Regular family devotions combined with prayer become tools for nurturing children’ faith and conversing about God and values. Daily devotions were a highlight of the day when we gathered together. On very busy days we only read a scripture card but most of the time we read the Bible, shared a story, and did a related activity. We ended with praying and dessert.
However, we are becoming a Bible illiterate country and that’s sad.
Facts show that Americans are getting more Bible illiterate every year. Only 20% (1 in 5) Americans read the Bible weekly. Many people fail a basic Bible literacy quiz. Another study looks into Bible literacy a little more. However, passing a quiz not the heart of really being Bible literate. The goal of studying the Bible is to understand the overall message of God’s love, salvation, and how he wants to interact with us.
It’s important that we raise our children to be Bible literate. Regular family devotions become tools for nurturing our children’ faith. So, if we truly know the Bible, we are more able to make choices from a biblical perspective, live with eternal hope and trust in God, and be able to defend our faith. Teaching our children to be Bible literate is one of the greatest gifts we can give them.
We help our children be Bible literate and real Christians through our example and spending time around God’s Word together. Thus, we need regular family devotions.
Family Devotions Help Faith Stick
One of the greatest fears among Christian moms is the fear that their children will turn their backs on faith in Christ and walk away. The Barna Group studies show that spiritually healthy families read the Bible together weekly.
Therefore, If we really want our children to follow Jesus, then we must make Jesus a priority and weave faith into our daily lives. We must live our faith. That’s what God shared in Deuteronomy 6 about talking about God.
These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. And you shall repeat them diligently to your sons and speak of them when you sit in your house, when you walk on the road, when you lie down, and when you get up. You shall also tie them as a sign to your hand, and they shall be as frontlets on your forehead. You shall also write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:6-9
Family Devotion Goals
Have goals with doing devotions or Bible readings. Know what basic truths you want your children to believe and remember. That way you have some specific goals to reach in developing their faith. These may include:
- Jesus is the Savior, the Son of God
- Know what Jesus did on earth (miracles and teachings)
- Learn and live the Golden rule
- How Jesus died and why he died
- Discover what happened when Jesus rose
- Know the apostles/disciples and what they did
- Understand what Jesus wants us to do
Children Value What You Show is Important
Consider how you spend time and what your children observe and experience during a typical day.
- Spending time in the Bible with our children and living what it says shows our children that faith is important.
- When we let busyness, sports, and even school be excuses for not spending time on our children’s spiritual growth we communicate that we value those activities more.
Children need to understand that God’s story is our story. Children living in a world of moral relativism and materialism need truth and something that grounds them eternally to gives them a sense of belonging to the everlasting family of God and a real purpose in life. Understand how God wants to be part of the fabric of their daily lives helps children see God’s desire to have a realm relationship with him.
How We Did Family Devotions
My oldest child Rebecca remarked that her earliest memories are family devotions. She has served God in many ways including as a pastor’s wife, serving as a lead case manager for disaster recover where she lived, co-authoring Christian books, and being a children’s ministry leader. My other children have remained faithful to their faith and serve God in other ways. They grew up with consistency and that remained with them.
We used one incentive. Either we did devotions, or we skipped dessert. After all, if we don’t enjoy the sweetness of God’s Word why should we enjoy any other sweet treat?
We started when out oldest child was about eighteen months. Our family gathered together in all sorts of places for fun and faith. We wanted to make devotions active for our five children.
Family Devotion Format
For younger ages, we read a one-page devotional story and a scripture, chatted about it, and prayed. As our children grew, we spent longer times with devotional time. We played games or did hands-on activities to provide visual and object lessons, then read from the Bible and shared a contemporary story.
When they reached their teens, we chose to go through a book of the Bible or chose Bible studies where we read a larger portion of scripture each day or chose a study relevant to their lifestyle such as ones on dating or developing critical thinking skills that applied Biblical principles to current cultural choices.
We kept things simple and limit the time to be age appropriate. Instead of extending the time when not finished we pick it up the next day.
Benefits of Family Devotions
What surprised my late husband, and I was discovering how many side benefits came from devotions. It boosted vocabulary, critical thinking, other critical thinking skills, and even inspired more global awareness.
In raising five children I found that family devotions were key to so much in our lives. They helped us bond, helped us guide our children and even discipline them, opened up conversation, and increased cognitive skills such as vocabulary and reading comprehension.
Resources for Weekly Bible Time
Start with finding a family devotion resource you like. I always enjoyed something that included hands-on fun so the children could feel involved and remember the teaching better.
