Saturday, 21 June 2014

How to do Family Devotions - 5 Quick Lessons

What are Family Devotions?

The term 'Family Devotions' refers to a habit of daily setting aside time to read God’s Word the Bible, pray and worship together as a whole family. Ideally, all members of the family should be present.

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes." Rom 1:16

Lesson 1 

Don’t pick a time when they are all tired, hungry, sleepy or running late to be somewhere. 
It doesn’t work. The key to success in developing this habit is finding a time that works for your family. In my childhood we did this each morning at breakfast before heading off to school. Since then my husband and I have tried various time slots, but the one that has been most successful is lunchtime. This works mainly because we homeschool and my husband works from home. 

Previously we’d trialled breakfast, but it always seemed too chaotic and often someone would need to go out early. Dinner, we just plain forgot to do it and bedtime...well the kids would fall asleep. So lunchtime it is for us.

Lesson 2 

Don’t think it isn’t important.
I grew up in a home where family devotions were considered important, but in my ‘great parental wisdom’, I simply forgot about this lesson until my children were well into their primary years. Although we had been reading the occasional bible stories to our kids we were heavily relying on a Christian School and Sunday School to bear the brunt of the responsibility in raising our children in the faith. There was no formal time spent as a family worshiping God and reading his word together. Ironically I was heavily involved in teaching other people’s children the Gospel through church programs. Ah..the wisdom of youth! A few years back, God led us both to repentance on this issue separately: do things in your own home, with your own family before you do it for others.

Jesus taught me that it is the primary responsibility of the parents to teach the children the gospel. Not anyone else. Little things add up. If you consistently spend time, daily teaching your children Scripture, then their faith will flourish and so will your relationship with them. There’s nothing like praying together to unite a family. We have seen such a huge change in our children, ourselves and in our family relationships since we started family devotions.

One added bonus has been seeing, as time goes on, a change in the way our children pray. They have gone from the shopping list / vending machine type approach to prayer, to often spending time just giving thanks and praising Jesus for all he has done for us - not to mention all the answers to prayer we have had. That is such an encouragement to all of us in our Faith.

We learned that if we wanted our children to grow into adults who faithfully studied God’s word and relied on Him, then we needed to teach them from the ground up, how to do it - modeling the behavior so they too will teach their own children and a generational faith is born.

Lesson 3 

Don’t start too big.
New things are best started small, especially if you want to persist. Keep it short and simple, especially if there are younger children. You want to maintain their attention. Lessons that are simple but well explained will be retained.
Currently we are doing 5 Proverbs a day. After asking God to teach us from his Word, my husband reads the Proverbs one at a time and we all talk about what it means and how to apply it. The kids particularly like giving examples of how they have seen a proverb in action in real life and often make up funny stories to illustrate the proverb. To finish up, we talk about things we would like God’s help with and then pray about them and other things that concern us. 

Lesson 4 

Don’t be boring.
When we first started, our children were horrified at the whole concept, to put it mildly. We went through a phase where a child would burst into tears at the thought of reading God’s Word as they were sure it was going to be boring. 

But my husband is very creative and came up with a great idea to pique their interest. At the
beginning of each family devotion, each child was given a piece of paper and colored felt pens were placed in the centre of the table. The children were told to draw illustrations for the passage as my husband read a short story from the book of Matthew. At the end of the reading, when all the illustrations were finished, each child then had a chance to show everyone their illustrations and re-tell the story. This was a huge success! As parents we were easily able to see what they were understanding and were not understanding. 

Don’t feel you need to only read from the Bible. It is okay to break it up with other  forms of worship or use other great resources of which there is an abundance. Growing up, my Dad would read us biographies of great men of God, helping us see faith in action in the everyday person. Don’t forget audio stories or DVDs; we have even been known to do a sing-a-long with a guitar, praising God with all our favorite songs. 

Lesson 5 

Don’t give -up!
When I told my husband I was writing this post he said, “don’t forget to tell them about the push-back!”  The push-back is that the children, as with all things, will at times put up resistance to what you are trying to do. It may not just come initially for in our family we seem to go through the occasional cycle of push-back.

Persistence is the key, along with your own enthusiasm. If you are negative or stressed about the whole thing, your children will be too. If you find yourself forgetting, or missing out due to crazy family life stuff, just pick right up where you left off and get started again. There were several times in the beginning where I would spend time with Jesus in prayer, just asking how we could do family devotions better.

The more often you do it, the easier it will be for this to become just part of your everyday life - as regular as cleaning your teeth. That doesn’t mean it is to become mundane, that would not be worship, but discipline is good for us - hence the word discipleship.

Blessed is the man... his delight is in the law of the LORD and on this law he meditates day and night.” Ps 1:2  

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength. these commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deut 6:5-7

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“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” 2 Tim 3:14,15

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