January 7, 2019 • Joshua Caldwell
Editors Note*: This is the first in a two part series by Joshua Caldwell.
As a local pastor, I have heard this question several times from congregants, co-workers, and friends: “I want to encourage my wife and kids to grow spiritually. What strategies would you suggest?” My primary answer is always to encourage family devotion time throughout the week in the home. By family devotion, I mean setting aside a dedicated time for fathers and parents to lead their children in a time of worship through scripture reading, song, and prayer. In the next few paragraphs, I’ll establish a framework detailing why family devotion is both biblically-based and historically important. I will also provide tips and resources explaining how to conduct family devotion in the home, and how pastors can encourage a culture of family devotion in the homes of their congregants.
Why should families do family devotions?
Why: Biblical Importance
I will give a few brief examples from the old and new testaments of the importance of families—particularly fathers—teaching their children the truths of God’s Word on a consistent basis in the home. This list of passages is concise and by no means exhaustive. Many more passages evidence the importance of family devotion and worship.
Moses writes, “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” (Deut 6:4-7 ESV). These verses encompass more than just family devotion. One way to way to teach your children “when you lie down, and when you rise” on a consistent basis is to gather for family devotion time.
In the New Testament, Paul writes, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Just like Deuteronomy 6, this verse has a broad range of possible expressions in the family. It remains true that the Bible places primary responsibility of training children in the way of truth on their parents.
Peter writes, “Likewise, Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since the are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Pt 3:7). The prayers Peter is referring to in this verse are not only the husband’s personal prayers, but also the prayers of the husband and wife together, pointing us to the importance of devotion among families and couples as well.
Why: Historical Importance
Only in the last one hundred years have a large majority of Christians drifted away from in-home devotions. Evidence exists that proves families have been conducting family devotions and catechizing children (catechisms are lists of questions and answers created to teach children and adults true theology) at home for centuries.
I was introduced to family devotion for the first time as a pre-teen. My Uncle Jim owned a large farm, and my brother and I would visit with him and his family on summer breaks. We would sometimes visit for days or weeks at a time. Every night, my uncle Jim would gather my aunt, my cousins, my brother and me together to read scripture and pray. Participating in their family devotion time made a significant impression on me; helping me see the significance of a daily devotion to Christ.
One of the most excellent tools parents and churches can use to encourage discipleship and growth in children’s lives is to conduct simple and consistent family devotion time with children at home.
Next time, Jonathan will discuss the how of Family Devotionals and some practical steps for small church shepherds to encourage their churches to begin family devotionals.*