Family schedules can get busy and good resources help making devotions easier to do. Check out several to decide what will work best. Be willing to switch to a different one if what you are trying doesn’t work.
Now I have a new book that shares fun with variety and choices. There’s only one short story weekly. Then you choose from a list of activities, chat prompts, and even art prompts to make a memory book. It’s easy and yet each week has a theme to help you focus on one topic (character, faith, etc.).
I love to hear about families doing devotions and hope you’ll enjoy such great times that help you bond
Preparing for Family Devotions
“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15
The choice to serve the Lord is up to each family. Choose to serve and ask for Christ’s blessing upon your household. Household includes the members of the family, workers in the home, and the building. You may also ask God to bless your cars and other possessions.
Bless Your Home
Blessing a home reminds our children that God is in control. It shows we trust God to care for our family and property. Blessing the home is also a commitment to choose to serve Christ and use possessions for Christian service. A blessed home helps children see their house as a place of refuge from the world. A prayer of blessing invites Christ to be present in the home and daily life of the family.
Now be pleased to bless this house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, O Sovereign Lord, have spoken, and with your blessings the house of your servant will be blessed forever. 2 Samuel 7:29
Other verses to read or pray in blessing your home:
Getting Started with Family Faith Time
Start today to give your children the best gifts in the world of God’s Word and your time
1. Just read a story and Bible verse or passage. Ask for comments (what did you like about the story? What happened?
2. Add a little at a time, like one activity that reinforces something read.
3. Weave it into daily life. When you are driving or eating ask who remembers the story you read. Can they retell it? Is there something God wants us to remember when we think about the Bible verse?
4. Limit the time. If children are young, 5 minutes might be enough. See what time length works before children get fidgety and let that be the limit until they get a bit older.
5. If you want help, ask a family who does them how it works for them or check out a book of family devotions appropriate for your children’s ages. It’s your family, so choose how to use the book. You can just do parts of a devotion that fit well and not everything in the book.
6. Choose the best time to do them. It could be morning, afternoon, at dinner, or just before bedtime.
Know the reasons for doing family devotions
- Don’t do devotions because you think you should and then feel guilty if it doesn’t seem to work.
- Do devotions because you prayed about it and believe God wants you to do them.
- Engage in devotions because you really want your children to know Jesus. Begin each time with saying We do devotions so we can know Jesus better or we do devotions because Jesus loves us and wants us to know Him better. If children understand the benefits, they are more willing to do them.
- Work at being consistent. When there’s a busy day and only seconds, repeat the week’s Bible verse, the last one studied, of use a set of Bible verse cards and read one.
- Pray for God’s guidance and strength to do devotions.
Be Persistent with Family Devotions
Parents sometimes give up too soon or shrink from devotions due to fear. Don’t be so hard on yourself and don’t compare what other people do. Let devotions be the heart of your family times. but do them your way.
1. Don’t give up because it seemed chaotic or because a child asked a question, and you don’t know the answer. Research it together.
2. Give it time to settle in and become a routine. Be willing to say, “I can’t answer that now, but we can pray about it, and I can look for answers.
3. If you skip devotions for a few weeks or longer, restart and don’t apologize. Just say, “It’s time to go back to doing devotions.”
5. Consider your child’s needs as you plan and do devotions.
Be Willing to Do Family Devotions Alone
If your spouse won’t do devotions, or travels a lot, choose to make it your time of faith with your children. When possible, do devotions before your spouse comes home. Or, just make time with God part of your bedtime with your children. They get 5 or 10 minutes more time to stay up.
Tips To Share and Develop Faith
Making good choices to establish a routine helps devotions succeed.
1. Consider giving each child a notebook to write or draw in. They can makes note about what they learned, write the verse, or just color as they listen.
2. Set a place and time. This can be varied for surprise fun with going outdoors or having a sunrise of sunset devotion at times. Try to be consistent most of the time.
3. Agree to limit the time spent at once. For older children you might do an hour, but little ones need you to do devotions in minutes. If you don’t finish one evening, stop and continue the next evening.
4. Come with the right attitude. Be enthusiastic. Show children lots of love as you do devotions. Finish with dessert or a snack so you can continue chatting if desired.
5. Involve your children with a related activity or giving each one to talk about what they understood.
6. Know that if one book is not working, you can try something else. Don’t give up, but make adjust as needed.
7. Prepare and pray-pare your heart by reading ahead and praying for the time you’ll have together.
Include PRAYER with Family Devotions
Greet God like “Hello God, it’s me.” or a praise to show you honor God. As a family, you can take turns saying a few words of praise, some words asking for forgiveness if needed, and tell the Lord about your needs as well as thank God for answered prayers.
