How to Establish Family Devotions
5 practical tips for establishing rhythms of devotion in your family
By Lindsey Stillman
4 “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.[a] 5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
I remember the first few times my husband and I tried to wrangle our little kids up for “Family Devotions.” It was a nightmare. We had these grand expectations of sitting down, reading through the Bible as a family, engaging our kids with thought provoking questions and then praying together.
The reality of this dream was chaos; kids tickle fighting as we tried to read, children not knowing what it meant to even sit down and listen, a crying baby, and kids asking questions back about who knows what as answers to our “Jesus questions.”
What we quickly realized was 2 things: 1. Discipling our children wasn’t going to look like what we had pictured in our minds and 2. We couldn’t give up just because it didn’t work the first one or two or ten times. Our family has 6 kids, currently ranging in age from 3 - 10 years old.
Discipleship is going to look different with each of our kids, based on their individual levels, but we have developed a few rhythms that serve our family well. I want to offer you 4 encouragements for developing Weekly Discipleship Rhythms in your home.
01 Make it a Habit
Whatever you choose to do, be consistent. Do it at the same time and place each day. They say it takes 21 days to create a habit. Create a habit in your family of reading God’s word together. Our family meets every morning at 7:30 am around the breakfast table. The kids expect it. It’s as much of their routine as eating breakfast now. At the same time, have grace for yourself if you miss a day. Have you ever rushed out of the house realizing you forgot to brush your teeth? You didn’t just give up and never brush your teeth again. You brushed your teeth later that day (hopefully), or at least the next day. View your daily rhythms in the same way. When we are having one of those rushed days, sometimes we’ll do it on the way to school or in the afternoon, or sometimes we don’t get to it at all and pick back up the next day.
02 Less is More
It’s About the Long Haul - Don’t have the expectation that your child’s heart will be changed overnight. If you have small children, you’re developing a family culture of living for Jesus, more than you’re expecting kids to recite the book of Hebrews to their peers (although that would be amazing!). Look at it as a small investment daily that will bring a big reward over the life of your child(children). Start simple. Meet your kid(s) at their level. This may look as simple as reading from The Jesus Storybook Bible each night before bed and praying together, or spending a few moments with your older children rereading the passage they learned from on Sunday and asking some thought provoking questions, or a combination of this.
03 Encourage Full Participation
It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect - Invite ANY or ALL of your kids into your daily habits. In our family, as I mentioned, we have kids as young as 3 and as old as 10. Inviting them all in looks like us all sitting at the table, but giving grace when my son Oliver (3) is a little squirrely, validating him when he answers “Jesus” no matter what question he’s asked and being ok with “kid” interruptions. Maybe you have one child. Set up a habit in your family that works with that child’s age level. Maybe you have toddlers. Do something that will engage them, like praying at breakfast, reading a short story, or talking about how much Jesus loves us.
04 Develop Leaders
Part of discipleship is raising up the next generation. How can you develop leaders within your family? About 2 months ago, my oldest daughter asked if she could “Lead” our devotions that day. In my need for perfection, my flesh wanted to say no, because what if she didn’t ask the question the right way or what if the other kids didn’t listen to her the way they listen to me? But the Spirit reminded me that I’m raising up my kids to be Jesus followers and I need to encourage their discipleship process, so I let her lead. And I was given the beautiful gift of my 10 year old daughter sending her and her siblings off for the day with encouragement to shine their lights for Jesus. And what has been born out of that is ALL my kids wanting to lead, taking turns reading the Word, asking questions and encouraging my husband and I, and their siblings in God’s truths. Developing leaders can be messy, and it won’t always look like the perfect process that we sometimes crave, but it’s a beautiful chaos.
In all of this, know, discipleship is an all day, every day, all interactions process. These weekly rhythms you develop are just one way to disciple. True discipleship is walking alongside someone, day in and day out, on his/her journey with Jesus. In a family with kids this looks like discipling kids through decisions they make, bringing them back to the Gospel, multiple times a day, teaching them to show humility by saying, “I’m sorry” when necessary and grace by saying “I forgive you” when they are on the receiving end. It’s praying for people inside AND outside of your family, and leading through example the importance of shining Jesus’ light to everyone we meet.
Resources that our family has used or is currently using:
Truth Takeaway/Questions available on the announcement slides before and after service each week and on the Rise Kids Instagram throughout the week @wearerisekids (provides the main idea, scripture and questions to ask your kids from their class on Sundays)
- Jesus Storybook Bible (Awesome Bible that points younger kids to Jesus)
- The Action Bible (A great way to engage kids with God’s word)
- Keys for Kids App (We currently use this every morning)
- Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions for Kids (We gave this to our 10 year old to encourage her to be in the Word on her own)
- If I Could Ask God Anything: Awesome Bible Answers for Curious Kids (A great resource for questions kids ask about God!)
12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.