Families are God’s idea. We see this as He created Adam, Eve and children. Later He told the children to leave and cleave and form a new close unit. It is within the bonds and commitment of marriage where we grow in intimacy with each other that we learn to bring each other, our thoughts and needs before our heavenly Father, seek His way for our lives and live as He directs. This living in community requires personal integrity, vulnerability, and a willingness to listen for God’s voice through our spouse or even our children. As a family growing in intimacy with our heavenly Father and each other we can heed God’s injunction of Deut. 6:5-8 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home or when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your forehead. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”
WHAT DO WE MEAN BY FAMILY DEVOTIONS?
Family devotions are a time when we gather as a family to share our lives together before our heavenly Father. We listen to a portion of God’s word, seek His face through prayer, and talk about what God is up to or how this word applies to our lives. It is a time when our faith can be nurtured and modeled in the home.
HOW DO DEVOTIONS NURTURE OUR FAITH?
Our family group of relationships is the best place to grow trust, love, and help each other on life’s pathway. With God in the center, our hearts desiring to know and grow in His ways, we can be vulnerable. We can share life’s questions, joys or sorrows; seek God’s direction and apply His Word to our lives. God speaks through His word, through prayer and through others in our family. It becomes part of “training up a child in the way he should go so that when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 Family devotions are the foundation of a good marriage, a good home, and a good community.
WHAT CAN THESE DEVOTIONS LOOK LIKE?
Some families set aside a corner in their home where a candle is lit and where the Bible is placed so that they can gather around. Others have their family devotions as they sit around the table before or after a meal. Still others wait until bedtime when every one gathers for a “family time.” The time, place and ritual will vary according to the family situation. There should be a time of reading the Scripture. This helps everyone in the family to realize the importance of the foundations of God’s Word. Some families use only the Bible; some use devotional materials as well.
There is a time of talking about the Word. This will vary according to the age of children. Sometimes there will be questions just to gain facts, other times there will be questions to gain understanding; then again there will be time for sharing how this passage applies to our lives. Often this will lead to a family project or an individual’s change in action or attitude. As Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
As we listen to God speak through the Word and our family members, things of our life will come to our minds that we lay before the Lord through prayer. This is “where the rubber hits the road.” As we hear the Word we should always be aware the “All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that every man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” II Timothy 3:16. There will be prayers of telling God how wonderful He is, prayers of confession or thanksgiving, a time of asking and a time of yielding to the voice of the Spirit. Some families include a time of singing at their prayer time or devotions.
HOW DO WE BEGIN?
1. Make them a priority.
Set aside a time and place. The time of day or place doesn’t really matter as long as
it is consistent. It should be time when the family is together, and that will depend on
your family’s schedule. It may be in the morning before everyone rushes off, or at
the evening meal or just before bedtime.
2. The length of the devotions should be from 15-30 minutes again depending on the family situation and the ages of the children. Begin family devotions as soon as a new home is formed even when children are babies. As we need daily nourishment for our bodies so too do we need spiritual nourishment. This is a good habit to cultivate even in youngest of family members. As children become older they can take more responsibility in participation of Bible reading and prayer. Short sentence prayers will encourage participation. Rote prayers such as the “Lord’s Prayer” may be encouraged as well. This is a time to bring appreciation and understanding of various gifts and temperments that each person brings to the table.
SOME SUGGESTED MATERIALS
THE BIBLE- There are children’s Bibles for younger ones. The “JESUS STORY BIBLE” by Sally Lloyd Jones is one of them. The NIV Serendipity bible has helpful questions for family discussions.
There are hosts of devotional materials/helps available. Share with others in your congregation what is helpful to them.
AMAZING ADVENTURES-CREATIVE CONNECTIONS AND DARING DEEDS by Tim and Allison Simpson is a recent book that could give ideas for your family. There is a Scripture passage, family activity, questions for various age levels and often a family project.
Use variety in your approach as you grow together in acknowledging Christ as the center of your family life.
TIPS FOR ELDERS/DEACONS IN USING THIS RESOURCE
1. Pray before you make a visit. Pray that the Holy Spirit will be present in a conscious way. Pray at the opening and closing of the visit.
2. Choose a passage of Scripture that you will read. Some suggestions are: Deuteronomy 6:5-8, II Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 4:12, Psalm 78:1-6, Proverbs 22:6.
3. Ask an opening question or make a statement based on the passage you chose to read. The question should reflect something of yourself, the family and the passage. e.g. I find this passage to be helpful in remembering what my job is as a husband/wife in growing our faith together. or “I’ll tell you a story of how God impacted my life through these words, etc. As a couple we’ve found ________helpful. Do you have family devotions? What has been meaningful for you, etc. Share something of your own experience.
4. Ask if they would like ideas or need help. Perhaps they are willing to offer suggestions which you can share with others.
5. Family devotions do not just let families become FAT in consuming God’s word for themselves but also in reaching out to others. Ask how their family id encouraging this reaching out?