spirit inside of them. He will help them as they read, examine, apply, and pray. However, even if the boy or girl is still on their journey to understanding and placing their faith in the gospel, this method is still beneficial! It teaches them the practice of reading and understanding the text of the Bible before attempting to apply it to themselves. And who knows? Perhaps even this exercise of REAPing together will be what God uses to bring your child to saving faith in him.

The major advantage of studying the Bible in this way with your kids is that it places God and his Word in the instructor seat rather than you. You, the parent or Sunday school teacher, are the guide and the helper, but the Bible is the one doing the teaching. Some of my favorite times in practicing this method with my kids have been when God has taught them something that I hadn’t yet seen, and I was able to learn and grow alongside them.

This new year, join with your kids in trying this new method of Scripture study together. I pray you will be blessed through this practice as my family and I have.

If you’re looking for more guidance on what passages of Scripture to read with kids or on how this method works, The Austin Stone has created a resource to help. Learn more about and purchase the Kids REAP Journal: Exploring the Bible & 7 Basic Truths Everyone Should Know at austinstone.org/resources.

Photo Attribution:


John Murchison

John serves as the director of The Austin Stone Institute (ASI), a ministry of The Austin Stone dedicated to training leaders through resources, classes, and events. He lives with his wife, Sarah, and four daughters in Austin, TX. He enjoys a good cup of coffee and a book, is an … Read More

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