“So… how are you going at family devotions?”
It was hard to choke out, “we don’t do family devotions”, at my theological college interview.
“We recommend you start,” was the reply.
Great advice, but how?
Neither my wife nor I grew up doing family devotions. We had no model for how to teach our two-year-old son, daily, the things of God. ‘Do I need to do a kids talk each night?’ That’s a lot of work! ‘If not a kids talk, what?’
We scoured the Christian bookshop, but nothing told us how to do our own family devotions. We found some books that told a short story, or retold a Bible story, making a lesson like ‘don’t be angry’, but nothing seemed right. I asked Google what to do, but it didn’t give me any good ideas. (John Piper came close, but it seemed like it was too long, or for older children.)
Churches are good at telling you what to do, but they’re often not as good at telling you how to do it. So, we made it up.
Here are the two things we’re doing at the moment. It’s not perfect, and we’re still thinking, but hopefully it’ll spur you on to think about what you can do.
First, every night (almost!) we read a few stories from The Big Picture Story Bible. This is a fantastic kids Bible, connecting individual stories into the bigger story-line about Jesus. We might challenge our son soon with The Jesus Storybook Bible, which is for slightly older kids. After reading, I might ask some comprehension questions, then pray. Easy.
Second, we’ve started the New City Catechism. A catechism is a question and answer style of teaching. It has both kids answers, and adult answers which incorporate the kids’: (for example)
What is our only hope in life and death?
That we are not our own,but belong, body and soul, in life and death, to God, and to our Saviour Jesus Christ. (Kids answer in bold.)
It also has a memory verse or verses to remember. My son is three and a half now, and he’s doing really well! We make it fun by breaking it down into phrases and getting excited and giving him lollies when he remembers it. It’s 52 questions, so it is doable in a year, if you take a week to learn each one (though it took us two weeks to learn the second – the verse was huge!).
It means teaching can continue easily throughout the day, providing phrases to use in prayer and even at times to bring up in rebuke. I never thought I’d do a catechism, but it’s lots of fun, and we all feel like we achieve something at the end!
This is just the beginning and we continue to think about how to add to this.
Maybe some singing, for example, or read from an actual Bible. But this is manageable for now. We’ll try to evaluate how we’re going every 6 months to see whether we need to change so he’ll continued to be challenged.
Children are a wonderful blessing, and an awesome responsibility.
“One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts” (Ps 145:4).
Leave behind the guilt of past failures and let us daily, be teaching our kids about our great God.
So… how are you going at family devotions?
Jesse Walz is married to Bec, and they have a three-year-old boy and a one-year-old girl. They attend Darebin Presbyterian Church. Jesse is studying theology at PTC, and Bec is a stay-at-home mum.