Six Lessons from a Year of Family Devotions

This past December, I finally sucked it up and started fumbling my way through leading our family in morning devotions. It’s been a wonderful, and frustrating, experience, and after 12 solid months, I think we’re in it to win it. That is, because we have consistently done this for a year, our kids now know it’s an essential part of what we do as a family.

So maybe some of these things might be help to you, from one dad who is still growing into a spiritual leader in the home, and making plenty of mistakes along the way.

1. Don’t go at it alone. This isn’t just about a husband and wife working together (although if you have that option, it’s obviously helpful). It’s about using a tool to help you. It’s incredibly intimidating to sit with youf family with only the Bible in hand and open it up and read. I think that probably works better when the kids are a bit older, but for now, we’ve found the book, Long Story Short and The Jesus Storybook Bible to be really age appropriate and helpful tools that make family devotion time manageable.

2. Mix it up. There are certain components we have every morning, as guided by the books above. We always pray. We always talk through a Bible passage. But some mornings I ask the kids to act out a scene. Every Friday we ask each kid specifically what they’re thankful or how we can pray specifically for them (most of the time Christian says “milk” for both). But it helps to keep things interesting.

3. Be ready. This has been key for us. In order to make sure we have time before school for devotions, Jana and I have to get up earlier than we used to. We have to be completely ready for the day with breakfast going with the kids get up at 7 (and they get up at 7 every stinking morning). It often means that I read through the devotion the night before. Anything we can do to make the morning run more smoothly is helpful.

4. Make connections to reinforce the whole story of the Bible. I don’t think I’ll ever forget a week ago when we were in the book of Joshua talking through the story of Rahab. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, it’s an incredible gospel-laced account of a woman of questionable reputation who was saved from destruction. And how was she saved? Because she put a red rope on her door, marking her house to be spared. And the lights came on for the kids:

“Do you guys remember any other people that put something red on their doors?”

“Yeah. Like when that angel killed people.”

“Correct. It was the Passover. And why was that called the Passover?”

“Because the angel passed over their houses.”

“And what did the Israelite army do to Rahab’s house?”

“They passed over it.”

And so on it went, eventually to remind us that the wrath of God passes over us because our lives are marked with something red – the blood of Jesus. The kids thought this was genuinely exciting, and they felt genuinely smart because they saw how it all fit together.

5. Think about the long term. There are spiritual moments with your children that are paper thin, and they don’t seem to happen that often. It’s those times when you really sense they are understanding the nature of sin and our great need for forgiveness, and then they’re thinking about Pokemon again. Paper thin moments, but they’re there.

Every morning isn’t a home run. Sometimes it’s a sacrifice bunt that you believe that God will somehow use in the story of their lives. So we choose, by faith, not to be discouraged, but instead to believe in a God who is drawing our kids’ hearts to Himself.

6. Show up. This is the biggest one I think. Just show up. It’s hard to get started. Harder still to maintain. But if we really believe in the power of God and the power of the Bible, then just show up at the table every morning. And then tomorrow, show up again.

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7 comments on this post.
  1. Kelly M.:

    This is so encouraging! Taras and I started having family devotions with Abigail as part of her bedtime routine early this year. She’s only 2 1/2, so most nights all we manage to do is read form her story Bible and pray. Sometimes we wonder how much she is really taking away from those times (case in point: http://on.fb.me/vnmdC5), but we are beginning to see little glimpses of understanding.

    I saw this quote just before I read your post: http://dsr.gd/uZ0aMO. Although it’s addressed to mothers, it applies to fathers, too.

    Thanks for the encouragement to keep pressing on!

  2. Nanette:

    As the grown-up daughter of a father who initiated our family Bible readings each morning while we were growing up, I can say that those times as a family are among the most cherished I have now. Great tips for helping other parents/families. Thanks.

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  6. Tom:

    This could help simple family living together in Christ centered life. Great job.

    TOM

  7. MK:

    Thanks much for the comment, Tom.

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