Two of the most frequently asked questions I receive in my work as a Regional Catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries are these: “What devotional books would you recommend our church give out to families?” and “What are the best devotionals out there for my kids?”
I get why people ask this question, and honestly, I remember asking it when my kids were little. I spent hours online trying to find the perfect devotional that would spark a life-long daily habit of spending time with God. I wanted it to be at my kids’ reading and comprehension level, to be theologically sound, and to be so interesting that my kids would ask me if it was time yet to have devotions!
Well, I have yet to find that devotional (if you’ve found it, please let the rest of us know!). What I did discover, however, is that a devotional book alone won’t build the desire or habit to spend time with God. I think the key to teaching kids how to have a “devotional life” starts with the word we.
We engage with Scripture. We wonder together how our faith fits in our lives. We share stories. And we pray together. The secret is the “we” and the “with.” It’s the time spent WITH our kids talking about who God is, what God has done for us, and how much God loves us.
So here’s my guide to using a devotional book to help build faith and good spending-time-with-God habits:
Engage with Scripture
We want our kids to be comfortable with the Bible. We want them to see how the Bible speaks into our lives today. My first criteria when looking for a devotional is that it not only incorporates Scripture, but is based on it.
I also think it's a good habit to actually use a Bible each time. Get kids used to how it feels, how it works, and how it reads. When a Scripture passage is included in the devotional book, read it aloud from your Bible.
As you read the devotional and Scripture, ask wondering questions that start with “I wonder what . . . ” or “I wonder why. . . .” These questions will get your kids thinking, and it will teach them to wonder with God and to get comfortable exploring God’s Word and truths.
Here’s a quote from the one-page parent resource 5 Ways to Wonder with Kids: “Take time to wonder together about the people, places, and events in the Bible stories your child hears in children’s ministry. Ask your child, “What do you wonder about this story?” Their answer will give you insight into their thinking, and it will probably deepen your own understanding too.”
Share stories of God’s faithfulness from your life and have your kids share stories from theirs. These are the moments where your kids will hear how your faith has impacted your life. And that will stick with them longer than any devotional they read!
Pray together and learn about prayer together. There are so many ways to pray and so many prayers to pray. Try new things. Prayer is a conversation with the God who loves us. It can be formal, informal, ongoing, indoors, outdoors, eyes closed, eyes open, hands folded, hands raised, your own words, or the Lord’s Prayer. For more ideas, check out 5 Ways to Pray with Kids and Praying with Kids
So there’s my devotional strategy with my own kids. It works better some days than it does others. And to be honest, I don’t get to do it with every kid every day. But they are learning the language, habits, and blessings of a devotional life with God, and we are doing it together. We are making memories that will support their faith for the years to come.
Here are two more resources for you to check out that tick all the boxes in my strategy and ones that I actually do recommend!
God’s Big Story Cards. This is a devotional resource that I recommend! Here’s a blog about them and info on how to get your hands on a set of your own: Sharing God’s Big Story With Kids.
Everyday Family Faith. This little book is a giant gift and must-have for busy families. Here’s a blog with more info: Everyday Family Faith: Fresh Ideas For Family Faith