I’m a bit sheepish to write about family devotions because I’m still not excellent at it (which maybe explains why it took me so long to write this post). Even as a Family Pastor, I find that the practice of Family Discipleship is still daunting. For years, I simply didn’t practice any form of family devotions or family worship because the idea seemed impossible. This is because, for some reason, I had this idea that family devotions had to be something like this: Sitting around a table with my wife and four-year old, opening the Bible to the book of Leviticus, and expounding on the vivid details of animal sacrifices while they listened intently (because why not do family devotions out of Leviticus) and then following it up with a skillful playing of Christ Alone on guitar. If this is your family, I commend you and you need to write a book for the rest of us struggling through!
But for many, this is not the reality you experience when practicing family devotions. Instead, the kid(s) are often staring at a wall, trying to get your attention, or hitting each other. You might try to quiet them down or get their attention, but often they return to doing the exact same thing they were doing before. You and your spouse might carry in the frustrations of the day, so your mind is often elsewhere. Maybe you’ve been fighting with each other. In any case, family discipleship and family devotions are messy more often than not. So why practice them? Is it really worth it?
If Scripture didn’t point to the overwhelming importance of family devotions, I honestly wouldn’t practice it. I’d leave my son’s spiritual development up to the nursery I place him in once a week at church or the private Christian school. But one such Scripture reminds me of just how important Biblical study is to the family. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says,
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.7 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. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (ESV)
I’ve posted a sermon I preached through this text a couple of weeks back, so I won’t go too far into the details of this text. Instead, I want to focus on the beginning of verse 7. It says, “You shall teach them [these words I command you today (vs. 6)] diligently to your children.” Devotions and spending time in God’s Word with our families is, therefore, not a job for the pastor, or the children’s pastor, or the youth pastor, but a command for the family. The family takes the primary role for teaching their children God’s Word.
As I mentioned earlier, this is a daunting task. But thankfully, there have been many who have produced an abundance of resources to help struggling parents like myself. I thought I’d just share a couple of my favorites:
- Family Worship by Donald Whitney – It is a short and rather excellent book on the biblical basis of family worship and also gives some practical advice on how to implement it in your own family. I love this book because it is so short and written by a man who has practiced Family Devotions or Family Worship for many years with his own family.
- New City Catechism – I was a bit skeptical when I first started this with my four-year old son. Would he be able to remember the questions and answers to fifty-two questions? We’ve been using these questions for about 7 weeks now and we’ve done just under a question a week and my wife, son, and I love them. We take time to answer them right before we go to bed, in the car, or when we are at home. What makes these even better is the Spotify Playlist which has a song for each of the question. The songs make the questions and answers easy to memorize and a fun way to end our evenings with Wyatt.
- Jesus Storybook Bible – I am a Bible snob which also makes me a children’s Bible snob. Too many Bibles my wife and I have been given for Wyatt are either very shallow or downright heretical in the way they tell the biblical narrative. This is why, when I heard there was children’s bible that looked at many of the stories and used those stories to point to Christ, I knew this would be the one that we would use with our son. The Jesus Storybook Bible does exactly this. It doesn’t make heroes out of the patriarchs or prophets or judges or kings of the Old Testament, but uses their stories to point to the true Hero, and Prophet, and King, Jesus. We’ve read through it once and it continues to be a Bible we go back to time and time again.
- Tiny Theologian’s ABC Cards – These cards are simple, but effective tool to use with your child. I mean, they have to learn their ABC’s anyway. Why not also teach them the ABC Names of God, or ABC’s of Theology, or the ABC Attributes of God? That is exactly what these cards do. Now, we are a little bit early in implementing these, even though we’ve had them for some time. But so far, Wyatt will pull these out when he wants to run through his ABC’s. It allows Taylor and I to read through the words associated with the cards. On the back, there is also a definition of each of the terms for those kids that are a bit older.
I know Family Devotions and teaching the Bible to your children is a constant challenge, but I’m hoping that the list above will help in some way that maybe you hadn’t thought of before. All I know is that I’m extremely thankful that we serve a God who speaks to the hearts of children, using flawed and sinful parents like myself. And that alone is enough to keep trying, to keep pursuing, and to keep learning how to best teach my children God’s Word.