Crafting the Word
One evening the teacher of one of my kids told me at the end of a community Bible school that our kids knew more about the Bible than she did. “He could just have taught the class,” she said. I didn’t tell her that he came home and told us he was bored because “it was all stuff I already knew.”
You know why? It wasn’t that our kids were that smart or that we spent time telling them about the stories they would hear that night. It might have been partly because they’d been in Sunday school all their lives, where they learned many of the stories. Yet the real reason was because they’d heard these stories from little up – in our family devotions.
What’s Right about family devotions
There is no one-right-way to do family devotions, but I can guarantee you there are some wrong ways. This is one of those times when there are many roads to get into a city – and you can choose the one that works for your family the best. The purpose of family devotions is to reach an end result, and that includes teaching.
The Why of family devotions is teaching
- about God.
- the stories in the Bible
- how the way we live is based on God’s instructions – found in the Bible.
- prayer by modeling how to pray
- and preparing our children for future relationships and a relationship with God
- about God through singing and talking with each other
The Pull of other things
As parents, we put a lot of money and time into providing things for our children. Consider the time, money, and effort that goes into participation in these things:
- Arts – classes for painting, sketching, pottery, drama or voice
- Counseling – for parents or for children
- Electronic gadgets for entertainment
- 4-H events – talent shows, competitions, camp
- Hobbies – boating, fishing, hunting, baking, needlework, collecting, photography
- Karate – coaching, practice, uniforms
- Music lessons – lessons, instruments, and music
- Sports – equipment, uniforms, and travel for events
- Therapy – physical, occupational, or speech
- Tutors for children who need extra help in a subject
- Video games or computer games
Parents want their children to do well and to be prepared for life. Too often, the focus is only on the NOW instead of helping them prepare for life in the real world as they head toward Eternity. If we have time for any of the extracurricular things listed above, then we have time for family devotions.
Scripture instructs us to talk of God’s ways with our children. We are to do this when we’re walking, sitting, standing, or talking. This is what Scripture says:
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
One of the ways to do this is a focused time as a family. We need to be intentional, and we need a plan. The plan will change with the ages of the kids and additions to your family. Your plan might not work for someone else’s family. That’s okay. Usually families focus on the understanding of the older children, but you can mix things up so that one evening the story will be on an elementary level and another evening it can meet the needs of middle or high school children.
A child is never too young for family devotions. An infant will enjoy the music and movement of older siblings and the voice of his father or mother reading out loud. When a toddler can help sing or do motions for a song, he can participate in family devotions. A family devotional time doesn’t have to be thirty minutes, but it can be longer. Five minutes is enough for a toddler, but do the five minutes! Sing a few songs with motions, tell a story or learn a Bible verse together, and pray. Repeat the routine regularly and increase the time as your child gets older. Not only will your toddler learn songs and Bible verses, he will also learn to sit still, which is great practice for church.
If this seems daunting because you’ve never done this, begin with one night a week. Remember this means 52 stories in a year! Make it a family evening – a kid-friendly supper, an activity or game in which everyone participates, then seal off the evening with a special devotional time. When we began doing family devotions, Dave’s concern was that with church two evenings a week and his evening meetings, we would not be able to have devotions every evening. He subconsciously thought that not succeeding seven nights a week was failure. That’s when I reminded him that once a week was 52 stories in a year.
Be realistic about when and how often. Having family devotions every morning or every evening will probably not be possible. This does not mean you’re a failure. Even two Bible stories a week gives your child 104 stories in one year. Think how many he will hear by the time he’s ten or a teenager! We didn’t sweat adding devotions to the bedtime mix on Sunday and Wednesday evenings because it was late enough for school-aged children. If we were home in the evenings on those other five days of the week, devotions were a priority. Sometimes I needed to go ahead when we knew Dave would be later coming home. Making tired children wait up to have devotions before they can go to bed because we’re waiting on dad isn’t fair to them. It also won’t help them want to be engaged.
Make it for the family. If this devotional time is for the family, it needs to meet the needs of the children and not just the parents. Reading long geneology chapters or other passages without any explanation does little for helping a child understand scripture. Forcing children out of bed early in the morning before dad heads out to work won’t be conducive in helping children learn or even want to learn. Rather, it will stifle their interest in things about the Bible.
When a parent is excited about something, his kids will be excited. When a parent makes something a priority, his kids will find it easier to make it a priority. We do well to model our excitement about God’s word if we expect our kids to make the Word important in their lives when they are grown and gone.
Now that you have some ideas on the What and Why of family devotions, you’re probably wondering how to get started and what to do. There are so many choices and options out there. We incorporated three things in our devotions: music, Bible discussion, and prayer. Next time, I’ll share specifics with you of how we did family devotions. Getting ideas from other parents is great. There’s also another Source – and that’s asking wisdom from God. He will give it – I promise. Just ask.