Prayer time can include songs and reading scriptures. Talk about how you want to pray as a family and try different ideas.
Study people in the Bible who prayed like Nehemiah and Paul. They prayed for God’s people and for their friends. They trusted God to answer them. Read also about three men thrown in a furnace because they prayed. God saved them from the fire in Daniel 3:19-25.
Post a list of prayer answers to remind your family that God answers prayer.
Calming Children Before Family Devotions
It’s good to keep a calming kit around for children that help them settle down. It might include a special stuffed animal only used when they are agitated, silly putty, stress balls, and favorite books.
Once a bit calmer it’s easier to pray with them and pray for God to take control. Nothing happens that surprises God. He knows the solution before the problem arises, so trust Him.
An echo prayer can be good when things are tough, such as praying Psalm 23 and letting children echo The Lord is My Shepherd between each verse. Repeating a phrase that gives us hope and reminds us that God’s got it helps us remain calm.
Faith through Your Children’s Ages
We have 18 years to nurture our children’ faith, so schedule the time and plan for it.
Nurture Spiritual Growth of Little Ones
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14
From pregnancy through the first two years, play Christian music and gently speak about Jesus to your baby. Pray aloud as you lay your little one in bed. As the toddler years begin and language develops share simple messages of God’s love and bring Jesus into your activities.
Bring Christ into Play
Play games babies like such as peekaboo or hide and seek. At times say, “God sees you.” Ask if they hid in a fluffy cloud, inside a tree trunk, in a hole with a worm, or other silly place, who could still find them
Dance and Sing to Celebrate and Praise the Lord Together
- Play and dance to children’s Christian music.
- Sing the words together.
- Talk about what the words tell them about Jesus.
- Blow kisses to Jesus during and after singing.
Make Family Devotions Memorable for Little Ones
Make simple connections
- Use what a child knows to talk about what Jesus would do.
- Jesus sees everything. Let him catch us being good, not bad.
- As you can wash dirt off hands, so Jesus washes away sin.
- A bandage can cover an outside hurt and help it heal. Christ’s love can heal the inside hurt in the heart.
- Help your child learn to say,” I’m sorry” and pray with them for Jesus to forgive their sins.
ABCs of salvation
As children start pre-reading skills and learn the alphabet, introduce salvation ABCs.
Admit that you sin and need Jesus to forgive you. (Romans 3:23)
Believe Jesus died to save you. (John 3:16 and 1 John 4:10b))
Call on God to make you his child. (Romans 10:13)
Nurture Spiritual Growth of Elementary Aged Children
And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the LORD and with men. 1 Samuel 2:26
At this age children are curious and developing many skills, and ready to develop spiritual knowledge and skills.
Connect a child’s natural curiosity to problems of Bible people and everyday problems. Read and talk about Bible people and events, such as connecting Cain and Abel with sibling rivalry and anger management. Use books that combine the stories with learning, such as Let’s Chat About the Bible (Barbour Publishing).
Let children pray aloud. Talk about prayer requests and answers. Record prayers in a journal or on slips in a blessing’s jar. Read prayer answers each New Year, birthday, and times child feels discouraged.
Read prayers in the Bible as models to pray. (Exodus 15:1-18; 1 Chronicles 4:9-10; Psalm 23; Nehemiah 1:6-11, 2:4, and Luke 11:2-4.
Discover God together with family devotions
Study Bible families. (Noah’s family, Genesis 8-9; Ruth and Naomi in the book of Ruth; Joseph’s family in Genesis 37, 42-46; Lazarus and his sisters, John 11-12:11; and Paul and Aquila in Acts 18:1-3,24-28.)
Let Kids Question Faith
Don’t fear questions. When you don’t have answers, check the Bible and your Christian bookstore. Bring tough questions to church. Jesus responded to doubts Thomas had and we should respond to our children’s doubts. Ask your pastor of someone else for help when questions stump you.
Let Family Devotions for Elementary Children Develop Character
Spend time comparing biblical values and character in the Bible with daily actions.
Praise talents as gifts from God. Discuss that God has a plan for everyone’s life and will use those talents. Finding these gifts is a lifelong treasure hunt! Sometimes a child is not good at something and that’s okay, too.
Encourage children to develop their talents. Match gifts with activities or lessons, such as music lessons for the musically talented child, sport teams for the natural athlete, or opportunities to visit nursing homes of children who show great compassion.
Praise Biblical Virtues
Show appreciation when a child exhibits any virtue, such as mercy, kindness, and encouragement. Your affirmation will reinforce good habits and behavior.
