Right after dinner my father would open the bible and begin leading us in scripture reading. Before you envision kids excitedly listening to every word, let me tell you it was far from that. It was more like three little kids yawning and bickering and when we answered his questions we made sure we did it with an attitude. As for his devotions, it was boring. He read straight through the Bible, he didn’t do anything special to make devotions fun and exciting for kids, he just read.
My dad was a new believer and all he knew was that it was important to read the Word of God with his family. And so he did. If you know anything about the Old Testament, there are chapters that shouldn’t EVER be considered “group reading”. But not for my dad, he read through it without skipping a single verse.
When I think back to my childhood, it was this kind of family connections that I treasure. Not so much the reading of the book of Leviticus but what it represented–family, faith and fellowship. It’s the best gift my parents could’ve given to me, even though at the time I would not have said that.
In a comprehensive study of relational dynamics in more than 300 families spanning 35 years, family warmth (connections) was more correlated with faith transmission than any other relational factor (including amount of contact between the generations, the type of contact, and the number of children in the family). ~ Fuller Youth Institute
Even in his rambling and boring lessons he left us with an important message–God’s word is important in our lives. It’s important that we do this together.
Now as a parent myself, I want to send the same message to my kids–God’s word is real and it’s relevant to our life now! So in the midst of the chaos, we have plugged along. We’ve tried so many things for our family devotions and when I say “many” I mean we’ve tried every thing we could get our hands on. I was a youth director and then a children’s director, so I had quite a few ideas to try before giving up on this whole thing.
Have you gotten to the point of–
“I’m so done with this!”?
Have you gotten to the place where nothing is sticking and you’re thinking it’s just not going to work right now? You might be saying things like, “We’ll try it when they get older”. But guess what? When they get to be tweens and teens then you’re dealing with a whole new set of issues. Other things like rolling of eyes and attitudes which are enough to make you want to wring their neck.
Hang in there, it’s worth it!
I was that child who wiggled and made noises, that tween who knew it all, and the teen who was “too cool for their family.” But I’m here to tell you–it’s made a world of difference in my life as a kid, as a teen, a college student and now as an adult.
Family Devotions: How We Made it Stick in the Busy-ness
For us it has always come down to these three things:
- Not having time.
- Forgetting to actually do it.
- Our kids were not interested after 4 minutes into our time.
There were also my expectations of what this devotional time should look like:
- I thought my husband had to lead this time. (After all my father did and that’s all I knew).
- I thought it had to happen at least twice a week. (After all that’s what we did growing up.)
- I thought it had to be fun and entertaining. It doesn’t have to be super exciting and entertaining but whatever you do don’t read through the book of Leviticus, just saying.
- I never said this out loud but I think I really had a time limit expectation because who has a good devotional time in 5 minutes. Do it as long as you can hold your kids attention. And some days you may just need to cut it short for the sake of ending well.
Making Devotions Stick:
Figure out your unrealistic expectations. Many times we come up with erroneous expectations that we’ve come up for our family, our self or our spouse that actually become obstacles in creating family devotions that stick. These expectations don’t mesh with the reality of our stage of life.
Share the responsibility of family devotions. I share below how we have divided up the responsibility. I really think this has been successful because my kids are invested in it. It’s their idea that they get to share. Because they are so excited about their devo time they’re the ones who remember, even when we forget to look at the calendar.
Make it a routine. Pick a day and time that you’re going to have devotions but knowing that it may have to change the day when you have a lot going on.
Organically integrate your faith. – When we organically integrate our faith into all areas of our life whether we are walking at the park, eating breakfast, doing chores… our kids are able to see that God is not just a Bible story but that he fits into all areas of our life.
Let your kids ask the hard questions. Your kids will ask question as they try to make sense of God and their faith. Let them ask even if they are questions of doubt.
Live out your faith. I can’t stress enough when our kids see that we believe what we preach enough to do it ourselves then they’ll start taking it seriously.
What We Do in Our Family
Basically, our family devotions is a team effort. We take turns leading devotions. We all take turns leading the weekly devotion which is only done once a week. My toddler has been doing it with our help since he was 3 years old.
We select a date, we put it up on our family calendar that’s in an area visible to all of us. If you don’t have a family calendar, it’s truly what keeps our family together. Ball games, practices, no school days, dates with the kids, dates with my hubby, invites for dinner, invites to birthday parties and when we host– it all goes up on that calendar (not our personal work deadlines).
We are flexible. Big holidays are a super busy time for us. My husband is a principal so the beginning and end of the school year are times we don’t consistency have a weekly devotion.
How it works:
Put it on the calendar– At the beginning of the month we plug in everyone’s name, one persons name for each week. My kids fight over who can go first. Our calendar is on the dining room wall so everyone can see it and usually one of us happens to look over at it at dinner if we’ve forgotten.
During our devotion– Depending on the time we have and whether it’s been a long day, we either do it during or after dinner. The person in charge finds one of their favorite devotional books and picks a lesson which they read, or for our non-readers someone else will read it. At the beginning we had to prompt them with questions like: What do you want us to learn from this story? What is God telling us in this passage? What did you learn from this? We have a devotional book with science experiments so my older kids really loved using it to lead our time.
For your non-readers: When they were younger, 3-6 years of age, they basically picked a passage that they wanted us to read. Then we would ask them what they learned from it. My little ones sometimes picked a story from their picture Bible and they would retell it from memory without any of our help. They LOVED doing this. They’ve used puppets, paper stick puppets, and props to make their story come alive, and I loved that they came up with this stuff all by themselves. We’ve even watched The Jesus Story Book Bible videos for our devotional time. Warning–some months you may hear the story of David and Goliath over and over again. If they did this we would let them go with it but after the 100th time we would encourage them to find another story because the Bible has so many cool stories we can learn from.
Don’t forget to be flexible and let your kids lead as much as they want. When they don’t, gently encourage them. Don’t give up. Your kids will thank you later for it.
My kids are the ages of 4-11 and they still love it and are excited about their week that they get to lead and teach us God’s Word. I really think this has been successful because my kids are invested in it. It’s their idea that they get to share. Because they are so excited about their devo time they’re the ones who remember, even when we forget to look at the calendar. Yet we still have wiggle worms, attitudes to deal with, I’d still say this idea is a keeper.
Your turn! What works for your family? What is y’alls favorite family devotional?
ALSO–As always, if this has encouraged you, please SHARE it, PIN it, and spread the word. Thank you so much!