How do you know the truth is sticking with your kids? As a girl, I remember sitting around the table for family devotions a lot. I don’t remember much from the times an adult gave a dissertation. However, I do remember the stories my parents told from Scripture and the ways they engaged me and my siblings by reenacting those stories together as a family. I also recall the songs we learned and the stories they told us about Christian heroes from the past. Those songs and stories shaped my childhood and challenged me more than any bullet-point list of facts I read. Our hope is that you’re enabled to effectively impart truth that sticks with your kids long after they have grown and left home. Here are five ways you can make a greater impact in family discipleship as you train your kids to know and follow Jesus.
1. Keep Kids Engaged
While weddings and funerals are a great time for monologues, family devotion time is not. How can you ensure your five-year-old understands what he hears during devotions if one person does all the talking? Will your twelve-year-old daughter be able to share with others what she’s learned if she hasn’t had a chance to discuss it at home first?
Engaging all ages in family devotions can sometimes be tough, but we’ve learned that without fail, stories and questions reach everyone—from the toddler to the grandparent. Pick a story from the Bible. Tell the story and talk about it with your family. Ask lots of questions about the story. Questions that solicit yes or no answers aren’t the greatest for discussion because they don’t take conversation very far. Try asking questions that start with who, what, when, where, or how and leading the children to find their answers in the story you’re learning. They won’t know it, but you’ll be teaching them to study the Bible for themselves.
Everyone can learn to pray. Involve your kids in prayer during family devotions. Even the little ones who are learning to speak can repeat a short prayer. When they’re learning how to talk with others is the perfect time to teach them how to talk with Jesus. Older children who are hesitant to pray aloud will be encouraged to pray by hearing everyone else join in.
2. Deal with Distractions
Discipleship happens on a daily basis, but family devotions can be a good time to set aside other things and just focus on knowing Jesus better as a family. For devotions, pick a time of day that facilitates the fewest distractions. Think ahead of time about the things that could prove to be major distractions during family devotions and set aside the non-essentials. Do the kids really need their electronics at this time? Do the dishes have to be washed during devotions? Can the phones be silenced for twenty minutes? Sit down and enjoy the Bible as a family. You might have to press the pause button on other projects in order for this to happen.
For ideas on turning distractions into teaching moments, check out our blog series called “The Gospel Framework.” In it, we provide ideas for conversationally directing kids back to the gospel during distractions and struggles.
3. Get Creative
Reenact the story you’re learning. Someone can read the story while others act it out. You can also ask kids to repeat the story back to you in your own words. You might be surprised at their ability to remember details from the story that you didn’t notice before.
Think about activities you can do that relate to the content of the story. Are there object lessons or crafts you can utilize that point to the lesson’s meaning (hint: use Google)? At the same time, don’t be afraid to keep things simple. There’s no pressure to recreate Disneyland in your living room.
Consider creating space for everyone to have a few minutes alone after you’ve discussed the story as a family. Play worship music while younger ones draw pictures from what they remember in the story. Older kids and parents can journal their thoughts on what they’ve learned. These things can help solidify the lessons taught and provide a launching pad for further discussion, prayer, and implementation.
4. Implement What You’re Learning
What ways can your family put into action the things they’re learning? Are there songs you can teach the children that focus on truths from your Bible time together? Learn those songs and try singing together at a local nursing home or for an elderly shut-in friend.
You can serve together as a family in many different projects. Pack empty shoeboxes with gifts for children overseas with Operation Christmas Child, take a meal to a family in need, create parachutes for Voice of the Martyrs, or help clean up after a church event. In all these things you’re not just teaching your family about God’s Word; you’re showing them how to live it out. Ask your kids for ideas of how you can serve together as a family. It will stir up a heart to serve and bless others.
5. Maintain Realistic Expectations
In our recent post “The Case for Messy Devotions,” Ben Zornes talked about spilled milk. Expect it. Don’t get frustrated when this time gets messy. More than anything, your life is modeling the truths (or lies) your children are being discipled in, so recognize that your response to spilled milk may have a greater impact on your children’s souls than the content of your devotional lesson. In the midst of messiness, be encouraged and expect God to work in your family. He can make the truth stick and stay in the hearts of your family long after devotions have ended.
For more resources on facilitating family devotions, check out our Family Discipleship Curriculum. The Family Discipleship Curriculum will take you and your whole family deeper into the Word of God. It’s a tool for your family to experience transforming truths of Scripture in their hearts and in their daily lives so that they can better know and love God and walk with Him.