What About the Children?
Often times, people who are starting family devotions for the first time will be faced with some new and beneficial problems. The first problem will most likely be related to dealing with children. For those of you who have never trained your children to sit quietly at home, their will be a wave of conflict and tension that hits you like a Tsunami when you first implement family devotion times. You must learn to train your child to sit still, and quietly, without fidgeting, for 5-15 minutes or more. This is no easy task if your children are used to being pacified by T.V., snacks, toys, and games whenever the adults are busy. But it must be taught.
It all starts with first-time obedience. You must tell your children what you are going to do, and what is expected of them during that time. You must also tell them of the consequences of their actions during your family devotions. Parents must learn to keep their cool, and be 100% consistent with what they’ve said. Parents must learn to use the rod wisely (This is another blog entry all in itself). Your children will learn to be self-controlled, and experience the joys of walking with God on a daily basis. It is worth the effort.
Some people might say, “My child is too young to understand the Bible. It’s too early for them.” We see how weak this argument is when reading Deuteronomy 31:10-13. In that passage Moses calls for the men, women, little ones, and sojourners, to all come for the hearing the of reading of God’s law, that they may hear and learn, and be careful to do all that is written in it. Age is not an issue.
In modern church culture we think that it’s best to ship the kids off to Sunday school where they can get their age-segregated, age-appropriate dose of Christianity. We’ve split the family apart during the most important Christian practice of the week; the fellowship of the saints, worship, prayer, and Bible reading time. What a tragedy. It’s time that the church wake up, and parents start bringing their children before the throne of God on a daily basis, instead of waiting for Sunday, and then only to simply ship them off to youth pastors and Sunday school teachers for an hour or more of coloring, stories, games, and videos. What are we thinking, people!?
If your child grows up in a home where the Bible is revered, read, and lived out on a daily basis, their foundation for life will be rock solid. Don’t underestimate what a child can learn at a young age. Do it in faith. You will reap an abundant harvest that will last for all eternity.
When the children are young you can spend some time summarizing more complex Bible passages that have been read. This takes skill on the parent’s part, because summarizing and making what was complex more simple to understand requires a fuller understanding of the text, and the ability to draw out the main points. You need to be concise and concrete so as to paint a picture in their minds. Your summarizing skills will improve with practice.
The more they do family worship, the easier it will be for them to absorb what you’re teaching them. It is also important to give boys, who will some day be the heads of their own homes, the chance to lead family devotions from time to time. This is the perfect opportunity to train up the next generation of mature spiritual leaders who will lead family, churches, and the world, closer to God.
When to Meet?
Another common problem people face when starting family devotions is trying to find the right time to do it. When you’re set in your habits, and you’ve stretched yourself thin, it may be quite a challenge to plop a new 10 minute, daily activity into your schedule. But, difficult as it may seem, you can do it. Choose a time that the family is most likely to be together anyway, after a meal, before bedtimes, etc. Just try a time, and if it doesn’t work out well, try something else. Keep trying until you’ve found that golden time slot that works best for everyone.
As for how long the family devotions time should be every day, you’ll have to judge that based on the age and maturity of your children, as well as your own family situation. Obviously not every family has the same schedules. So try to do the best you can with what you’ve got. You can imagine a family where the man of the house is a pilot, a truck driver, or fisherman who is gone for long periods of time. Well, as soon as he gets home, he should make it his priority to lead the family again, and that includes family devotions.
If your children are young, maybe start out with reading the Bible for 5 minutes, singing a few songs, and then taking turns praying. This might last less than 10 minutes. If your children are older, or you simply don’t have children, then feel free to take as much time as you feel would be beneficial for all those taking part.
Frequency is another issue. A few relevant Bible verses on this include, Deut. 6, and Psalm 1. In these verses we see the exhortation to study God’s word both day and night. Really, the most ideal amount would be to have family devotions in the morning and in the evening. What better way to start and end each day than in the presence of our heavenly Father, the creator of the Universe! But if we cannot make it happen, then at least shoot for 10 minutes each day. This goes a long way in establishing the fact that your family is a Christian family, and that God is at the center of your lives.
Imagine how many families around the world only talk about God, only pray to Him, only sing songs to Him, or read the Bible, only on Sundays! This should not be so. If God’s word is our daily bread, if it’s in Him that we live and move and have our being, if His word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path, if Jesus himself spent time daily in prayer with the Father, if we truly are Christians, then we need to commune with God on a daily basis. We don’t often go without food for a day. How many children around the world are starving for the daily spiritual nourishment of time with God, and time in His word. If only we parents would remember the condition and need of our children’s souls, and not only the condition of their bellies. One is eternal, one is transitory.
Where to Meet?
Where we have family devotions really depends on a lot of things. But here are a few points to remember. If you have devotions in the same place most of the time, it will create a sense of regularity among the family members. There will tend to be less distractions that a new environment will bring. If you find out that having family devotions in the living room works out best because of the seating arrangement, then do it there. However, if the TV or other items in the room are a distraction, maybe try one of the bedrooms. If you find that little Jr. is having a hard time staying awake when family devotions moves into the bedroom, maybe try the dining room.
Remember that it’s important to remain flexible. If someone in the home is bed-ridden, have it in their room. If daddy has to head out to work, but he hasn’t eaten breakfast yet, try to do it around the dinner table. Be creative. If you’re on the road, then try having devotions in the car. Deut. 6:5-7 speaks about the importance of diligently training our children in the words of God, “when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” It’s an anytime, anywhere kind of faith. It’s a faith that we take with us wherever we go, and it’s not limited to Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. We never unplug from the Creator.
Satan does not like the fact that you are going to start doing family worship on a daily basis, and will do everything in His power to put a stop to it. I remember the first few times we tried to start doing family worship and the phone would start ringing off the hook. This never happened as much as when we just started doing family devotions. I recommend turning all phones off if you are faced with a similar problem. God comes first. If it’s really an emergency, they can always come and find you in your house. The world does not hang by the string of your being able to answer the phone. Life will continue, the world will continue to spin. For it’s in Him, that we live, and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).
If your family has a hard time focusing during family worship because they’re tired, have an empty stomach, it’s too hot, or too cold in the house, or someone is distracted by toys, TV, the pet fish, etc. please do all that you can to address these possibilities before you begin. That might mean doing devotions after your family has eaten, moving into a room with less distractions, etc. Men, we do well by checking with the “thermometer of the house,” our wives, if they need anything else before starting family devotions. They will let us know of potential problems or distractions.
If you’ve never lead your family in devotions before, then it’s going to take some humility to get it going. In 2nd Kings 22:1-13 we see how King Josiah reacted upon the finding and reading of God’s word. He repented in sack cloth and ashes, and began to take immediate action to rectify the spiritual condition of the nation. As heads of the family, we men must likewise humble ourselves before God and our families. We must repent of our spiritual ignorance and laziness. We must be like Joshua, and proclaim with our words and actions that our family will serve the Lord.
We must not wait to have everything perfect before we take action. We must start today, step by step. And learn as we go. It will require hard work. We will need to make changes to our schedules, give up some of our pleasures, and change our environment. But we will be exchanging these things for the uncountable joys and pleasure in knowing that we are walking with our Heavenly Father, and can commune with Him daily. Persevere, brothers. If you forget one day, do not give up. Just get back on your feet the next day and try again. Persevere.
Whatever it costs, make family devotions a pillar in your lives. You will never regret it. Discuss the new changes with your family. Be a man of your word. Be strong and do not give up. Know that whatever storms may come, your family will be firmly planted on the Rock. And this is the best place to be!
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