Hook into Church Programs
Help children find others who love the Lord in Sunday school, children’s church, church clubs, and other programs that nourish spiritual growth. These programs compliment home teaching but do not replace it. Volunteer in these activities. Help your children learn their Bible verses and reinforce lessons taught.
Nurture Spiritual Growth of Tweens with Family Devotions
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. 2 Peter 3:18
As tweens start puberty they struggle for independence, sometimes through rebellious behavior. Encourage independence with boundaries. Peer groups become more influential so know your child’s friends. Help tweens incorporate godly values into decision-making.
Keys to Spiritual growth
- Encourage personal devotions, Bible reading, and prayer. Reinforce success with privileges or rewards.
- Remind self-critical that God loves them and has plans for them. Find devotional books with humor to learn to laugh at mistakes.
- Let your tween lead family devotions and choose family activities.
- Connect biblical behavior and consequences for bad choices. Read about the kings and consequences of turning away from God.
- Raise responsible children. With daughters, study Proverbs 31 woman to see what skills to develop. Let sons study the disciples and King David to explore areas to develop or avoid.
- Explain that rights and privileges come with showing responsibility and good choices. As they seek independence discuss what responsibilities are required. Talk about Luke 12:48b.
- Share various ways to study Scripture. (Verse, topical, character studies, etc.)
- Set age-appropriate boundaries. If your tween lives at home going to church may be retired
Capture the memories
Record spiritual growth, snap photos, and note your child’s spiritual gifts and record how they are being used and developed.
Nurture Spiritual Growth of Older Children
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 1 Corinthians 13:1
As teens transition to adulthood, they make life choices. That’s scary for everyone! The most important task parents tackle is keeping communication lines open.
Keys to spiritual growth
- Support your teen’s good choices. Pray through the bad ones but be open to forgiving and helping a prodigal change.
- Affirm your child even if you disagree with choices. Let them know you hope they will make godly choices.
- Encourage your son or daughter to join a ministry with you (i.e., class aid).
- Let older children teach younger siblings.
- Suggest that young adult take a summer mission trip.
- Appreciate your young adult. Express thanks for running errands, doing well, and even for beautiful smiles. Compliment good attitudes, too.
- Share in their joys and sorrows. Listen and feel the joy or disappointment with them. Share your experiences.
- Accept your child’s strong points and limitations. Guide them in matching strong points and passions to career decisions.
- Express love even when they act like they don’t want it.
- Pick your battles.
- Be open to dating/courting partners.
- Keep communicating.
With phones it’s easy to snap a picture or record words said. The photos and recordings make great faith memories.
- Encourage your child to journal.
- Take photos of special events at church, including Baptism or commitments to serve God and family events.
- Journal some of the questions your child asks and answers that satisfied.
- Record some of your child’s prayers.
- Photograph and write about family devotions.
- Make a spiritual scrapbook. Write in your child’s first prayer, favorite Christian storybook, and other special moments.Save correspondence.
- Photograph important times, such as that first time driving alone, first time at church, first religious events, and praying for your child.
Basic Character Development
We want our children to grow in character and to grow the Fruit of the Spirit. That starts young and continues through the years of raising them. Compare the characters in the Bible or stories as you do family devotions.
‘Ten basic godly character traits (add others you desire to encourage) Each produces other positive traits.
- Compassion leads to kindness and generosity.
- Contentment guards against jealousy and envy.
- Faithfulness leads to spiritual growth and holiness
- Honesty builds integrity.
- Justice moves hearts to mercy.
- Love unites us as family leads to patience and understanding.
- Loyalty build unity and promotes caring for other’s needs.
- Perseverance helps a person succeed and overcome obstacles.
- Responsibility leads to maturity, good work ethic, and self-respect.
- Respect for authority brings order and harmony.
Encourage Character through Family Devotions
While discussing a Bible story or passage examine the character of the people to encourage good character traits.
- Pray for each family member’s character growth.
- Model the virtues. Nurture them in your life.
- Praise each person for virtues displayed.
- Read about heroes with character.
- Communicate. Conversations build relationship and transmit values.
- Share stories of family members who displayed character.
- Develop family traditions. Rituals identify and celebrate values.
- Serve others. Putting others first character growth.
Fruit of the Spirit
Read Galatians 5:22-23 and list the Fruit of the Spirit. These come from the Holy Spirit, so nurture your child’s relationship the God’s Spirit.
Remember that each day is a new opportunity to share and nurture your child’s faith and continue the journey with more family devotions. Therefore, make it a priority!