6 Important Principles For Fostering Family Devotions
Angela Sackett of Everyday Welcome is such a gem. I never leave a conversation with her without feeling the refreshing love of God and a challenge to live my life in service to Him. I knew I wanted to share a Protestant perspective on fostering family devotionals and knew right away that she was who I wanted to hear from. Angela has raised five beautiful children and discipled them in the ways of the Lord. Her wisdom is rooted in Scripture and in years of experience. I know you will cherish her words as much as I do.
Before we had children, I dreamed of peaceful, idyllic family devotions, where we’d all sit with our Bibles open on our laps, discussing and praying together over the truths of God’s word and the Christian life. In reality though, from restless toddler years to busy teen calendars, it’s always work to make that priority actually a priority in our daily life. There are a few things I’ve learned in the trenches over the years, and I thought maybe they could help you, also!
Aim for Consistency
There’s a temptation for me, when I begin a new schedule, to want to dive in head-first and get all the things accomplished right away. Instead, start slowly and aim for consistent meeting over time. For instance, instead of trying to do an hour of Bible study/family devotions on a given day, try to get 10-20 minutes for each of several days in a week. (For little ones, you might start with five!) Over time, meeting together will become part of your routine, and it will be easier to relax and enjoy the time together, as well as to allow kids to settle in. Releasing the pressure also helps you as a parent – you don’t have to cover everything in a given setting, and it’s a lot easier to be patient with wiggles and rabbit trails!
We also found that shorter sessions have made it easier to get time with dad over the years; while it’s sometimes hard to get a big chunk of time all together, it’s much easier to find a short pocket of time, say every evening right after dinner, that everyone is available.
For me, it was often hard to deal with changing schedules from sports events and practices, friend gatherings, and my husband’s work days, which seem to change often in his field of ministry. I can easily let myself be resentful, or I can set some hopes and expectations and then go with the flow when needed. For our family of competitive swimmers and runners, in-season means we adjust our timetable for when we meet together based on practices. I don’t let us get frustrated and give up, but we may agree together that for a short period of time we’re going to meet in the morning instead of the evening. Or during the summer “busy season” in the camp/conference ministry, we’re even going to meet less frequently, knowing that we’re making a changing investment that is still committed to following God’s direction over the long haul.I can easily let myself be resentful, or I can set some hopes and expectations and then go with the flow when needed. Click To Tweet
We’ve also learned to be flexible with who joins us. One morning in the summer a neighbor texted to see if our boys were available to play. I replied, “they’re still doing school – it’s Bible time – your son is welcome to join!” To our surprise he did, and his being here led to a wonderful discussion and opportunity to practically share our faith, and an opportunity for our kids to practice “giving an answer to anyone who asks” the reason for the hope they have – in Jesus!
Quality Over Quantity
Along the lines of the above, it’s ok if you know during a certain season that you can’t meet together as a whole family daily. There have been seasons when I’m doing Bible study with my children during our school day because that’s when it works best in our schedule. When our children were small, we might march around the living room singing a Bible verse for five minutes, and then talk during bedtime about our day and what Jesus taught us. During the teen years, I found that taking one of our children to run errands (and often stop for coffee or a treat along the way) created a window for deeper heart-talks that might not happen when everyone is together. Although those talks were precious, they weren’t as frequent as daily discussions when they were smaller – and yet they were every bit as valuable.Opening a chapter of the Bible together, writing down prayer requests and praying together, and talking about how God’s truth applies to daily life is the best kind of parenting as discipleship. Click To Tweet
Quality also doesn’t mean you have to have Sunday school quality flannel boards and fancy devotional books. Opening a chapter of the Bible together, writing down prayer requests and praying together, and talking about how God’s truth applies to daily life is the best kind of parenting as discipleship. Take a look at Deuteronomy 6:4-9 – the commands for applying and teaching the way of the Lord couldn’t be any more simple, practical, or tied to daily life with your children.
Raise Your Hopes and Lower Your Expectations
Expect God to do amazing things with the time you commit to meeting together with Him. Expect your children to do more than you thought they could when it comes to understanding “big things,” absorbing, processing, and committing His truth to memory, and practical behaviors like sitting still and really listening for a few moments. But offer grace, and never be surprised by wiggly toddlers, seemingly random questions, and distractions that always seem to pop up at the worst moments! It’s much easier to work through understanding a piece of scripture or helping your child pray over something when you’re patient with him or her, but it’s also easier when you take the time to train along the way.Expect God to do amazing things with the time you commit to meeting together with Him Click To Tweet
Teach to the oldest
This is a phrase I heard early on as a home-educator, with a “classroom” of different aged kiddos. While it sometimes seems easier to focus our attention on the seemingly most needy (usually the youngest) child, if you can consistently and gently train little ones to follow the lead of bigger siblings, you’ll be amazed at what they’re able to absorb. It makes teaching them even easier as they get older, too!
