Out of all segments of the population, adolescents are at the greatest risk for nutritional gaps, consuming low intakes of grains, dairy and dairy alternatives, and fruits and vegetables.1 Snacking, or eating between meals, contributes to approximately 20% of the adolescent diet. Healthful snacking on nutrient-dense food can bridge gaps and improve overall health.2
Participation in our local church, through weekly worship, Sunday school, youth group and/or small groups provides essential and irreplaceable spiritual meals God has given to his church. As a parent, though, I can also provide spiritual “snacks” on God’s word throughout the week to supplement the meals of Bible study and worship we enjoy with our church community.
With a wide age gap and a spectrum of reading ability and interest in our busy household, these Biblical snacks, much like nutrient-dense snack foods, have provided rich nutrients for spiritual growth in my own life and in the lives of my children.
Spaces in our family’s life where these snacks seem especially nourishing are early mornings, at the table, and in the car. For kids and parents who are early risers, the Lectio for Families app provides a daily guided Bible reading and prayer geared towards children, easy to consume while sipping coffee in bed before the day starts. The Lectio for Families international team is a beautiful reminder of the Lord’s promise to the nations, and not just our family. Keeping a handful of devotionals at the table, such as The New City Catechism or Louie Giglio’s God and Science devotional series, provides a grab-and-go snack on God’s truth at meals. In the car, Champ Thornton’s In the Word, On the Go podcast or a Shane and Shane playlist can give a family extra nutrients of scripture on your way to a practice or an appointment.
The church calendar also provides our family with opportunities for Biblical snacking throughout the year. Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost offer an annual cycle to meditate and reflect on particular portions of Scripture in a way that are repeated year after year, becoming family tradition. The summer camp I grew up going to has a practice of encouraging campers to read one of the four Gospels while at camp, a habit I have continued for nearly 35 years and hope will be passed on to my kids. I’m also thinking about using The Bible Project app with my kids this summer, a good audio/visual option for the non-readers in our household.
Just as placing a bowl of apples on the kitchen counter nudges us towards eating more fruit, creating places and spaces where our family has easy access to the Bible may nudge us towards reading God’s Word more often.
Studies on the Mediterranean diet have taught us that whole geographical regions are healthier when everyone is following a similar, healthy diet. If a student athlete can find teammates who will commit to drinking more water with her, the whole team will be well hydrated. We all eat healthier when our family and friends partner with us to make better choices.
Similarly, parents can partner with their pastors and ministry leaders to coordinate and integrate Scripture into family worship. I am often motivated and encouraged by the creative ways that our church staff communicates what they are teaching and how we can partner with them to bring those discussions in our home with our kids. It might be a text message about what was discussed in youth group, an email with questions from the sermon to use in small group, a memory verse card for members to take home, or a cross-generational effort to coordinate the study of a book of the Bible in women’s Bible study and youth group at the same time.
Christian schools, camps, and ministries often post Bible verses on social media that can be simple conversation starters. Ask questions like: is this verse from the New Testament or the Old Testament? Who wrote/said it – a prophet, Jesus, Paul? What does it tell us about God? Jesus? The Holy Spirit? What does it tell us about ourselves or how we should treat others?
Snacks are not the same as meals, and health often declines as snacking increases and meals decrease.3 No amount of Christian music or podcasts I expose my kids to can replace the “building up” or “equipping the saints” that regular attendance and active participation in a local church gives them (Ephesians 4:11-16). When we take our kids to church week after week and model a selection of social media, music, apps, and podcasts that help us taste and see that the Lord is good, we are exposing kids to a variety of ways to intake God’s word throughout their day, week, or year. The hope is to increase their consumption and establish a habit of ingesting God’s word throughout their life and across various platforms.
Kids need the whole Bible and the full picture of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. The only fully balanced “meal” is the gospel. Together, churches and parents serve kids through weekly worship – along with snacks – to get all they need.
As I waited in carpool line with my kindergartner, the morning after a school shooting that impacted people we know and love, I asked her,
Who is always with you, even when mommy and daddy can’t be with you?
She responded, “Jesus.”
And who is with you when you are afraid or worried?
Again, she responded, “Jesus.”
And then she asked if we could listen to The Goodness of God by CeCe Winans.
A verse from the song says, “I love Your voice. You have led me through the fire. In darkest night, You are close like no other. I’ve known You as a Father. I’ve known you as a Friend. And I have lived in the goodness of God.”
My daughter has only been “snacking” on God’s Word for a few years. Can you imagine the middle school, high school, or college student who has been given Bible-filled snacks for 10, 15, or 20 years? What about the parent or grandparent who has snacked on God’s word for 40 or 60 years?
Reading the Bible, through feasting with your church and snacking with your family, teaches us and our children to love the voice of God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Bible-filled places, partners, and patterns in our lives are where we come to know Him as Father and Friend, even through the fire and especially in darkest night.
- Amidor, T. (2021). Children’s Health: Healthful Snacking — A Practical Guide for Parents of Young Children Through Adolescents. Today’s Dietitian, Vol. 23, No. 8, P. 16.
- Almoraie, N. M., Saqaan, R., Alharthi, R., Alamoudi, A., Badh, L., & Shatwan, I. M. (2021). Snacking patterns throughout the life span: potential implications on health. Nutrition Research, 91, 81-94.
- The Nutrition Source. (2021, February). The Science of Snacking. Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/snacking/