The past couple of months, we’ve been working with our oldest to develop his own quiet time. We want to instill in him a love and zeal for God’s Word. But while we want him to have a personal quiet time of prayer and reading God’s Word, we also wanted to have a time that our family could read God’s Word and learn together.
We’ve tried on several occasions to start a family devotion time, but have been unsuccessful. Through our failures, we have learned several things that don’t work. But we have also learned a few things that can help make your family devotion time a meaningful time that you will all enjoy and love. I believe that families of all sizes with kids of all ages can use these basic steps to create a family devotional time that lasts.
7 Tips for Starting a Successful Family Devotion Time
- Make a plan and stick to it. Pick a time of day that works best for your family. Maybe everyone is awake for breakfast or you make a point to eat dinner together every night or maybe Dad comes home at lunch and that’s the best time. When choosing a time, don’t pick one when family members are too tired or not awake. If you have early risers, breakfast might be a great fit. If you have young children that have early bedtimes, during or right after dinner might be the best fit. Whenever it is: set a consistent time each day to gather together and read God’s Word.
- Include everyone, even the littles. While it may seem easier to have a quiet time with just the ones who can sit and listen, it is so important to include your little ones in this family time. Yes, it will take some time to train them and teach them how to sit quietly and listen, but they will learn. But it’s also important to remember their ages. Two-year-olds will act like two-year-olds. In my opinion, it’s okay that they don’t sit completely still so long as they are respectful. As they grow and mature, they will learn and should be expected to sit quietly during the study.
- Begin small. If you have younger children, it might be a good idea to start with a short time—maybe 10 minutes. By starting small, you can teach them to sit in short increments and begin to set a routine. When they have mastered the 10 minutes, move it up to 15. As they grow and mature you can also increase the time you spend doing family devotions. There is no exact science here. This process is completely up to you, the parents, to make the call. You know your family better than anyone: take your cue from them.
- Turn off all electronics. I know this may seem like a given, but it needs to be mentioned. We have a rule in our house that no electronics are at the dinner table for family meals. So it stands to reason that they should not be allowed during family devotions. Yes, I know you can get a Bible App on your phone, iPod, iPad, tablet—pretty much anything electronic. But I see how distracting they are for my own kids and they don’t need any more distractions.
- Begin with prayer. Begin your family devotional time with prayer requests. It may take a while for them to offer some—other than grandparents, pets, and the family car—but they will. We have used a prayer calendar in the past as well as a map. A prayer calendar can work several ways. You can set aside specific days to pray for family members, friends, missionaries and others during the month. This can stay the same each month or change. You can also do it so you pray for different topics each day: sickness, missionaries, family, etc. You can use the map to mark countries where friends are located. This gives you the ability to use this time as a teaching moment as well as a prayer request.
- Separate from personal quiet times. Make sure this family devotion time does not replace your own personal quiet time or your kids’ quiet time. While family devotions are important in creating a godly and firm family dynamic, they cannot replace our personal time spent with Him. It is important that we model this behavior so our children will see it as well
- Get everyone involved. There are several ways each person in the family can be involved, no matter their age. Little ones can offer up prayer requests. As they get older, they can learn to record prayer requests in a family notebook or read the Bible passage when they can. As your kids get older, try asking them to lead the family devotion one night: let them be in charge, especially the boys.
While these steps are not a promise that your family devotions will run smoothly, I hope they will get you started. Give yourself and your family time to adjust to the new routine. Keep at it though and don’t give up. You may also need to alter the layout, time frame or time of day until it fits your family’s needs and wants. Don’t be afraid to change things up until it works or just to switch it up a bit.
Do you have a family devotional time? How did you start?
Need more help and resources? Check out my Family Bible Study Resources.