Family devotions. What first comes to mind when you read those two words placed side by side? Reluctance or intrigue? Frustration or encouragement? Guilt or joy?
If you’re like most busy Christian dads and moms today, the thought of personal devotions is challenging enough, but less intimidating than that of family devotions. Many parents feel they should have in place a consistent time of strengthening their family spiritually, of bringing the Bible into their everyday family life, but often they don’t know where to begin or how to continue with it.
Questions emerge, such as:
- Am I supposed to preach or teach the Bible at home?
- What if I’m uncomfortable praying out loud?
- How can we keep family devos from becoming boring?
Often the biggest roadblocks standing in the way of a parent initiating a meaningful devotional time at home is what they assume about such an experience. In fact, there are some common misconceptions about family devotions that that can hold us back and sometimes keep us from even trying.
THREE DEVOTIONAL MYTHS
Family devotions must be led just like a church service.
Says who? Those notions are more traditional than they are biblical. Jesus certainly was not bound by any rigid structures or imposed orders of worship in the manner in which he trained the 12 disciples. He incorporated an array of diverse object lessons and teaching tools to inspire and equip them. He generally preferred a parable to a podium, a conversation to a lecture, and a short story to a full sermon. And he used questions, lots of questions; a dozen in the Sermon on the Mount alone. Parents can do the same.
Dad must always lead the devotional time.
After all, isn’t that the only way to be a “spiritual leader” in your home? Not necessarily. Perhaps more important is a dad who makes sure every week that a devotional time takes place, whether he or his wife leads it.
Everyone must sit still and be quiet for family devotional times to be effective.
Still and quiet are not synonymous with toddlers or teenagers, at least not ever in our home! Toddlers, for example, not only want to engage everyone around them conversationally, they want to touch and experience life in its many forms. The best learning experiences for children are those in which they are not only inspired to consider truth cognitively, but challenged to demonstrate and experience it physically.
FROM READING TO ENGAGING
The first time my wife, Pamela, and I ever sat down with our firstborn 2-year-old to share in family devotions, I was determined that we would start at the beginning. We would begin with Genesis 1:1 and read through the Bible together. After all, I was the dad, the spiritual leader of the home, right? I had to take charge and lead the way for family devotions! Well, it didn’t quite go that way that day.
There I was sitting at the kitchen table with my wife, my beautiful little daughter, and my Bible. What else did we need? I had reasoned that if we just read the passages “dramatically enough” being really excited, expressive and motivated, then Kristin, our daughter, would pay attention and eventually start comprehending it.
My wife had doubts about my plan of attack. Still, I plowed ahead.
Boy, did I have a lot to learn.
Tension mounted between Kristin’s oblivious sound effects and my frustrated retorts: “Listen to Dad!” “Pay attention!” “Don’t interrupt!” We didn’t quite have our family devotions; rather we had something more like our family emotions! Within five minutes I felt like a complete failure at leading devotions and was ready to throw in the towel and go watch TV instead.
We soon discovered that making family devos more effective by simply reading differently was yet another myth. In order to get our little girl involved and interested in family devotions, we would have to do much more than merely engage her ears. The Word for her needed to be more than the read-out-loud print on a page; we needed to allow it to be demonstrated, to breathe, to talk, to walk, to live in front of her. So, we started to act out stories in the Bible. We simply dramatized them, casting our daughter as the characters. As Kristin and her siblings grew, they were able to play different parts in these little family dramas.
As it turned out, our daughter needed us to not just read the passage, but rather to wear it. Her eager eyes, inquisitive mind, and moldable spirit needed something more than Dad or Mom’s mere creative intonations. In a different, but fresh way, the Word would, once again need to “become flesh and dwell among us.”
Robert C. Crosby is president of Emerge Counseling Ministries in Akron, Ohio. Contact Emerge at emerge.org or at 800-621-5207.