Over the last two days I have discussed why family devotions are so hard, and why they are so important. Today I want to offer a few tips to help establish a meaningful and fruitful ritual of family worship in your own home. I am by no means an expert in this and am still growing in this discipline so feel free to contribute your own thoughts in the comments.
- Use an age appropriate Bible. If you think that breaking out your calfskin ESV Study Bible or Greek New Testament will impress your kids you are wrong. If you have toddlers use something like the Jesus Storybook Bible or the Big Picture Story Bible. Both are great for young kids and their simple structure lend themselves to family devotions very well. If you have teens, use a student Bible and even ask them to lead a devotional occasionally.
- Use age appropriate music. You may be into the grandest hymns or choruses but your kids need something a little more their level. Seeds Family Worship has some great material that can be helpful. What we need to remember is that just as God condescended for our benefit by becoming a man in Jesus, so we can condescend for the sake of our children. We serve them in humility as Christ served us.
- Keep it short and simple. If things get too complicated, it won’t last. Remember, you aren’t trying to conduct a full scale church service here. Our current family worship time happens after dinner and lasts no more than 15-20 minutes. This is more than enough time to read the Bible, sing a song, and pray together.
- Pick a regular time. If you’re a morning family and you can get everyone out of bed at reasonable hour for breakfast and family worship before moving on with your day, then great. For my family, the time immediately after dinner works best. Dishes and bath time can wait 15 minutes for the sake of intimate family worship.
- Involve everyone as they are able. This means if you have teenagers, they should be able to take leadership of the devotional every now and then. If you have pre-teens, they should certainly be participating actively in the discussion. It is important for mum and dad to facilitate their children’s involvement at this age. We have a two-year-old and a two-month at the moment, so their participation is limited, but they do see communication between mum and dad, and we do ask our two-year-old questions in the hopes of getting some responses soon.
- Don’t fret if you miss a day. Sometimes things happen that we have to deal with. If you miss a day, pick up where you left off the next day and don’t look back. As this is a new habit that my family is developing we are aiming for every day, but we will be happy if we can make it work 3-4 times a week.
- Always bring it back to Jesus. The danger with family worship and devotional times is that they can become moralistic and religious in the worst possible senses. More than teaching morals, we want our kids to love Jesus and that has to be the goal. By keeping Jesus and the gospel central, we are all reminded of our need for grace, and that we love him because he first loved us. Our joy and obedience will flow only from experiencing the grace, love, and mercy that is found in Christ.
What else has worked for you in your family devotions. Let us know in the comments below.
After writing about why family devotions are so hard yesterday, today I want to focus on why they are so important. We live in a day when all sorts of media and personalities are fighting for our attention. If as a father I leave my wife and children to their own devices and circumstances they will inevitably be discipled by any number of people, products, TV shows, and the like. Some of them will be positive, more of them less so, but at the end of the day it is my responsibility as the husband and father of the house to make sure that Jesus is always at the centre of the family home. Here then are seven reasons why regular family worship and devotions are so vital to the health and well-being of a Christian family.
- Regular family devotions teach the man of the house to lead spiritually. All sorts of life values are taught and propagated in schools and in the media and the bottom line is that many of those values run contrary to Scripture. For example, if I as a Christian dad leave it to the schools to teach my children about sexuality, I am doing my children an enormous disservice and leaving them open to all sorts of lies and temptation. If however our family are in the Bible regularly we can talk about God’s plan for sex and marriage, answer questions that our children have and show the value of pursuing a godly legacy over a fleeting pleasure.
- Regular family devotions teach our children that worship and Word matter during the week and not just on Sunday. If the only time God’s Word is taught to our family is on Sunday, we run the risk of becoming Sunday Christians: Sunday is our spiritual day, but Monday through Saturday we get to do whatever we want with no thought of God whatsoever. Jesus however calls us to take up our cross daily, not just on Sunday’s. The Word and worship are for life and not just weekends and our wives and children must see that in our lives.
