A few months ago my husband and I, together with our two pre-teen children, started having a family devotional time during the evening several nights a week. We recognized the importance of teaching our kids about the characteristics of God so that they would begin to embrace Him as a Person and not just be followers of a belief system.
So we found a simple article online called “15 Amazing Attributes of God” and began to learn about the meaning of one attribute per day. We are teaching our kids that their faith is based on a relationship with the very powerful yet personal God of the universe, and not merely adhering to a set of Christian rules or living a Christian “lifestyle”.
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I had the privilege, and joy, to lead both of our children to Christ when they were ages 6 (my son) and 7 (my daughter). They were both baptized at our local church two years ago. Only the Spirit of God knows the genuineness of their decisions. It’s our job as parents to tend to the “garden” of their hearts. The rest is up to God – and them.
It becomes more convenient for parents to let Sunday school play the primary role in providing nourishment to our children’s souls. But, that’s just one day a week. We all need daily sustenance in order to have a thriving spiritual life. If we only ate one meal a week how healthy would our bodies be?
Jason Halopoulos, in his article Help Your Kids Hope in God: One Simple Recipe for Family Devotions wrote, “Just as two bankers living together doesn’t make a bank, so two or more Christians living together doesn’t make a Christian home. The exchanges that happen in a bank, or in a home, define a place.” What makes a Christian home is a family of believers habitually coming together to worship, pray and feed on God’s Word; then they go out and live godly lives in the world. Jason’s article is so good. I hope you click on the link to read it.
If you’ve never had family devotions before or have tried and given up, no worries! I love what Marty Machowski says in his article The Only Failure is to Quit: Where to Begin (Again) in Family Devotions. He wrote,“If you have fallen off the path of regular family devotions, get up, dust yourself off, and get back on the trail. There is no faster way to turn condemnation and discouragement into joy than deciding to start holding family devotions again.”
The Components of Family Devotions
Before we consider the benefits of family devotions, let’s take a look at the components of the meeting: prayer, worship, scripture reading and discussion. Keep in mind that these can be done in any order.
The phrase “the family that prays together stays together” is a notion that has proven true time and time again. Coined in the 1940’s, the phrase was a part of an advertising campaign promoting unity, unconditional love and stability. Christians began embracing the slogan, took it to heart and have taken it even farther. The emphasis isn’t mealtime prayers, but implies a concentrated time set apart regularly to focus on worship and intercession.
When a family comes together in prayer, the focus is on God and one another – not on oneself. Group prayer includes thanking God, interceding for others and lifting up the needs of the family.
Worshipping through song has a way of redirecting our mind and heart to the Author of our faith: Jesus Christ. While He is the “audience”, the object of our affection, singing Christ-centered and scripture-based songs helps to remind us of God’s faithfulness and His promises. God created music with an emotional component that triggers a response from us, even though He is the focus.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve played the few chords I know on the guitar, so what we have done is search for hymns and choruses on YouTube and sing along to our favorites.
There are many ways to practice this part of family devotions. Whether it’s reading through the Bible in a year, choosing a particular book of the Bible to read through over a period of days or weeks, using a reading guide, or focusing on a specific theme – the objective is to be nourished by God’s Word.
Having each member of the family participate in reading is key here. Children love feeling a part of something and when they are involved they “own” the process. No one likes being “talked at” or talked down to.
Because we live in a world dominated by technology, we’ve chosen to use our actual Bibles and not Bible apps during our devotional time so that our kids become accustomed to finding the books and verses, something that is becoming a lost art. This way they begin to treasure God’s Word as they flip through its pages.
This is a time designed for the unpacking of Scripture. While the Holy Spirit is our teacher, using the opportunity to ask questions and learning how to apply God’s Word to everyday life is vital to making the Bible come alive.
Asking questions like “What is the theme of the passage?”, “What stood out to you?”, “How does this challenge you?”, or “What did you like most about what we read?” can create engaging conversations that have lingering effects long after family devotions are over.
The Benefits of Family Devotions
One of the ways having regular family devotions would be a negative experience is if the person leading them becomes overbearing, dogmatic and loses sight of the purpose of having them in the first place. The other way is to not allow the Word of God to take the lead, minimizing its authority.
Related: The God of His Word
Once we understand the benefits of having regular family devotions we’ll begin to protect this time and make it a priority. There are probably other benefits, but I’ve chosen four that I’ve seen in my family and the families of other Christians. They are 1. it fosters togetherness, 2. Christ becomes the center of the home, 3. our children begin to work out their own faith, and 4. the world and its philosophies begin to lose their power and influence.
It Fosters Togetherness
In any given home each member has their responsibilities to fulfill every day, every week, which has us all going in different directions and our minds are filled with unique preoccupations. Sometimes it’s difficult to get together for a meal. Having family devotions brings everyone together, with a common goal: togetherness.
It’s a time to look one another in the eyes and really engage in heartfelt conversation. Gathering together regularly also provides a “safe place” cultivating an atmosphere of vulnerability and confidentiality. It’s okay to talk about how a given circumstance is affecting you and verbalize that you need support and prayer.
Christ Becomes the Center of the Home
As parents, we play a key role in shepherding our children as they grow in their faith and navigate in the world. Without our leadership and guidance, they won’t be ready to handle the many things that will try to distract and discourage them.
In family devotions, Christ is exalted and becomes the central theme of worship, prayer, scripture reading and discussion. The inevitable result? He becomes the center of the home.
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Bickering and arguing happen less frequently and negativity is replaced with hopeful conversation. When Christ is at the center of the home the family as a whole becomes a force to deal with when trials come and Satan attacks.
Our Children Begin to Work Out Their Own Faith
If your kids are anything like mine, they ask a lot of questions about anything and everything. They want answers. Family devotions gives them an opportunity to ask their burning questions. It’s easy for us to get frustrated at their curiosity, but I caution all of us not to squelch their desire to know more. Be patient while answering and enjoy the process because their knowledge of the Word – the Truth – is what will guide them in the years to come.
Allow them to express their opinions as well, but gently correct them if they are wrong, guiding them back to scripture. Our children will learn to love and respect the Word of God and will continue to hunger after truth more and more as they are exposed to it.
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They may not realize it now, but one day they will look back on family devotions as a very foundational experience that has prepared them for living out their faith in the world. They’ll be able to remain steadfast through the questioning, the doubts, the fears and when they come to the many crossroads of life their ability to make healthy decisions will be based on what they learned through those precious evening meetings.
The World and its Philosophies Begin to Lose Their Power and Influence
This is an important byproduct of family devotions. Why? We are constantly, and relentlessly, bombarded with dangerous philosophies that are not based on biblical truth. The world’s belief system exalts the human experience above godly values.
Family devotions that have the Bible as its ultimate source for truth will help to transform the whole family’s way of thinking. The world and its philosophies will begin to lose their power and influence. As our minds are renewed and transformed, the desire to conform to the world and its patterns will diminish and we’ll know the perfect will of God.
The world will no longer be so appealing because nothing can compare to the greatness and majesty of the King of Kings.
Family devotions are meant to be a time of communion, fellowship, corporate worship, learning and exalting God’s Word and fervent prayer. Parental leadership is indispensable during these times, which means we need to be prepared beforehand by being in the Word and intimate prayer as a daily practice.
I’m including below a few resources from fellow bloggers that may be helpful to you. May God supply our spiritual needs as we seek to be effective spiritual leaders in our homes.
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