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Disclaimer: My struggle with finding a good household devotional book, and my use of My Very First Holy Bible (or a different version of it) as a resource, occurred way before I started blogging for CPH. I was reluctant to write this post at first because I didn’t want it to seem just like an advertisement for a product. After some thought, though, I figured I owed it to my readers to share this resource, since I believe in it so much.
What Is It?
Although My Very First Holy Bible appears to be a simple—albeit rather thick—children’s Bible, don’t be fooled! It’s an ESV Bible in its entirety, including book introductions and the like. What’s different about this version, however, is that interleaved throughout are over 120 full-page illustrations with devotions. These are strategically placed throughout the narrative sections of the Bible to hit many of the high points of the story of salvation.
Before I get into how this can be used as a household devotional resource, there are a few features to point out. First of all, the illustrations are wonderful. These realistic paintings relate to all ages. Second, the index, dictionary, and maps at the back of the Bible are all very well done. Finally, the last section in heavier card stock gives some neat teaching tools for leading up to confirmation.
Why It Works So Well
So, how do we use this resource as a household devotional tool? Below is what I’ve found from my own experience, followed by some other ideas for you to try.
As someone dearly interested in education, I care about content. I care about my household not only being able to recall but also to understand the fundamentals of the faith. The primary resource of our faith is, of course, Scripture. It is the source and norm for what we believe, teach, and confess. As such, I want my household to hold to a high view of Scripture. I also desire to model meditation on God’s Word for my children. So, the first reason My Very First Holy Bible is my favorite household resource is that it focuses on God’s Word. It is an actual Bible.
Second, and critical to devotions, the interleaved Bible stories provide a simple launching point for teaching these stories at home. Each Bible story provides an illustration followed by a story summary. As a bonus, they are the very same illustrations used in other critical CPH products, including the Growing in Christ Sunday School curriculum and The Story Bible. I cannot understate the value of alignment of products and programs around common themes. Please read this blog post for more on this.
Third, the Seek and Find section after each story gives a handful of customization tools for home devotional use. There’s a reference to the book and chapter of the story from the ESV. There’s also a key Bible verse and related Bible readings. Finally, each story includes three key questions to ask of the summary. Though these are perhaps intended for personal Bible study, I submit that these features also serve a different purpose: that of a springboard for household devotions.
How to Use It
In my own experience, the best way to get into a routine of household devotions is to pick a time and place when the household generally gets together. For many, this is either around the table for a family meal or before bed. It doesn’t matter, but find a time to get together (we usually use this resource during dessert after dinner).
Next, keep it simple by starting with the first interleaved story (there’s a list of all the stories on page 1855 in the back). Open up to the illustration and read the story summary out loud. You know the drill—just like an elementary school teacher, read with the illustration facing your kids. The story summaries are a couple of pages long. Regardless, in a few minutes, you’ll have gone over a simple summary of a pivotal Bible story.
After reading the story, spend a couple of minutes with followup. This is where the Seek and Find section offers some great possibilities. Here are some options to consider:
- Ask one or more of the Three Key Questions to your household. Just ask one at a time, which practices recall of the major themes of the story.
- If your learners are really young, name something in the illustration and have your learners point it out.
- Also, if you have really little ones, it may be best to encourage them to act out certain actions of the story as you go.
- If they’re older, have them look up the story in the Bible itself when you’re done. This would encourage deeper learning after the devotion for a more developed learner. The Lutheran Study Bible is a wonderful resource, with bonus study material for older learners.
- Also have older learners investigate one or two of the related Bible readings from the Seek and Find section. This is a great introduction to the cross-reference feature used in more advanced study Bibles.
- Read or pray the key Bible verse outlined in the summary. If you’re looking to add memory work into your devotional routine, this is your resource. There’s a main verse built into each story.
- As you go through the stories one by one, try highlighting the key Bible verse for each story. Once you’ve gone through all the stories in this Bible, consider giving it to one of your little learners as a gift.
- If you have a mix of ages or levels in your household, mix up the learning techniques, asking each of the listeners to do one thing. For example, you could ask your preschooler to describe something in the picture, followed by asking one of the key questions of your lower-elementary learner, followed by inviting your upper-elementary learner to look up and read a related reading in his or her own Bible. There you have it, a built-in system for different ages.
- As for sequence, you could pick one story at random from time to time. Better yet, put a marker in the page you’re using. Then the next time you gather for household devotions, you’ll pick up the story where you left off.
Finally, know that this system takes very little time. Say, 5–10 minutes at most. That said, if you commit to doing this devotional five or six times a week with your household, you’ll be through the Bible one time in a matter of months. That certainly can feel like an accomplishment if you’ve struggled to develop a devotional routine.
Model and teach devotional routines in your parish. In my experience, most heads of household are not only untrained in leading devotional routines but they are also terrified of trying and failing. Make teaching how and why a major priority, and you’ll see your parish learn to love meditating on God’s Word. This is always a good thing.
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