Recently, my church hosted a Missions Conference. While there, I attended a workshop on how to lead family devotions, taught by Chip Wood. The buzz around our church was that Mr. Wood had captivated the hearts and minds of the children he was leading during the conference, so I was already excited for the session. His workshop met and exceeded my expectations, and I had to share his ideas.
Here are 6 tips for leading captivating family devotions:
1. Make It a Time They Do not Want to Miss
Family devotions (devos) should be an exciting time for your children. You are competing with the television, video games and a myriad of apps that attract your child’s attention, so a dry reading of God’s Word is not likely to excite. When your time together is interactive, it is sure to grab attention. Have your kids act out the narrative you have just read. Ask questions to review and give your family a chance to really connect with the text.
Also consider the difference between being interesting and entertaining. The most complex media presentation may entertain everyone, but it may not engage their hearts. Family devotions are a time for considering who God is, the truths of Scripture, how it applies to our lives, and how we can become more like Christ. You want to engage your children with the Bible, not just entertain them.
2. Tailor Your Devos to Your Audience
When you add more than one child into the mix, your devo time will take more thoughtfulness. Wood’s advice was to start with your youngest and move up. Kids typically have an attention span that is one minute long per year of their age. Your three-year-old should be able to engage for around three minutes, so begin your time at her level. Then when your three-year-old loses focus, spend the next seven minutes in deeper water for your ten-year-old.
Also consider ways to apply those five million handouts that came home from church with your child. I am not a fan of clutter and I delight in throwing things away, but I was challenged to slow down. We now keep one paper from each week on a ring and review them with our son frequently. It helps to reinforce and remember what he has recently learned at church.
3. Schedule the Time You Will Meet
Be purposeful about when you will do devotions. Some families take advantage of the breakfast table and start their children’s day off with God’s Word. For others, reading the Bible is a great way to wrap up the day before getting tucked in for bed. Be diligent with your scheduled time. Prayer, time reading and memorizing the Bible, and time thanking God for how He is working in our lives is important, so do not neglect it.
4. Do Not Limit Devotions
While a purposeful time of the day for spiritual disciplines is important, training in righteousness should not be limited to the fifteen minutes before bedtime. Deuteronomy 11:19 tells us to teach our children God’s Word “when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Do not limit godly instruction to the carved-out devo time, teach it to your kids all day long. Breaking bread at the dinner table could spark a discussion of the Last Supper and how we should remember Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. A betrayal from a friend can lead to a great discussion with a teenager about the betrayal Jesus faced from Judas. Take advantage of teachable moments throughout your daily routine. Colossians 3:16 tells us to let God’s Word dwell in us richly, so look for opportunities to teach your children how to do this.
5. Include Multiple Spiritual Disciplines in Your Teaching
Family devotions are not just about reading a book, closing it, and moving on. Spend time together memorizing God’s Word. When I was a child I was involved in a club that encouraged me to memorize verses. My nine years in that program filled my heart with important truths of Scripture, but my learning and memorizing did not need to stop in eighth grade. Psalm 119:11 says “I have stored up Your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”
Time together in prayer is also a great way to grow as a family. When your children share prayer requests, they are building empathy for the world around them, learning to see their trials from a biblical worldview, and telling you what is happening in their world. Your time in prayer may also inspire opportunities for service to the friends and family on your prayer list.
6. Keep Your Discussions Relevant
Use new stories, popular culture and what is happening in your community to inspire your time of devotions. Connect God’s Word with what is happening in your child’s world today and it will teach your child that the Bible has all that we need for life and godliness. Helping your child connect with this truth at a young age will help establish a pattern of looking to God’s Word for answers. Some great resources are available to parents. Here are some ideas to help you get started:
- Focus on the Family
- Word of Life
- Christian bookstores
- Reading Plans
- Our Daily Bread
- The Pilgrim’s Progress
- Missionary accounts (Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor, your church’s missionary updates)
Put these tips into use today to make family devos the time no one wants to miss. Then watch your kids interact with God’s Word in new and exciting ways.