Question: "Are family devotions important?"
Answer: Family devotions are vital for moving our spiritual lives beyond the church walls and into an active, thriving faith. But what does it mean to have family devotions?
Family devotions are a set time when husband and wife, or dad, mom and the kids, sit down, read the Bible, and pray together. It is a time designed to build up each individual and establish a sense of unity and direction within families.
Being intentional about a devotional time and developing a family culture around that habit is important. Family devotions can initiate deep relationships with children and expand opportunities to pray with and for them. While it might require a shift in the way a family spends their time, scheduling family devotions can yield eternal dividends in a family’s spiritual growth and legacy.
Unless we as partners and parents have established a devotional discipline in our personal lives first, having family devotions can feel like swimming upstream. But the desire to begin having personal devotions can become a model for our children as we actively pursue a relationship with the living God. Our own commitment to Bible reading and prayer speaks volumes about the importance we, as parents, place on our own spiritual development. If it is something we grow into with our children, then there is a wonderful journey ahead. Transparency and perseverance are the key!
The goal is to raise children who remain devoted to God as adults. Our desire is to raise children who use prayer, God’s Word, and the solid core of family, friends, and church community to guide their decision-making, their life goals, and their relationships.
George Barna’s book Revolutionary Parenting: Raising Your Kids to Become Spiritual Champions is based on the results of his research into what worked. What he found was that children who became “spiritual champions” were raised by adults who took on parenting as their primary job in life. These parents stepped into the role of spiritual mentor with enthusiasm, recognizing their children as God-given gifts (Genesis 28:3). They had a realization of their joy and responsibility in directing their children’s spiritual lives. Following Deuteronomy 6:4–8, they wove faith into daily life and created opportunities for time together with God. They studied the character of God and sought to align their character with His. They also modeled transparency in failure and honesty in their daily walk.
According to Barna, the parents of “spiritual champions” aimed for 90—120 minutes a day of direct verbal interaction with their children, expanding beyond the 15 minutes typical in most families. Specific devotional times set a spiritual rhythm in the home, but the length was shaped by age-appropriate subject matter. Child development experts suggest one minute for each year of a child’s age up to six years old. A one-year-old can focus for about a minute, maybe less, a two-year-old for two minutes, etc.
Be watchful for God-given teachable moments. Such moments are rare, precious, and not subject to schedule. The times when your child asks a question or makes an observation are opportunities to share God’s love and care for him. You may not have all the answers at any particular moment, but you can let the child know he has been heard, his questions are important, and that you will explore the topic together. This opens the door to conversation and becomes a true, organic representation of our Deuteronomy 4:6–8 calling.
Focus on character development. Use passages relevant to family situations or needs. This allows children to understand that the Bible is applicable to our daily lives in the twenty-first century. It also helps them know that God is a concerned and loving Father who desires a personal relationship with them and that He is there with wisdom and guidance for their lives.
As the children get older, it helps to connect doctrine and theology with life outcomes. Comparison with other faith systems helps them develop the analytical skills they will need as they and their faith mature.
Family devotions can be part of a wonderful journey together with God. It can cultivate an atmosphere that allows our children to flourish, especially when added to the support and nurture of larger communities of faith.
Family devotions are a key to the blessing of James 1:25: “Whoever [families, included!] looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”