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 parents and 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 parents have established a devotional discipline in our personal lives first, having family devotions can feel awkward or overwhelming. 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 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.
God instructed the nation of Israel, "And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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" (Deuteronomy 6:6–7). In Ephesians 6:4 Christians are told, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." Clearly, parents are to teach their children about God and His ways. Engaging with God together as a family, through prayer and Bible reading, is a great way to do this. In doing family devotions, we not only instruct our children but model behaviors that support spiritual growth. Many times, in teaching children we find ourselves challenged in our faith. Family devotions are good for the spiritual growth of all in the family.
In doing family devotions, 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.
Aside from your set habit of family devotions, 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 Ephesians 6:4 calling.
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.”