January 9, 2019 • Joshua Caldwell
Editor’s Note: This is the second part of Joshua’s article on family devotions.
Last week, Joshua looked at why family devotions are important. But like many parents, I have often found it difficult to practically do family devotion time, especially with sports, school activities, and church activities. Joshua gives us some practical answers on how to do devotions as a family, but also encourages pastors to help their church see the importance of family devotions.
How can parents conduct an effective family devotion time?
- Keep it Simple-
One obstacle I have seen for families implementing family devotion time; sometimes parents overthink what elements should be included in family devotion. Certainly, there isn’t an authoritative list containing the approved elements of worship time for families, but a careful study of scripture reveals three crucial elements: scripture reading, music, and prayer. Other elements like catechisms and memorizing scripture can be incorporated, but the three elements above take biblical priority. Depending on the ages of your children, Bible story books might be an effective way to teach your children (books like the Gospel story Bible or the Jesus storybook Bible are excellent resources). Some parents might feel their children are too young or too rambunctious to glean anything from family devotion. Nonetheless, I still encourage them to engage in family devotion. While my youngest son may not glean as much knowledge from family devotion time as his older brother, he still understands there is something significant about family devotions. He particularly enjoys the singing!
Worship through song is probably the element of family devotion time I have seen parents struggle with the most, because many parents aren’t confident in their abilities to lead singing. I would encourage parents struggling in this area to find a list of songs in which they would like to lead their children, and play the list on YouTube or Spotify so everyone can sing together, alleviating the stress.
- Keep it Consistent-
Out of all the research and study I have done about family devotion, one aspect Is considered extremely crucial across the board: consistency. Consistency teaches children the importance of daily devotion to Christ. Without it, children can be confused. Our family conducts family devotion roughly five nights per week. Some families might find more or less frequent meetings per week effective. Whatever schedule you decide upon with your family, be consistent.
- Keep it Brief-
Some children become exasperated with family devotion when worship becomes lengthy. In my own experience, our family devotion time runs roughly ten to fifteen minutes in length. Depending on your family make up, you may need to adjust the time based on your needs (i.e. a shorter worship time for families whose children are only a few months north of diapers). Some of our family devotion times might organically take more time. My oldest might have a difficult question or may be struggling with a fear or concern. My youngest son has special needs, so if he has a surgery or an appointment with a doctor, we may have a special time of prayer for him. As a rule, we keep our family devotion brief unless there is a need for lengthiness.
- Keep it Flexible-
By “keep it flexible”, I mean to find a time when it is natural for your family to come together for family devotion. That time could be in the morning after breakfast, after supper, or before bedtime. Whatever time works best for your family, choose that time and keep worship time consistent to establish routine. Understand that there are going to be times when you may not be able to come together during your regular worship time. You may have to cancel or pick another time that day. Just don’t let your flexibility encourage inconsistency.
- Involve the Children-
Parents should be the leaders and faith trainers in family devotion, but there are times when involving the whole family can be appropriate. A parent could encourage one of their children who is ready for the responsibility to help lead a portion of family devotion. This is appropriate provided the goal is always to encourage the family to grow in sanctification.
- What If? –
I have also had friends ask questions like, “What if my husband isn’t a Christian”, or “What if my wife and I don’t have any children”? I would encourage the couple without children to observe 1 Peter 3:7; a verse we looked at earlier. Even without children, it is still expedient for couples to engage in family devotion. For other, “what if” questions, I would encourage parents to look into resources like, “Family Worship” by Donald Whitney (an excellent book to which I have referred while writing this article), or “Trained in the Fear of God” by Randy Stinson and Timothy Paul Jones. There are other good resources out there, but I recommend these as a great place to start.
How can pastors encourage families in their congregation to engage in family devotion?
- Reminders through teaching and example-
As pastors, we can’t expect our congregants to engage in a discipline we haven’t implemented in our own lives. Therefore, we must consistently bear the image of family devotion in our own families. The most effective way to encourage a family devotion culture in your church is through your teaching and preaching. If we affirm the Bible as our plumb line of truth and the tool by which God Almighty changes the hearts of men, then we understand the only way to see families embrace family devotion as something more than a legalistic ritual is through the teaching of the Word. Over time, as the importance of family devotion is taught, preached, and prayed, congregants begin to take ownership of family devotion.
- Have Patience-
Changing church culture to embrace the importance of family devotion takes time. A shift in culture could take years, or even decades. Remember to love the sheep you shepherd well and be patient.
- Be Honest-
Being honest and sharing your struggles with inadequacy, or perhaps sharing methods that didn’t work for your family can aid families who are taking ownership of family devotion. Being open and honest can encourage your congregation to engage.