- Regular family devotions protect the family from false teaching and doctrine. It is not uncommon for cults such as the JW’s and Mormons to be door knocking on houses while dad as at work leaving mothers and their children vulnerable to false Bible teaching. If dad is a good theologian and is in the Word often with his family, he can tackles such problems head on in a timely manner and protect his family from false teaching and spiritualities. This does not of course exempt mum from knowing her Bible but it does mean that ultimately the buck stops with dad to make sure his family know the Bible well enough to refute false doctrine in a timely manner.
- Regular family devotions teach everyone that man does not live on bread alone but on the very Word of God. We all to easily forget that all good gifts come from God, but slowing down on a regular basis to bring the Bible to bear on our family’s lives provides a golden opportunity to express thankfulness for his provision and providence in all of life’s circumstances.
- Leading family devotions encourages quick repentance and growth in humility. There is no better way to keep short accounts with God and with our families than by leading family worship on a regular basis. Without confession and repentance we have no grounds for leading our families spiritually, so if family worship is to be an ongoing feature of our family life, I have to be quick to confess and repent. This is a great model for our wives and children to follow and builds trust and integrity into familial relationships. “If dad is free to confess/repent and ask for forgiveness, then so can we.”
- If we are quick to confess and repent of sin then regular family devotions also open up the door for loving discipline and discipleship on a daily basis, not just when the junk hits the fan because we create daily opportunities and teaching moments that may otherwise only come out in times of crisis. In this sense sins and other issues can be nipped in the bud and worked on as a family and not just in solitude.
- Regular family devotions remind us that ultimately Jesus is the centre of all things, including the family; not dad, not mum, and not the kids. When Jesus is at the centre, everything else finds its proper place and life begins to find a rhythm and order that brings glory and honour to our Lord and God, Jesus Christ. Trials and temptations may come, but if we remain anchored in Christ, we have a deep well of grace to draw from in all times and especially in our times of need.
Can you think of other benefits to regular family devotions and worship? How has this special time impacted your life and family? What are some of the challenges that you have faced as you’ve worked to bring the Word and worship into your home?
One of my commitments as a husband and father this new year is to get my family together for regular devotional and worship time after dinner. But here’s the thing, as a guy with a pastoral background who has preached sermons on a regular basis since 2007, I can tell you that I find it harder to do family worship in the home than I do to preach in front of 200+ people on any given Sunday. Why is that? Here I offer seven reason why I think men in particluar struggle when it comes to leading the family in the Word and in worship.
- Many men don’t know their Bible, and/or don’t have the resources to help them know their Bible, and/or don’t know where or how to go about getting those resources. I’ve had several conversations over the years with good guys who love Jesus but admit that they have a hard time getting into the Word on a regular because they simply felt overwhelmed by the task and didn’t know where to begin or what resources might be useful. If husband/dad isn’t getting into the Word, it is unlikely his family is being effectively discipled.
- Leading family devotions takes time to prepare. Many of us struggle to make time for prayer and regularly Bible reading by ourselves in light of work and extra-curricular activities. How much more so when it comes to engaging in the activity as a family?
- Many men simply don’t know how to lead a family devotion because they’ve never seen it done and don’t know where or how to begin. As a result they may start out with a grand plan and the best of intentions but unfortunately it is so complicated that there is no chance of enduring success, or worse, they never get started at all.
- Another difficulty is the question of timing. When is the best time for the whole family? First thing in the morning? After breakfast? Sometime during dinner? This is all the more difficult when other family members have various commitments making it hard to eat together, let alone worship together.
- Perfectionism. Some men don’t get started or keep up because if they can’t do perfectly, they won’t do it at all. “If I can’t teach like Pastor Whats-his-face then whats the point?”
- Often times general busyness gets in the way. Rushing out the door for work, or rushing to get chores done and the kids in bed takes precedence over slowing down a few minutes to spend time with the Lord as a family.
- My family know my sin. When I preach for 200+ people, most of the congregation don’t know the kind of week I’ve had but my wife and kids do. They’ve seen the sin, they’ve seen the folly, they’ve seen the hypocrisy. The hardest thing to do is lead family worship when everyone knows what’s gone on that day: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
What about you? Why do you struggle to lead family worship? What holds you back? What has helped you succeed or make progress?
In my next few posts, I’ll offer some reasons why family worship is so important, some tips for making family worship more do-able, and offer some resources to help you along the way.