Sharing the gospel with our children through family devotions

Q: I am taking a look and considering our schedules at home in light of promoting the gospel to our children. I was wondering what a typical day/schedule/routine looks like for you in summer and school year. 🙂 I know it sounds like a strange request, but I was curious seeing what you do…also especially curious on how you approach devotions with the kids.

A: Promoting the gospel to our children takes so many forms as it interweaves itself into our family life. All of Christ for all of life… a phrase that says so much (not original with me). But specifically for this post– family devotions! (I will try to answer the daily schedule question in another post… my answer to the devotions part is long enough for one post!)

Our family devotions this summer is happening at 11:30 am. Steve’s work schedule allows for this. This is our specific time set aside to deliberately learn from God’s Word as a family. (Last school year we met at 8:00 am, beginning each school day together, immediately following breakfast. Again, Steve’s work schedule permitted this.) In the past we have also had devotions in the evenings, but mornings are preferred for us when possible– everyone is getting tired in the evenings, and various other activities can easily interfere.

A suggestion from Steve: “Gathering for devotions tied in with a family meal together works very well. For many families this may be dinner time. I suggest gathering for the meal and then moving directly into devotions, before the family scatters to the four winds. Clear the table off and get started right away.”

Before giving specifics, I should make it clear that we are talking about nitty gritty reality here, lest the words “family devotions” conjure up images of neatly dressed children lined up on chairs, hands folded, reciting verses and nodding their heads to the instruction given, whilst angelic choirs sing from above.

It’s not that, at least, it’s never been that for us! Over the years this is what family devotions has looked like for us: numerous interruptions, kids having to go to the bathroom, arguing over seating arrangements, kids falling asleep, little kids climbing on Mom, fighting over climbing on Mom, Mom suffocating from all the closeness but trying to be patient, Mom trying to listen but also keep some semblance of order, chairs tipping over, and Dad wondering if he is reading only to himself.

It’s that. But thankfully not (usually) all at once. Perseverance is the key. Little by little, inch by inch. Determine not to give up and make it a priority in spite of all that may happen as described above. Our approach today is based upon much trial and error over the years!

Most recently, we’ve been gathering around the kitchen table, to eliminate distractions as much as possible. All our kids are old enough now to sit in their own chair for the duration of devotions.

Our family devotions lasts about 30-45 minutes. We have it broken up into various segments. First, we sing out of hymnals. We recently ordered seven hymnals so we can all be on the same page, literally. 😄

After a song or two, we have currently been working on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Steve asks the questions and the family recites the answers. Steve displays the answers on his iPad when needed, to help us with memorizing them. Sometimes he will take a few minutes to explain part of one of the answers.

Then, Steve reads from the Proverb for that day (since there are 31 chapters in Proverbs, it works well to assign one to each day of the month). He doesn’t read the whole chapter, but he reads a few verses and talks about it. After this, he moves into another reading segment. We just finished reading a book called “The Household and the War for the Cosmos” (a few pages a day) and now Steve has begun reading from I John.

Then, I read the “Children’s Story.” We have been using The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes for quite a while now This is a wonderful resource, and there is so much to learn from the short Bible lesson each day, accompanied by a picture that will stick in a child’s mind. Even these simple lessons for young children can lead to some great discussions and topics that are of benefit to the whole family.

[For example: After reading about Saul/Paul persecuting the Christians, Olivia asked, “Why didn’t Paul just read the Bible and find out that the Christians were good?” Hmmmm… big topic. “Well, Olivia, Paul didn’t have the Bible like we have today… and Paul had to change his ideas about what God was doing…. and Paul had to take three years to figure out what was true and what wasn’t!”]

After this, we have prayer time. We will talk over various requests and needs from family and friends, and then usually Steve or I will pray (sometimes we call on one of the kids to pray; so important that they learn to pray aloud from their earliest days).

The last thing that happens is announcements (sounds kind of like a church service, hahaha) but yes, we do actually have announcements. One of the unexpected blessings of meeting together as a family each day is an increased sense of family unity. We don’t want to be a family of strangers passing each other in the night; we want to be a connected team. So we take a few minutes to review upcoming activities, who is going where and when, what is planned for the next several days, tasks to be done that day, etc. It’s also a good time to prevent rumors from spreading among the ranks by addressing the whole family at once.

[Example of rumors:
Child to sibling: “Hey!! I just heard Mom say we might take a family trip to Disney World next spring!”
Mom: “Um, no I did not. I said, what a shame that our friends’ trip to Disney World has been canceled due to covid, and they might have to wait and go next spring.”]

Your crew is younger than ours, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing everything that I’ve listed here (our crew at devotions this summer ranges from age 19 to age 4). My answer here is what we have been doing lately, but over years it has varied of course, based on many different factors. But, in general kids can learn more than we think they can, and having their attention span stretched a little bit is a good thing. There are so many good resources out there to choose from.

I hope this helps answer your question! Praise the Lord for moms and dads who are concerned about promoting the gospel to their children, day by day, little by little, planting seeds in faith and watering them faithfully, always trusting in our loving Father to bring forth a harvest.

Promoting the gospel also looks like this!

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