Why and How to lead family devotions

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Being a godly parent means taking responsibility for the spiritual growth of my child. While it is great to lean on the help of a local church, the Bible makes it clear that mom and dad are called to be the primary spiritual provides for their kids.

Deuteronomy 6:7 You shall teach (God’s word) diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house

and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.

To be honest, there have been times when the responsibility of being the spiritual leader in my home has felt a bit intimidating and unnatural. I did not grow up in a home where we practiced spiritual growth as a family. I love my family, but spiritual development was left up to the individual to discover. Therefore, learning to spiritually lead and serve my family is a new experience.

I did not have a role model to help me understand how to conduct a family devotion. However, I knew that as a father I needed to implement the routine.  How would I do it? In just a moment I am going to share some practical ways to nurture the spiritual development in your family, but before I do… I want to share with you some statistics provided by Lifeway Research.

Lifeway Research produced recent findings on How Parents Can Encourage Their Kids’ Spiritual Health. They recognized a problem with the spiritual development of young people. Lifeway wrote, Most churchgoing Protestant parents of young adults say their kids grew up to be Christians. But half of them don’t actually practice the Christian faith.”1 Therefore, Lifeway interviewed 2000 protestant parents that had adult children following the Lord. They wanted to find out what habits these protestant families practiced that helped their children develop spiritual health with the Lord that continued into their adult years.

Lifeway research discovered “young adults had higher spiritual health scores if they grew up with parents who spent time:”

  • Reading the Bible several times a week.
  • Taking part in a service project or church mission trip as a family.
  • Sharing their faith with unbelievers.
  • Encouraging teenagers to serve in church.
  • Asking forgiveness when they messed up as parents.
  • Encouraging their children’s unique talents and interests.
  • Taking annual family vacations.
  • Attending churches with teaching that emphasized what the Bible says.
  • Teaching their children to tithe. 2

Jana Magruder’s research from “Nothing Less” is also cited by Lifeway Research. Jana found that children were more likely to follow the Lord into adulthood if…

The Statistics above demonstrate that reading God’s word as a family has the greatest impact on the spiritual development of your children into their adult years.

Therefore, how can you begin spiritually leading  in family devotions? If your background is similar to mine, developing this habit may not feel natural. How do you do it?  Let me give you a few quick tips I have learned.

#1 Start today and keep it simple.

Starting godly disciplines are not always easy, but they are healthy. I can remember when we first started our family devotions. I still practice a similar 15 minute format today. I began by reading a short Bible story from a kid’s Bible (resource listed under point #3). Afterward, we briefly discussed what we liked about the story. Sometimes my kids would share thoughts that had nothing to do with the story. Other times they would share some insightful ideas. Finally, I closed by praying over my kids. After leading in prayer for several weeks, my kids decided they also wanted to pray. One of the most beautiful experiences I have had as a Father is listening to my kids pray. I never know what they are going to say, but it has never been short of entertaining and encouraging.

#2 Be consistent and have fun.

Our family has gone through a little trial and error to find out what best serves us. We have tried family devotions at different points of the day and we have found our formal family devotion time is best done at night. We all prepare ourselves for bed and convene together in our kids’ bedroom (they share a room). We go through our devotion time, discuss, pray, and go to sleep. We aren’t rigid about it. We want to enjoy time together and keep it open for discussion. We may change this routine as our kids get older. I imagine as they age, the problems they face will grow and their schedules will change. Therefore, we want to be flexible if we find out a better time to serve us. However, finding a routine to establish is important!!! If you don’t make a routine of it, it will not last. Today our kids are to the point that they are anticipating a devotion each night. We typically have 5 family devotions a week. Please make sure you don’t get all uptight about it. The Lord is an amazing God. He isn’t boring. He is to be enjoyed and therefore enjoying the time together is important. There have been more than a couple of nights we have gone into our kids room and they acted like they were trying out for the circus. Sometimes my wife has to leave with our littlest child because he is a distraction. Other times my kids won’t pay attention to save their lives. On nights like this, I give them a few prompts to pay attention but if it is a losing battle, I quietly shut the bible and tell them goodnight. Kids hate to go to bed early. If they see their behavior is affecting their ability to stay up late, the next time… they pay attention.

#3 Find good resources to help.

If you are unaware, our church uses the “Gospel Project” curriculum in our kid’s classrooms. It walks the kids through the bible over the course of 3 years. At the end of each lesson, kids receive a take home sheet related to the Sunday lesson. Parents can use the take home sheet as a devotional during the week.

In addition, our family has enjoyed using The Jesus Storybook Bible. It covers the majors stories of the Bible through a Christ centered theme. This Bible is best for early elementary ages.

Our family has also appreciated the Radical Book for Kids. This book is best for older elementary age children to preteen years. It addresses several theological topics, practical living, church history, and more.

By far our favorite resource is Long Story Short and Old Story New. These books offer 10-minute practical devotions that help your family walk through the Bible in a way that is engaging and fun.

If you check out my suggestions and don’t feel like they are a good fit for your family, Please look at the website for New Growth Press. They have provided the best resources I have ever encountered in the area of family devotions.

I hope this has encouraged you. Leading a family can be messy, but by God’s grace my hope is that you learn to enjoy the journey.

Living in Peace