Sing really, really exuberantly … whatever that looks like.
It’s a great blessing to see and hear children sing to the Lord with complete abandon. We are a musically-inclined family, which makes it easier to lead songs with the kids. I have an acoustic guitar I keep in their room to accompany us on songs. (Although at the moment, one of my strings is broken. I got a little too excited playing the B-I-B-L-E a couple of weeks ago and my smallest string snapped.)
If you aren’t musically inclined, don’t let that be an excuse for not making music a priority during family devotions. In an era where there are a thousand ways to download, transport and play music, it’s quite easy to simply play songs for the kids to sing along with — which is every bit as effective as a live accompaniment.
Our kids have a fairly short list of favorite songs: Their most-requested songs are The Joy of the Lord Is My Strength, The B-I-B-L-E, I Will Enter His Gates, Jesus Loves Me, and The Perfect Ten (a song that teaches the Ten Commandments). It’s no coincidence that songs with 3 easy chords have made it onto our short list, since I am your textbook “3-chord wonder” on the guitar.
Read good fiction that fosters redemptive conversations.
We will deviate from Children’s Bibles to read through fiction that contains types of biblical characters, metaphors of redemptive truths, and God-centered themes in which He is the hero. We have read through most of the Narnia books with the kids. C.S. Lewis is most known for his fiction, but some may not realize that he was one of the most notable Christian apologists of the 20th Century. He does not check his faith at the door in his fiction. His stories are wonderfully engaging, with kid-friendly narratives that open up all kinds of conversations about God’s sovereignty, holiness and majesty.
Right now, we are reading through a kids’ version of John Bunyan’s crowning work The Pilgrim’s Progress, where the characters are children instead of adults, and it is written in a kid-friendly way. Our kids are on the edge of their seats as they listen to Little Pilgrim’s Progress, and will often ask to read one more chapter. The beauty of this book is that it fully exposes kids to the incredible suffering and trials that characterize complete surrender to Christ. Christian and his band of Pilgrim friends experience all of the hard things that come with following Christ like the Slough of Despond, the Hill Difficulty, and the Pit of Despair, as they travel the road to the bright, glowing Celestial City on the distant horizon. These themes call kids to count the cost of discipleship, looking unto Jesus with joy set before them, rather than candy-coating the Christian life.
Don’t view your family as a group, but as a collection of individual souls.
Although family devotions is important, we must not neglect the opportunities to initiate 1:1 interaction with each of our family members on a spiritual level. Each of them will hear and respond to it differently. Family devotions give you the opportunity to identify where you need to meet each member of your family at the individual level.
Last year, our 8-year-old started asking questions during family devotions that signaled two things: 1) he was thinking very deeply about the things of God, and 2) he did not believe. In fact, one night he looked at me and said, “Dad, I’m starting to think this ‘God’ thing is just a big joke.”
His comment came right around the time Dr. Bruce Ware was at our church for a Bible conference. I was scanning the book table of books Dr. Ware had written and saw one called Big Truths for Young Hearts. It was a book that explained deep theological truths in language geared toward 8-year-olds and up. So I bought it, and what a mercy of God to have placed it in my path. My son and I stay up after the other kids have gone to bed and we read what he affectionately calls “the white book”. It is a long book, but the chapters are short. And those conversations have slowly brought him from a place of skepticism to a place where he is starting to savor the deep, rich truths about the God of the Bible.
Meet your kids where they are. Maybe they are struggling with fear, or jealousy, or selfishness, or people-pleasing in order to win God’s favor. Be intentional about taking them aside to work on these things.
Family devotions is not rocket science. It’s not about having a clear strategy and a meticulous plan. It’s simply a matter of faithfulness and glad obedience. The time God will give you each day will vary, as will the kids’ readiness to participate. But like anything, we need to ask for the grace to help us make the most of the time we have with the little souls to whom we have been entrusted.
May we raise the chins of our little ones to see that glorious glow of the Celestial City, and be enthralled with the King who is seated there. And may God be pleased to awaken their hearts to the obedience of faith through our feeble, yet faithful leadership in family devotions.