If you have been around Slater Church lately, you will likely know that I spend a great deal of time talking about the value of the family devotional time. There should be a time when, more often than not, the family sits down together to discuss the Bible, pray for one another, and just enjoy each others company. The problem, however, is that most folks don’t know where to start! If you are reading this, and you have never had a family devotional time together, I’d love to say just a couple of things. First, don’t feel judged. Life is busy. And hard. And it quite often doesn’t even cross most people’s radar that this should be going on. The role of the parent as chief disciple-maker for their children isn’t something the church has really done a great job of promoting. Second, it’s never too late to start! There is no time like the present. Quite often, we as parents can often make the mistake that our kids know we read the Bible. For me, my personal devotional time often takes place before my son is awake. I write and study in the office at church. He needs time where he sees me open up the Bible and read, and enjoy reading it. Much of Christianity is caught rather than taught, and family devotions helps kids catch the “how” of bible-reading. That being said, it can be tough to know how to start, or where to start! On top of that, it can seem boring to many kids. How can we make this fun? Here are a few things I have seen done or done myself that has helped make the family devotion time a fun experience for our family.
- Don’t overthink this – seriously, don’t. You are not trying to unpack every deep spiritual mystery to your three year old. The common objection is often “I don’t know what to say.” I believe a couple of things to be true here. First, if you don’t know what to say and all you say are the words of Scripture, you have said enough! Second, if you get asked a question you don’t know the answer to, just be honest! “I don’t know” is a fine answer. I am just an email, text message, Facebook message, or phone call away! We can find the answer together! Third, Simple is best. A small passage, followed by a small conversation, can make a big difference. Don’t let fear keep you from doing this. You can do it!
- Don’t underthink it either – Ok, ok, I know that sounds wierd, but bear with me. Take a couple of minutes beforehand and know what you are getting ready to read. Look for opportunities to use the lessons from last night’s devotion in the day to day of the following day. If you just finished reading about Joshua taking down the walls of Jericho, and you read the passage where Joshua encourages the people to not fear, apply that with your children as they tackle their fears the next day. Connect biblical truth to the life lesson of the day. That, at its core, is discipleship!
- Find age-appropriate materials – our son is three, so simply reading from the NAS Bible, while a fun experience, is less than fun for him. Some options for kids’ Bibles abound, but a couple of my favorites are The Jesus Storybook Bible for kids around 5 and up, The Big Picture Story Bible for all ages of kids, and The Children’s Everyday Bible for older kids. For pre-teens and teens, I know friends who read the Bible, just a few verses, talk about it, then read a page from a fiction book that reinforces biblical truth, like C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia series. At any rate, find something your family will enjoy reading together, and read it!
- Find something your kids like to do, and do it! – my family loves to sing. When we finish our Bible time, we nearly always sing a song or two. There are lots of great kids songs out there that teach biblical truth. Maybe your kids like to play a game; do it! Maybe they like to draw, or build. Look for ways to incorporate their interests into the family time. They’ll be far more excited about being there, and you will have more opportunity to speak truth to them!
- Pray – finally, pray with your family. Let your kids hear you praying for them. Let them hear you praying for your church, for others. For God to care for them. Doing so teaches your kids how to pray, and it serves as a great blessing to your heart. One of the real highlights of my day is hearing Gabriel in his little 3 year old voice, praying for people in our church, for his family, even for his toys! Pray with your kids; you won’t regret doing it, but a time will come when you will regret that you didn’t.
You’ve got this! just have fun, read the word, play a game, and pray! It’s that simple. It won’t take long before it can for many be the very best part of the day!