Let’s Do Family Devotions
by Karen Whiting
Parents want their children to thrive and build their faith. Those are top reasons for doing family devotions. Consider other benefits to strengthen your resolve, including ones that promote cognitive and communication skills.
Benefits of Family Devotions
Develops a biblical worldview
Promotes listening and reading comprehension
Helps children understand how God works in their lives
Encourages families to be open to talking about anything
Builds Bible literacy
Helps families develop grateful hearts as they discover more about God’s love
Begins a faith heritage
Plan for Success
The key to success is planning how to do devotions that fit your family’s style and interests. You want to do what works for you and your children, and that may mean trying a few different methods or books. Prepare for success.
Buy the right Bibles for individual members to use that are appropriate for their ages, reading level and learning style. That way the child can learn to look up and read the Scriptures you cover in your devotions. An analytical child may want a Bible with lots of charts and sidebars. A more social child might want a Bible that includes profiles of important people. A visual child might want a study Bible or a Bible that uses colors to highlight different themes. Also buy each child a journal to write or draw his or her thoughts. A kinesthetic learner works best with hands-on activities, so look for a Bible that includes applications or a devotional that includes activities.
Be open to what happens. Studying the Word can take you to unexpected places, like sins people in the Bible committed, struggles and difficult topics. Be willing to discuss various topics, and sometimes you might need to say that you’ll explain it better when they are older and simply state that the person chose to do something that did not please God.
Choose a time and place to have your devotions. It might be good to sit around a table, or your family might prefer to be relaxed on the floor with large pillows. It might be best in the morning before school or in the evenings before dessert. You might want to do them daily or a few days a week when there is less activity on the calendar. Set a time limit, such as ten minutes for younger children, and leave what is unfinished for the next devotional time.
Choose what is do-able. Short devotions or ones that you can choose what parts to do each time you gather may work best. A book of devotions for the family might be just the ticket if it includes elements you want, such as a Bible story, contemporary story, chat questions, an activity and a prayer. When there are a lot of elements, break it down and do a few of each at a time and focus on the devotion for the entire week. Other families might be ready to read a Bible chapter each time as they study one book of the Bible.
When life gets super busy, consider using a set of Scripture cards to read one together as a family and discuss that. Or, reread the main devotional Scripture of the week each day and ask a different question, such as what do the words mean, how can we apply the verse tomorrow, or use the time to provide a short summary of the Bible story that contains the verse.
Make a commitment as a family and follow through. Be enthusiastic and flexible. Use the time to express joy at reading the Word together. If one type of devotion doesn’t work well, try another. Give each one a good trial period before switching.
Be realistic and understand each child’s ability. If the words are too hard, find a Bible or devotional on their level of understanding.
Be reading the Bible yourself so you have a wider knowledge.
Be real. If you are new to reading the Bible yourself, admit you don’t have all the answers, but you’ll discover what’s in the Bible together and it will be a family adventure.
If possible, read devotions ahead, including the entire Bible passage for any verse. You’ll be more prepared for your children’s questions and comments.
Be ready for children’s responses. For example, the day after reading about the persistent widow who kept knocking on the judge’s door, my younger daughter kept pestering me for a toy. When I asked her to stop, she said, “I want to be like the widow who kept knocking.” We read the passage again, and I pointed out that the widow needed protection to keep her safe. Wanting a toy is not a big need like safety, or a basic need like food and shelter.
Be adaptable. Change things up at times, such as going outdoors for devotions or doing them in the car when it’s a day filled with activities. Let children read the devotions or lead a discussion. Do an activity that reinforces a lesson, such as enjoying trees and climbing a tree or hill after reading about Zaccheus, a man who climbed a tree to see Jesus
Use an incentive if needed. We skipped dessert on devotion nights if we didn’t do the devotions. We said if we had no time for God’s Word, we should not enjoy sweets, because God’s Word is sweeter than honey. That encouraged our children to get ready fast for bed and finish any schoolwork or cleaning up from the day quickly. Other families fill a jar with a marble each time they do devotions, and when it’s filled, they choose an outing or treat to celebrate their success.
Build a Legacy
Capture the memories with photos of family devotions and any activities done with the lessons. Put them in a scrapbook or an online log with comments made by children. It’s a great way to build a spiritual heritage.
Enjoy time spent together reading and chatting about God’s Word.
We’d like to hear from you. Please share your comments below or like us on your Facebook page. Be sure to check back each month for more articles and products available at your local Christian bookstore.