This article give valuable ideas and insights for your own family devotional times. Get real: Your children have never begged to do family devotions. When you yell, “Devotions time!” you’re lucky if your mate gets excited. And you feel guilty. You, the minister, can’t get your teen to make his bed, much less get him interested in the book of Micah.
We understand. During our eight years in ministry, growing the spiritual lives of our children – Ryan, 15, Rebekah, 13, Richard, 11 – has been tough. Eleven years ago, we reasoned that our children’s Sunday school teachers should bring their faith alive. Then we heard about a man named Lot…
Why Devos? In 1986 we attended a family seminar at which the leader told the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Here’s what the leader said:
“Abraham asked God if he would save Sodom if God could find only 10 righteous people in the city,” he said. “God could not find even 10. But what if Lot, who had at least 10 in his extended family, had build biblical principles into the lives of his family? A whole city could have been saved.”
The leader’s message pierced deep. At once, we both realized we were like Lot – neglecting to raise righteous children. Since our kids were young (then 4, 2 and 6 months), we had figured we could just throw together a few Bible stories and go on with our lives. But we were wrong. If we wanted our children to grow into men and women strong in their faith, we had to take action. That day, we committed to giving our children the tools they need to live out a winsome, lively faith.
We soon learned rule No. 1 of successful family devos: You have to keep things moving. We ministers know how easy it is to lecture people – we do it for a living. But kids have a “shut-you-out” button they push in their heads when they hear our “lecture voice,” and they press it twice when they hear it droning during family devos.
So we’ll be direct: Lecturing doesn’t work. If you want to capture your kids’ attention (and ultimately their hearts), keep things moving during family devos. Remember that you’re talking to a generation whose attention spans were formed while playing Nintendo.
Want to know 9 other secrets of great family devos? Here’s what we’ve learned in 11 years of trial and error:
2. Pay attention to what your kids want. When children have input about what your devos will involve, they participate more. Let me illustrate.
Our kids often say, “Let’s read a book about (fill in the blank).” At their request last year, we read Mary L. Williamson’s A Confederate Trilogy for Young Readers (Sprinkle Publications, 1989), a book about Christian men such as Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. We followed with discussions about how these men lived out their faith and how that applies to us.
The result? Not a sleepy eye in the house. The kids consider these readings “cool,” and who are we to argue? The bottom line is that they’re growing in their faith, whether we dub their selections “cool” or not.
3. Get out of the house. Is your definition of devos sitting around in a circle, holding hands, and singing “Soon We Will Be Done With the Troubles of This World”? Open your mind! Real devos – any experience that grows our kids’ relationship with God – also happen outside home and church.
Two years ago we took our kids on a short-term missions trip to Mexico. Seeing Christian service in action on that one trip did more to make their faith real than a hundred lectures about Jonah.
4. Establish devo traditions. We add spice to our devos during holidays. For example, we wash each other’s feet during Easter and have Communion at home. On Christmas Eve, we celebrate Jesus’ birthday by making him a cake. The next morning, we read the Christmas story aloud, pray, and then light a candle and sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus.
We also celebrate each child’s spiritual birthday (the day each became a Christian). Over cake, each family member shares how he’s seen the celebrant grow spiritually in the past year. We end by giving a blessing for the coming year.
5. Take devotions on the road. We pray and talk about spiritual issues as we’re driving. At random, we discuss our children’s quiet times: “What Bible verse are you memorizing?” we may ask. “What are you learning (or asking) about God?” We also invite our children to hold us accountable by asking us similar questions.
6. Remember their ages. When our kids were toddlers, devos were simple. Mere picture Bibles and read-aloud stories held their attention.
As they grew, however, we had to add more “fun”: We formed a Scripture memory party during which we and other families visited each other’s houses. We then took turns quoting Scriptures and finished by enjoying banana splits. Our point? Do whatever it takes to keep your kids motivated.
7. Use humor. Kids love it when Dad is silly. A favorite: When Dino rolls on the floor, pretending to be a tied-up man who can’t get loose. And the kids have to sit on him to keep him from untying himself. Sound corny? Often those times have been just the comic relief our kids needed after devos.
8. Be spontaneous. The kids often pile into our bed at night, and we pray and sing together. Other times, one child will slip into a room with either parent and ramble until she gets to the subject she really wants to talk about. Keep your ears (and schedule) open for these times – the best devos are the unexpected ones.
9. Switch it up. We continually change our devotions time and format. We rotate Bible study and prayer time between mornings and evenings. And one year, while on vacation in Corpus Christi, Texas, we discussed a chapter in the book of James each morning before we went out on the beach.
10. Be real. The last thing your kids want you to do is stand up at the front of the living room and expound on the ecclesiastical symbolism in the Old Testament. They want to hear about you: your fears, your dreams, your struggles with faith. Talk to them about how you became a Christian. Let them ask a lot of questions. And remember: You are a walking, talking “devotion.” The key is to live a Christian lifestyle that your kids can emulate.