This year, Tyler and I have decided that we want to become really great at having family devotionals. Our goal is to have weekly family devotions where we open up the Bible and learn about God together. Of course we’ll use opportunities throughout each day to teach our kids about God and spiritual principles, but our family devotional time will be a special time set aside each week for reading the Bible as a family.
Why have family devotionals?
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.Deuteronomy 6:4-9
This verse in Deuteronomy is my go-to family devotional scripture. God’s plan is for us to talk about Him with our kiddos! My hope and prayer for my sons is that they can learn enough about God while they’re in our home that they can make a decision to one day follow Him and have their own relationships with Him.
I have to admit that our first few attempts at having a family Bible time was pretty discouraging. Finn was either disinterested, too squirmy or the topic we chose was over his head.
One experience in particular backfired on us when we discussed Psalm 91 and how God protects us. Finn had been feeling scared, especially at nighttime, so we thought it would be good to show him that God protects us and takes care of us. As we read the scripture and explained it to him, Finn got more and more quiet and sullen. By the end of the devotional, he was laying on the floor with his head between his knees. Our poor little guy was so overwhelmed! After that we tried to make things more lighthearted, but to this day he asks us at every bedtime: “Is God going to re-tect [protect] me?” (Cue crying mama.)
Since our misfires, we’ve talked with other parents of older children (including our own parents, who regularly had family devotionals with us!) and picked their brains about how to make our Bible reading times great. One of the best pieces of advice we got is to act out the Bible reading. This has been a huge hit for Finn! He has so much fun with it and it really helps his comprehension as well.
One of the main goals of this blog is to write about our journey with teaching our children about God. I’ll let you mamas in on the highs and lows of us doing family devotionals together and share some ideas for doing devotionals with your family. This is a reminder that we’re not alone – thank God! – and that we need each other to help guide our children toward Him. It takes a village, right?
Here’s some other great pieces of encouragement and advice we’ve gotten about having family devotionals:
- Pick a good time – you know your kids the best; pick a time that will be a “win” for them. For us, that’s right after breakfast. They’re well-rested (but not too groggy), fed and strapped into the high chair.
- Be consistent – the more consistent you are, the more you’ll be able to do with your devotionals. The first few ones might be a little clumsy and awkward (they were for us!) but the more you get into the flow of it, the more normal it will become for your family.
- Be okay with it being a little awkward – it might feel a bit clunky at first. Even for us, though we both grew up in homes with parents who read the Bible to us, it took some getting used to. That’s okay! Just keep reminding yourself why you’re doing this: you’re helping your child build their relationship with God! That’s the best thing in the world you can be doing. Period.
- Do have fun – sing, laugh, make jokes, play games. I remember my dad would frequently change up the wording in the Bible to make us laugh or to see if we were paying attention. For example, if we were reading the story of Jonah, he might say, “Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah and the fish said, ‘Mmmm that was yummy!’” And my brothers and I would fall all over ourselves laughing and telling him, “He didn’t say that!! Fish don’t talk!!” Remember that God has a sense of humor (if He didn’t – we wouldn’t either. We’re made in His image, right?) and I think one of the best ways we can use that humor is to engage our children in learning about Him.
- Don’t put too much pressure on yourself – especially if you’re just starting out (and even if you’ve been doing this for a while!). Not every single devotional is going to be a home run. There have been quite a few times when Finn has either spaced out or simply couldn’t hold still for even a three minute long devotional! Don’t sweat it. Remember that you’re building a foundation for the future. It may not look like much now, but with time and prayer, this will be a major building block for your child’s future relationship with God.
- Don’t make it too long or complicated – tell one short story, read one scripture, make one point. ONE. Ex: story of Noah and the ark = obedience. Read the story, then summarize. Fixate on one takeaway for your child. God told Noah to build an ark. What did Noah do? He obeyed! What does God want us to do? OBEY! (Cue parents cheering here.) Every child’s attention span is different, but generally speaking, here’s a helpful rule of thumb for how long your child should be able to sit still for:
- 2 year olds: 5 minutes or less
- 3 year olds: 5-10 minutes
- 4 year olds: 10-15 minutes
- 5 year olds: 15-20 minutes (source)
- Right now, with our three year old, we’re shooting for about 5-7 minutes. There have been times when we’ve only made it to 3 minutes, but we’re actively working on getting him to pay attention and stay focused for longer and longer stretches. Even if your kids seem to retain nothing from your devotionals, it’s still a good practice for them!
- Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself – constantly! As far as I’m concerned, I think we could do a devotional on obedience every single day and it wouldn’t be too frequent. Let’s face it, we’re at the age where we could literally record ourselves saying the same things and put it on repeat. That’s how we all learn – repetition!
- Don’t forget why you’re doing this – is there anything more important than our relationship with God? Let’s press through the daily chaos in order to teach our children who God is and what kind of lives He wants us to lead!
He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.Psalm 78:5-7
Lately, we have been using these cards for our morning family devotions. You can check them out on my Etsy shop. There are 18 double-sided cards with Bible verses on one side and discussion questions on the back. The verses and discussion questions are tailored for young kids – these would be perfect for preschoolers and young elementary school children.
Here are some more ideas for your family devotions:
What about you? Does your family read the Bible together? Do you have any tips/tricks to share? Comment below!