I am a huge proponent of cultivating the practice of family devotions, because I have seen the fruit in my own life as a result of the faithful efforts of my own parents to practice it in our home during my childhood years. Yes, there were certainly many moments when my siblings and I put up a fuss about getting up early and studying Proverbs or other parts of Scripture together, but the fruit has been really beautiful to behold. I love the pursuit of the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom. And from those early days, I grew to delight in spending time with the Lord alone in my own personal devotion time. The grace of God was working through my parents faithful discipleship.
Family devotions have looked different for our family over the years, as our children have grown and developed. They began in the toddler and preschool years reading Jesus Storybook Bible and Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd Jones, both delightful beautiful books. They have continued into the elementary years with my personal favorite, Gospel Storybook Bible (slightly more advanced content than Jesus Storybook Bible, but also includes a lot more bible narratives, epistles, etc) and The Ology (a powerful introduction to theology for kids) by Marty Machowski, both are fabulous resources for morning read aloud times as well.
In earlier years, we did family devotions around the dinner table, using Long Story Short & Old Story New by Marty Machowski, which are great resources. Although we have yet to finish them, as they are pretty thorough and lengthy, but we likely will return to them again at another time. This was a season when my husband had to go into work really early and had a longer commute. Dinner time was the best fit for us.
Currently, we practice morning devotions, which is my personal preference. Waking up, snuggling together under blankets with tea, coffee, or hot chocolate, with Bibles open wide, and hearing God’s words breathed into our hearts is such a wonderful way to start the day. The first thoughts seasoned into our souls each day is God’s glorious wisdom and lovingkindness on display for us to behold and shape our thoughts and actions. We aim to have family devotions 3-4 times a week, as some mornings we have other early commitments that prevent it from happening. On these alternative mornings, I like to read from Gospel Storybook Bible and/or The Ology with the kids.
A typical morning looks like the kids waking up at 7:00am, and after getting dressed, they have their own quiet devotion time. This includes my 5 year old listening to Jesus Storybook Bible through iBooks word-for-word audio narration, which reads aloud the material while following allow with the pictures. My 7 year old listens to the audio version of The Action Bible, while following along in the text. My 9 year old will read The Action Bible, or works her way through one of the Not Consumed’s sweet beginning devotionals for kids.
Around 7:30am, we open up our bibles together and we are currently working through the book of Proverbs. Proverbs is full of timely wisdom for young and old alike. We each take a turn to read one verse in rotation. We read roughly five verses and then discuss them, incorporating more teaching time and practical application. Then we read another five verses and discuss. We read and discuss for about 30 minutes in total, before concluding with prayer. It is short and sweet. As the kids get older, we may try the rotation my parents did of each person reading five verses and making a comment or asking a question on one of the verses in their assigned verses, before moving on to the next person. “What verse stands out to you and why? Any nugget of wisdom you want to talk about?” Are some optional questions that could be asked. This is a great method as your kids become more fluent readers and encourages more active thought and participation on their part.
You might face some discouragement as you begin this practice. Children might appear bored. They may not engage with their whole hearts yet. But with faithful and persistent practice, and the blessing of the Holy Spirit, it will bear fruit. He supplies the grace and motivation to press on and blesses what He commands of us, that of teaching the Word of God to the next generation. His Word does not return void. We don’t want to practice family devotions out of legalistic duty, as it is not mandatory for you or your children’s salvation, but it is a sweet means of grace and a practical way of placing Christ at the center of our homes. With Him at the center, our lives will overflow into life and ministry with His heart, mission, and purpose seeping into our every step. This is the most important thing we can teach our children…to love and serve the Lord.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Other Great Resources:
Please check out Tim Challies Ten Tips for Family Devotions for other great ideas and resources.
Sally Michael’s Names of God, God’s Providence and others in the Making Him Known series
Wise Up: Ten-Minute Family Devotions in Proverbs - Marty Machowski
The Radical Book for Kids: Exploring the Roots and Shoots of Faith – Champ Thornton (a great devotional companion for kids ages 8 and up)
Training Hearts, Teaching Minds – Starr Meade (Family Devotions based on the Shorter Catechism)
Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God – Bruce A Ware (an introduction to theology for older elementary & teen ages range)