In my last post I gave you the five reasons why you should have family devotions. But many people have said to me, “I want to have family devotions, but I don’t know how.” Too often we make things more complicated than they really need to be. For many of us, we have this idea of family devotions in our head that is just too plain scary. We think we need to sing songs and have a sermon. Most of us don’t have time to plan out something like that on a daily basis, and many of us are not gifted musically to lead singing. However, it’s great to sing with children, even if you don’t think it sounds good.
So I would like to present you with a simple outline for your family devotions as well as list a few resources for you to use.
Simple outline for family devotions:
Open with prayer. This doesn’t have to be anything complicated or fancy. Just a simple, “Dear, Jesus, please bless our Bible time. Amen.” You can even take turns praying the opening prayer.
Read a section of the Bible. This doesn’t have to be a long section; even a few verses will do. Start with the Gospels. If you can read a chapter at a time, then do it. If not, read a few verses that complete a thought.
Ask a question or two. Who, what, where and when questions are always good to start with. For a deeper question you can ask “Why?” “Why did Jesus do/say that?” Always end with the question: “What does this have to do with us today?” If you don’t know the answer, then say so. But always add, “Let’s ask pastor this question next time we see him.” Or you can even e-mail your pastor right then and there. This will teach your children that it is OK not to know everything, but that there are ways to find out.
Close with prayer. Our family likes to end with the bedtime prayer “Now I lay me down to sleep.” We allow each family member to pray. We start with the oldest and work our way down to the youngest. This teaches your children how to pray and also builds family relations as they pray for each other.
Some of you might think this simple outline is still too scary. Here are some resources you can use to help you with your family devotions:
A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories This classic children’s book has 60 Old and New Testament stories in it. This book can be used in place of reading the Bible during family devotions. It is designed for younger children.
Little Visits 365 Family Devotions This book is great to use for those who are unsure how to start family devotions. Each devotion is a page long. Bible reading and prayers are included, enough for one whole year! This is available in many volumes so you can easily lead family devotions for many years. (Repeat as often as you like.)
New Life Lutheran Church has also prepared family devotions that go with certain sermon series. (Our newest one begins February 16, 2014!) If you would like past devotions, contact the church office using firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our family likes to supplement our family devotions with readings from other books about missionaries and the lives of great men and women of the faith. Here are a few of the resources we have used:
Hero Tales by Dave and Neta Jackson. There are four volumes in this series. Each volume features three stories from the lives of five different heroes of the Christian faith. Each story teaches a different characteristic of being a Christian hero. Each story ends with a series of questions that help the reader apply the truths to their own lives.
Early Saints of God by Bob Hartman. This book tells tales from the lives of saints. Some you may recognize; others may be new to you. Each story is interesting. Each story ends with a few questions and a prayer.
For older children, our family recommends:
End of the Spear by Steve Saint. This is a true story about the son of one of the missionaries who were killed by primitive tribesman. Steve Saint later went to live among them and help teach them about Jesus. This was also made into a movie, (but our family likes the book better).
Bruchko by Bruce Olson. This a true story about a young man who decided to enter the Amazon jungle and bring Jesus to a fierce tribe.
Heroes of the Faith This series of books focuses on the life of one hero of the faith. Read a chapter at a time and talk about it with your family.
Tales of Persia by William McElwee Miller. The author was a missionary in Persia (modern day Iran). His stories about how Christ changed lives in Persia are beautiful. He wrote these stories for his grandchildren.
Many of these resources can be found in your local library. You may also want to check your Church library for some of the devotional books. You may not always agree with the methods or reasoning used by the missionaries or saints. That is OK. Talk about why you disagree with something. Always refer back to the Bible to finish any argument against what someone taught or did.
Need help with prayers? This website has a free prayer book in the resource section. This book includes bedtime prayers, The Apostles’ Creed, Luther’s Evening Prayer as well as prayers for every day and many more. It’s also available in Burmese!
What do your family devotions look like?