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How to Teach Your Kids the Ten Commandments

Although my ministry primarily sees that I work with adults, I recently had the opportunity to teach a one-hour class on the ten commandments to young teenagers. I provided a handout and back and forth commentary on the subject. Below you will find part of my teaching approach. Feel free to use it and adapt it to your audience.

How to Teach Your Kids the Ten Commandments

1. Read the Ten Commandments Aloud

The ten commandments will be found in Ex. 20:1-21 and Deut. 5:1-21. The first thing to do is to open up your Bible and read the ten commandments aloud. You read from Exodus and let your kids read from Deuteronomy (or the other way around). Either way, it’s important to start by actually reading the commandments.

You could also consider providing literary context for the ten commandments. Explain why God gave them to the Israelites, why the ten commandments are in the part of the Bible that they are in and not in another place, what happened before and after the giving of the ten commandments, and so on.

You can mention that God rescues the Israelites from Egypt first, then he provides the ten commandments. You can say that they are meant as a guide to show the Israelites how to live, that they reveal one’s need for a Savior, and that they all apply today in equal measure. This will bridge into an overview of our subject.

2. Provide a Quick Overview of the Ten Commandments

Now that you’ve read the ten commandments aloud and have provided a few thoughts on their historical and literary context, you can now provide a quick overview of them (although there will be some overlap).

A quick overview can look like this:

• The ten commandments can be found both in Exodus 20:1-21 and Deuteronomy 5:1-21.

• The ten commandments were written by God himself (Exodus 31:18).

• The first four commandments deal with your relationship with God. The last six commandments deal with your relationship with others.

• All of us have broken all of the ten commandments. We will not obey them perfectly. Part of the purpose of the ten commandments is to reveal our sin and our need for a Savior. And the Savior is Jesus.

• Through the ten commandments, God is not trying to burden you from being happy. It’s actually the opposite. He is liberating you to show you the right way to live and be happy, and that’s through following God’s rules.

• Of all the literature in history, few things have shaped the way Christians live than the ten commandments. They are very important to learn, study, memorize, and obey!

3. Concisely Write Down the Ten Commandments

I did this part. But I did not make my students do so. When teaching your kids the ten commandments, it may be helpful to require them to write them down in their own words. Writing aids learning. They will discover new insights when the pen meets the paper.

Here is a concise list of the ten commandments:

Commandment #1: You shall have no other gods before Yahweh.

Commandment #2: You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is in the earth beneath or that is in the water under the earth.

Commandment #3: Do not take or use the Lord’s name in vain.

Commandment #4: Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.

Commandment #5: Honor your father and mother.

Commandment #6: Do not murder.

Commandment #7: Do not commit adultery.

Commandment #8: Do not steal.

Commandment #9: Do not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Commandment #10: Do not covet.

4. The Ten Commandments: A Quick Summary in Simple Language

The next thing you want to do is provide a quick summary of each commandment. I got this idea from John Frame who, in his book The Doctrine of the Christian Life, provides a summary of the ten coin his own words. I have done the same below. No doubt, the language I choose was influenced both by Frame and the footnotes in my ESV Study Bible.

Here are the ten commandments in my own words. Remember, this is for kids, so it’s important to use simple language.

Commandment #1: The God of the Bible is the one and only true God. All other gods are false and fake. Therefore, your worship should be given exclusively to God.

Commandment #2: Do not try to worship God through objects or images. Do not create an image to worship it; do not worship anything created. Worship the God of the Bible alone.

Commandment #3: Be careful when speaking about God with your words. Do not use God’s name disrespectfully or irreverently.

Commandment #4: You should use your time and talents to glorify God as much as you can. You should work hard at your job, but one day a week you should not work at all. This doesn’t mean you cannot perform any activities whatsoever on the Sabbath; it means you should not do work on your job for what you do for a living on the Sabbath.

Commandment #5: Although you may not always agree with your parents, God decided whom your parents would be, and they represent God to you. Therefore, you should treat your parents with proper respect. This includes your actions and your words.

Commandment #6: Although some people will make you mad, you should forgive them. Never perform physical harm to anyone.

Commandment #7: Sex is a gift from God to be enjoyed only in the context of marriage between one man and one woman. Lord willing, if you get married someday, you should remain sexually faithful to your spouse, and should save yourself for marriage.

Commandment #8: Be content with what you have. Do not take the possessions of others without first asking for permission.

Commandment #9: You should care about your neighbor’s (i.e. anyone and everyone) reputation and legacy. Therefore, you should never use your words (i.e. slander, gossip, etc.) to spread false lies about them, either in person or online.

Commandment #10: Be content with what God has given you, and do not obsess over what he has not given you.

5. The Ten Commandments from the Catechism

Next, we’ll use The New City Catechism as a helpful tool. It is a catechism that provides questions and answers on various theological topics. Specifically, questions 9 – 13 deal with the ten commandments. In my class, I asked the question, and we all said the answer in unison. It was encouraging to hear biblical truth in unison.

6. The Ten Commandments: What They Forbid and Promote

Finally, you may consult my article The Ten Commandments: What They Forbid and Promote. In this piece (which I learned from others) I mention that there is more to the ten commandments than what meets the eye. It will be helpful for your kids to see that the ten commandments, although brief, are much deeper than most people think.

There is, to be sure, much overlap in my process. But saying the same thing over and over again, but in different ways, helps promote learning.

Teaching your kids the ten commandments is important. I hope this quick guide helps you along the way.


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