It is tremendously important for parents to model a lifestyle that is based on scripture. During the cadence that is a family’s daily routine, it needs to be obvious that in every action and decision the Word of God is the guiding factor. That’s what Deuteronomy 6:6-7 is referring to when it commands parents to teach God’s Word when they’re at home and when they’re traveling, when they lie down at night and when they get up in the morning. It’s important to live a lifestyle of devotion and to take advantage of the teachable moments that just happen. A huge message, though, comes when parents set aside a specific time to address God’s Word as a family. Family devotions is not a 4-letter word. It’s not old school. It’s still an incredibly important part of the spiritual formation of a child. Family devotions are one more way that parents can say along with Joshua (24:15), “As for me and my family, we will worship the Lord.”
The biggest hurdle in establishing a routine of family devotions is getting parents past the intimidation phase. They have this misconception that they need to be biblical scholars in order to lead their kids. The thought of family devotions is big and overwhelming in their minds. The idea is not to impress your kids with your incredible knowledge but to open the Bible and learn together … take a spiritual journey together. Kids are impressed and more open to a deeper relationship when their parents aren’t afraid to admit they have much to learn. Just do it! Step into the shallow end of the pool and get started. Zechariah 4:10 tells us to not, “despise this small beginning, for the eyes of the Lord rejoice to see the work begin.” God is high-fiving every family that takes that first step.
Families need something to experience together. Jesse has soccer practice. Petra is going to a birthday party. Dad’s got a meeting at church. Mom’s got to pick up this week’s groceries. And Aidan has a driver’s ed lesson. Everybody’s busy doing things they enjoy, but they’re not together. Creative family devotions can give families a game to play, or something to build, or a place to go … TOGETHER! And, while they’re having fun being together, their activity can be pointing them to deeper biblical truth. It can actually be a memory-maker! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have kids look back on the times when their family came together to understand God’s Word as some of their most fun and engaging times?
As a children’s pastor, one of your responsibilities is to come alongside parents, encouraging them and equipping them. Parents stepping up as spiritual leaders in their homes is a win for everyone. But the old ideas and boring recollections need to be shed. Memories of growing up listening to story after story being read from a Bible storybook with few pictures and no opportunity to interact keep parents from getting excited about leading family devotions with their own kids. That’s the only way the generations before us did this special family time. So, one of the first things we have to do is to help cleanse their pallets. When you’ve eaten something that wasn’t to your liking, you need to cleanse your pallet before trying the next dish. Let’s start with a clean slate and show parents all the potential of participating in family devotions.
I’m told that new habits take 30 to 40 repetitions before they actually become a habit. That leaves plenty of time to slack off and let this new habit fall by the wayside. As a children’s pastor, you can be the prompter that keeps parents thinking about their new family habit. There are lots of opportunities to do this—some official and some very casual. When you’re out to dinner with a young family, mention something your family has done recently in the family devotion time. If you have a MOPS group, provide an activity idea at each meeting. Put a little reminder or idea in the church newsletter. Start a Facebook page where families can share what they’ve been doing together. If you offer a parenting course/class, then make one session on the importance of having a time for family devotions. The critical thing is to just keep it at the front of your mind and open your mouth whenever you have the chance.
One of the main ways you can encourage your parents is by providing them ideas and resources. Here are a few starting points for inspiration.
- Music – Choose a contemporary Christian song, listen to it and explore its meaning. You can download the lyrics online.
- Video – Watch a scene from a video and discuss your reactions to it. These could be Christian videos or something the kids have been anxious to watch. This will give you a big opportunity to deal with present day issues.
- Object Lesson – Take any object from around the house and think about its characteristics and properties. Does something about it remind you of scripture?
- Science Experiments – Kids absolutely love science experiments, and so do parents! Observe the experiment and then think of a verse that it reminds you of.
- Snacks – The kitchen is a natural place for the family to gather. Play with your food and come up with snacks that depict part of a Bible story.
- Service Project – Probably one of the most powerful ways to do family devotions is to step outside the family. Talk about needs that you recognize in situations around you, discuss what you could do to help out … and then do it together!
- Art – Crafts are fun, but expressing yourself through art is even a better learning experience. Choose a scripture and then use play dough, sidewalk chalk or water colors to depict what that scripture means to you.
- Drama – Fun, fun, fun! Kids love putting on a play for their parents or whoever will watch. Help them come up with costumes and props; then, get the entire family in on acting out a Bible story.
- Photo Albums. Pull out the photo album and choose one photo. Tell how that person has impacted your life or talk about what situation this photo makes you think of. What did you know about God at that point in your life? How have you changed (or has the person in the photo changed) since that photo was taken?
Just look at that list! Using those ideas alone can make family devotions a hit for a long time. And, that’s just a few ideas to whet the appetite.
As you help your parents see the importance in setting aside a time to come together as a family to enjoy one another while looking into the Word of God, there are some helpful guidelines that will increase the chance of family devotion success.
Get input from everyone. Life is busy, so get input from everyone about what days and times are best. Schedules are crazy and you want buy-in from everyone. Family devotions don’t have to be every day. I give you permission to slay that dragon right now. Start small and increase when you feel comfortable. On the “off” days, encourage personal time alone with the Word and then hold everyone accountable when you come together. Share what you’ve learned on your own.
Vary where you do your devotions. If you’re using a hammer as an object lesson, then take everyone to the garage to sit on boxes, the tool chest or a bicycle seat. Head out on a picnic. Go to the backyard. Find a corner at McDonald’s. Sit around a bonfire.
Let different family members lead. If you have family devotions on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, then Mom can take Mondays, Dad on Wednesdays, and the kids can take turns on Saturdays. As kids get older, this gives them the opportunity to develop their own leadership skills and experience discipling others.
Stick with one point. It’s real tempting to go off on a tangent or, as my Daddy would’ve said, “head down a rabbit trail.” Your family devotion time should center around one idea, one topic. Unless it’s an urgent situation that the family needs to work through right then, try to keep everyone focused on the central concise idea.
Keep it simple. Provide parents with simple guidelines for activities that take very little preparation. One way to make even a complicated activity feel more simple is to have different family members gather the supplies. Everyone heads off on the scavenger hunt for their one ingredient and then reports back where all the supplies are brought together.
Respect one another’s time. Finish on time. If you promised to be done in time for a TV show finale or a football game, then make sure you keep that promise. There’s a big lesson for your kids when you keep your commitment … even when it’s simply ending on time.
Make prayer an essential element. Your time of prayer should be more than listing praying requests. Kids need to be taught that prayer is about coming into the very real presence of God. It’s a time when we seek His guidance and leading, strength and wisdom to go through all life’s situations.
Be real. Parents need to talk about how they dealt with an issue or are presently dealing with it. Family devotions isn’t about kids spilling their guts and parents spewing out the answers; it’s about every member of the family growing closer to each other as they all grow closer to God.
Each family devotion is about intentionally addressing the Word of God together as a family. In your role as children’s pastor, you can elevate the importance of this set-aside family time by providing parents with resources and the persistent encouragement to keep at it.
Resources for Family Devotions
Splink from the D6 Family – a weekly newsletter with activities for the family to engage in around a central theme – D6family.com/splink
Dr. Devos Lickity-Split Devotions by Chris Tobias
The Kitchen Table – Part of The Kitchen kids’ church curriculum, www.kidzmatter.com/kitchen
Videvos – YouTube videos that include an accompanying devotion with each one
Egermeier’s Bible Storybook – 360+ Bible stories in narrative form