Every parent has high hopes for their children. We all want our kids to be “well-adjusted” (whatever that means), healthy, successful, and most of us pray our kids marry somebody great. While I share all of these hopes for my kids, I have one desire for them towering above the rest: I want each of my kids to know and love Jesus.
In Ephesians 6:4 Paul writes, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Parents in general, fathers in particular, are called to raise their children in such a way that points them to the One who created them and died to save them.
Sadly, many of us have abdicated this responsibility, delegating the shepherding of our children to the local church. Obviously, the local church has a crucial role to play in the spiritual formation of children, but God’s goal is for discipleship to start in the home. This demands the “God-talk” described in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. At breakfast, on the way to school, sitting around the house, playing games, watching TV, mealtimes - there is never a time we cannot and should not engage the hearts of our kids in spiritual matters.
As a parent of three young kids (Ava 5, Ryder 3, Lincoln 1) I always want to look for these opportunities to talk about Jesus and we’ve found regular family devotions to be the best way to plant the seeds from which these everyday conversations can grow - especially while our kids are young.
We’ve struggled to find the right manner and method. I’ve read a number of books, listened to some lectures, and asked lots of friends how they practice family devotions and finally we’re starting to feel like we’re figuring it out…I think…maybe…at least right now :-) It’s hard work and requires constant attention. In our house, we’ve found that effective family devotions are made up of three basic rhythms…
1. Read Together
It’s never too early to begin reading the Bible with your kids. By God’s grace, some excellent children’s Bibles have been produced in the past few years and we’ve used many of them. One of my many parenting goals is to raise Biblically literate children. I want them familiar with and comfortable in God’s Word. Right now this means we try to take at least 5-10 minutes a day to read it and discuss it together. (I'll post some of our favorite children's Bibles and resources tomorrow.)
2. Sing Together
Songs are maybe the most effective medium for Biblical instruction with kids. Cross-centered, Biblically-faithful, well-written worship songs and hymns go a long way in helping our kids internalize the truth of Scripture. You don’t need instruments and you don’t need to be able to sing. Your kids don’t care how bad your voice is. Kids love to sing and we have a great opportunity to humble ourselves, have fun, and sing to Jesus with our kids.
3. Pray Together
The best way to teach your kids how to pray is to pray with them. Pray about what you’ve read and discussed. Pray about what’s going on in your family. Pray for them, specifically that God would open their hearts to trust Him by faith. Imagine the impact on your children of hearing you pray that over them each day. It doesn’t need to be long, it simply needs to be sincere.
How we practice these three rhythms will vary based on our family make-up, the ages of our kids, and the season of our lives. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t get up in your head. Don’t over-complicate it. Look for every opportunity to talk with your kids about Jesus and use family devotions to spawn those conversations. Read together. Sing together. Pray together. It’s that simple.