When I had nursing babies, I used that time to snuggle with older children and have sweet conversations about God’s word and His call for Christian living. As we got older, little ones might get a coloring page or be allowed to play quietly with blocks
Let Them Lead (With a Little Help)
It’s always good to have a plan for your family devotional time, but it’s also important to teach them to take ownership in growing and deepening their faith. I often ask, “what’s something you’re really struggling with right now?” or “is there an area where you feel like God is really helping you in your life?” to get a feel for the spiritual pulse of my children. That can help guide which book of the Bible we read or a subject we study in our family devotional time. For Bible time, we often will read a passage of the Bible together and then take time (all together, but individually) to draw or journal our reaction to that passage.
I challenge them to think and share if they feel comfortable, about how the truth applies to their lives right now. We also encourage our older kiddos to engage intentionally with our younger ones. It still amazes me how a big brother will volunteer to “tuck in” a smaller one, praying with them and giggling before sleep. We’ve also seen younger siblings challenge and encourage older ones spiritually, and it’s an incredible chance for us to see God working out what they’re learning, right in their family!It’s also really good to start small and frequent conversations about ways they can apply the Word and the heart of Jesus to their everyday lives. Click To Tweet
It’s also really good to start small and frequent conversations about ways they can apply the Word and the heart of Jesus to their everyday lives. Even preschoolers can pray for their friends. Elementary students can think about how they respect teachers, how they work diligently on homework. Understanding the way our bodies are created as precious by God applies to conversations about purity and wise choice of companions applies to friendships. Sabbath rest is a concept that we can model and teach to our children at every age. Encourage your kids to apply God’s word in their everyday lives!
The most important thing to remember in discipling your children is to enjoy your time with them. When you build memories together in God’s word, learning more about how to live the Christian life, you’ll help cement truths that will equip them for the rest of their lives.When you build memories together in God’s word, learning more about how to live the Christian life, you’ll help cement truths that will equip them for the rest of their lives. Click To Tweet
Want to make this summer COUNT in studying God’s word with your kids? In July we’re launching a four-week dive into the adventure of the story of Jonah. Each week you’ll receive a devotional email and interactive video you can watch with your children to inspire you to soak up God’s word together! Sign up to receive updates and information here.
Do you want a hands-on, practical way to study scripture with your children? I wrote a five-day mom-and-me study in Ephesians that you can sign up for here, with daily devotional tips, a downloadable worksheet, and daily teaching videos you can share with your children. Sign up here to receive the five-day email series!
For more from Angela:
I wrote for All Natural Joy on discipleship through teaching our kids hospitality.
Are you in ministry (formal or real-life!), and looking for ideas on incorporating your children into a lifestyle of ministry? Here’s a guest post I did for Esther Littlefield on Ministry and Motherhood.
Angela Sackett is a wife, momma, home educator, speaker, author and photographer (and her house is perpetually in need of a good dusting!). She blogs at Everyday Welcome, where she encourages women to open their hearts and homes to God and others, living as salt and light right where they are. She shares recipes, devotional thoughts, and inspiration for home and family. You can also find Angela on Facebook and Instagram.
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Tara Florance Adams
These were some good points. My son is almost 4 months but we’re already planning how and when we’re going to have family devotions. Having a newborn changed a lot for us so I had to learn to work with the changes and be flexible and a little less structured than I’m used to.
BaileyTara Florance Adams
That’s so wonderful! I encourage you to start praying out loud over and with him even now.
These are so helpful and encouraging. Thank you times a million.
Thank you, Harley. I’m so grateful for Angela’s wisdom.
Heather @ A Heart of Humility
I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I really enjoyed “teach to the oldest.” We have a ten year age gap between our children so it makes it hard to have everyone’s attention at one time! I will definitely keep this in mind when planning a devotional! Thanks for sharing!
BaileyHeather @ A Heart of Humility
I am the oldest of 10 children. Growing up, devotionals reach a wide-age spread. It’s possible! Keep going!
Kristin's Peppermints and Cherries
We have little people and use the Jesus Storybook Bible and our weekly Sunday school papers. Thankfully, our church has great Sunday school curriculum that enhances our Bible time.
BaileyKristin’s Peppermints and Cherries
That’s awesome. I love the Jesus Storybook Bible.