It's the New Year, and this is a time for many people to try to initiate some changes in their life. Sometimes this is with a sense of foreboding as they think about all the things started but never finished.
But for a Christian it should be done in hope as God is ever kind to us as we stumble along through life.
We have taught on the doctrine of Satan in our theology series and one primary thing that Satan does is speak lies through false teaching. This shows up in a variety of ways, many times very subtle.
With New Year resolutions I see him doing this in a couple of ways:
--- The first is fooling you into thinking that because you broadcast to everyone on FB or IG about your decisions and resolutions that it means you will actually do them. It fools you into thinking more highly of your faithfulness than you ought.
--- The second is the opposite. He brings to your mind your countless failures and whispers in your ears that you will fail yet again so why try? It is the age old trick of accusing the believer.
For anyone thinking about doing some sort of family worship either one of these two pitfalls await them. So today we are going to give some very simple suggestions on family devotions for those who want to begin to do them with your family. This is not designed for those who are well-established in this habit, but for the novice and the ones who have failed multiple times.
Pastoral thought on how to begin family devotions/worship:
First, figure out where your family is at spiritually, and maturity-wise.
This is so obvious, that it is often missed. Are your children believers? A mix? Are you a person who came to faith after starting a family, and now they are wondering what happened to their mom or dad?
Can they find a book of the bible? If not, then start each time with a bible drill for the older ones. Toss them candy for winning.
If you have rebellious kids then it will look differently than children under control.
Often times it means you need to first train your children. Things like how to sit still for 15-30 minutes (give tips).
Second, figure out the rhythm of your home.
When is the whole family together?
If they never are, then repent of this and make it something non-negotiable to the best of your ability.
Be flexible but not overly so. (We started with breakfast for awhile, then dinner, then before bed).
Third, start very simple and very basic.
Most way over do it from the start and this is doomed to failure because the habit is not yet formed. It is like starting to weight lift or jog -- good for a week or two and then no so much.
If you have smaller children, then 10 -15 minutes at first. Older ones about 15 - 30 minutes. But be discerning---if you struggle with this then don’t be shocked that your children struggle even more.
Pick a book of the bible to read. Not one that is complex like Hebrews or strange like Song of Solomon. I’d just do Genesis or Kings or Chronicles. Acts or the gospels in the NT. Proverbs are always great to do, and great when time is tight.
Read whatever is the story and then stop. For little ones just get them up on the parents lap and cuddle while you do it. For older ones have them get their bibles open to read along. Once they can read, immediately have them read even one verse and praise them.
Ask basic questions from the text. What do we learn about God? About sin? Is there something we should obey or stop? But mostly make it about God. How He is all-powerful, He is good, He is judge, He is faithful, He is patient, He hears us, He gives good things to us and such.
Then pray. Simple prayers that are built around what they learned about God.
Some “advanced” ideas if you want to try them:
Sing fun songs. We loved to do “I’m in the Lord’s army.” We would often play Fernando Ortega’s song “Children of The Living God” and dance to it with the children.
Read an article from "Voice of The Martyrs” and pray for that person or family.
Have everyone pray, but make it limited to a few sentences. Stop them if they pontificate.
Fourth, involve all the children to whatever degree they are able.
Again, have the children read. DO IT!
Discuss what should be prayed about and assign each person something to pray about.
If a hard word comes up, then ask them to explain what it means.
Make them sit properly and no complaining or whining. Very important especially with older kids who are having an attitude.
Fifth, accept that life has a way of interrupting things, so be flexible.
Sometimes you just won’t have them and that is life, but don’t let being tired or stressed out be the excuse.
Sometimes it is just good to mix it up. Turn breakfast or dinner into a time to discuss something about the Lord. Other times, it is just tucking them in bed and praying with them.
Sixth, use this to help teach the children to develop their own spiritual disciplines.
Without an exception, everyone I know who struggles with reading the Word as an adult did not do it as part of their day as a child.
We made bible reading a part of their day. Kim ran that program and I was the reward. I’d ask them at random times what they were reading and ask about it.
When they are older you can even just gather them together and have them do their own private devotions.
Seventh, use resources to help you.
-- We used Voice of The Martyrs to help us. We found it captured the soft hearts of the children.
-- We implemented me praying a blessing over each child before bedtime. Truth78.org has great little cards to help you. My children would seek me out even as older teens for their blessing.
-- There are little catechisms you can implement if it helps you.
-- Review their bible memory and ask questions. Great for people just starting out, and your SS teachers will bless you.
-- Milton Vincent’s Gospel Primer is excellent for older kids. Assign one chapter to each child.
Eighth, learn to make your home bible-centered in all things and it will make everything better.
Train yourself to look for life illustrations of bible examples.
As they get into their later teens they should be seeing the world through a biblical lens.
- Make them give.
- Make them bring their bibles to church, not electronic ones.
- Make them take notes and look at them. If they are lazy, then have them listen to the sermon again and do proper notes. Start young and you won’t regret that.
--- Confess sin to your children. You MUST be a model of what it looks like to be a Christian.
--- Take a child with you wherever you go if possible to talk. Make it fun and weave serious in with fun.
A father who teaches his child how to fish, but not read the Word is a foolish father. Apply that idea throughout all things and you will not regret it.
--- Don’t ever apologize to your children for having a Christian standard. As long as they live in your home, they are to live by those standards.
--- Do not dump the spiritual growth of your child off on someone else. You communicate massive amounts of sad truth when you do that.
So do family devotions. Seriously -- do it. It will reap future dividends.
Like everything else in the Christina faith, take the long-term approach. You might be tempted to stop after a short time because you’re not seeing immediate fruit.
It’s the slow, faithful work of laying down layers of truth and discipline that will yield the future harvest.