6 Things to Remember About Family Devotions

Carl Laferton | November 2nd 2018

“Family devotions” is a two-word phrase that tends to provoke feelings of guilt, regret, pride or fear in Christian parents. In fact, I imagine you nearly didn’t start reading this blog. Don’t worry—this isn’t one of those blogs detailing our family’s twice-daily, half-hour devotionals that, once we’ve read our passage in Greek, include my four-year-old reciting the New Testament epistle that she’s memorised this month, and my six-year-old summing up our “Chapter of the Week from Martin Luther’s writings”, followed by the family singing a psalm in four-part harmony (if you’ve ever heard their father sing, you’ll know why this is the least likely aspect of this sentence).

So if that describes your family devotions, I’m not sure there’s much for you below. But if your family devotions are something that you know you’d like to do better (or, in fact, just do), then here are six things worth remembering.  

A Jesus Christmas

A Jesus Christmas

$9.99 $8.49

Family devotional for Advent, with journaling space

1. Remember what you’re doing

There are so many things to do in family life that the apparently non-essential tends to fall off the to-do list and remain (at best) on the wishlist. So it is for intentionally making time to get together as a family to look at, discuss and apply God’s word to your lives, and speak to him together. My guess is that for a large percentage of us, family devotions are a wishlist item at best, never or rarely making it to the top of the to-do list.

But… let’s remember what really matters. Few words in Scripture are addressed specifically to parents, but those that are, are pretty clear: for instance,

‘Do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.’ (Ephesians 6 v 1b)

Personally, I can’t see how as parents we can obey that verse without opening the Bible up with our kids.

God is not so interested in whether the clothes are all ironed, how many clubs the kids attend, and whether we nailed the bonus that bought the foreign holiday. He is extremely interested in whether we are sharing the gospel with our children, and whether we are showing our kids that his presence in our lives matters more than anything else.

Family devotions is hard. It requires thought and effort. It would be easier not to do it. So remember what you’re doing. And remember who you’re obeying.

2. There’s more to it than this

Family devotions are part of our responsibility to our kids and obedience to our Lord, but they’re not the sum total of it:

‘These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.’ (Deuteronomy 6 v 6-7)

Family devotions are a great way to impress God’s laws and God’s love on our children. They’re not the only way. In between breakfast and bed-time, kids need to have impromptu conversations with their parents about faith, to be prayed with and for, to be reminded of the gospel as and when it crops up.

3. Start (and continue) little and often

There’ve been times when our family devotions have fallen from the routine for some reason, and need restarting. The temptation is to go big, aim high, and fail to sustain. If you need to (re)start family devotions, aim for little and often. Don’t expect or demand instant results. You may not reap the effects of what you’re sowing for decades. But you are sowing. Five minutes every day for the next year will add up to quite a lot, and way more than thirty minutes every day for the next… day. So make it manageable, and persevere until it becomes a normal part of your day. Like teeth-cleaning, only less messy.

4. Mix it up

Use a resource for a month or two. Then change and do something different. Work through a psalm, line by line, for a while. Use the advent and lent seasons to switch your focus. If possible, share the leading of it between you and your spouse—and, as the kids get older, with your kids.

5. Do it for your kids, not perfect kids

The ideal kids ask you each morning when you can start family devotions, they sit still and utterly focused for 20 minutes while you ask them questions and they answer thoughtfully, and then they pray calmly, based on what you’ve seen in the passage. The ideal kids do not live in your house, because the ideal kids do not exist.

Do what works best for your kids. If that’s morning, great – if home-from-school-time, or last thing before bed, or whenever, great. If it’s singing more than speaking, fine. If it’s two minutes rather than twenty, great. And if they don’t behave very well one day, that’s OK – they’re kids! Keep going.

6. Start!

Seriously. Don’t be the parent who always meant to get round to it. Who read a six-step blog and felt a bit guilty, and then put it to the back of their mind. Who thought it would’ve been good when the kids were younger, but it’s too late now. Who excused themselves because they’re not Jen Wilkin or Rico Tice, so can’t possibly be expected to get their family together once a day to work through a few verses and pray together. I’m often tempted to be that parent. Maybe you are too. Don’t be. Seriously. Start. Like, today.

A Jesus Christmas is a new family devotional for Advent. Why not start a new habit of family devotionals this Christmas season. Buy it here. Love Came Down at Christmas is an Advent devotional for adults focusing on 1 Corinthians 13. It's available here

Carl Laferton

Carl Laferton is Editorial Director at TGBC. He is author of Original Jesus, Promises Kept and The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross and series editor of the God's Word For You series. Before joining TGBC, he worked as a journalist, a teacher, and pastored a congregation in Hull. Carl is married to Lizzie and they have two children, Benjamin and Abigail. He studied history at Oxford University.

Featured product

Related titles