Parents, as the primary faith trainers of our kids, Faith Talks or family devotionals should be a regular occurrence within our homes. If we want our kids to grab hold of Jesus and the Gospel, we need to open God’s Word together and talk about it together. The church is the “B-Team” when it comes to leading your kids to faith. As parents, we are the “A-Team.” However, many parents don’t know where to start or how to lead family devotionals. Some of us didn’t grow up in homes where Faith Talks were a regular part of our family and it can certainly be intimidating. Further, with the craziness and hectic pace of life sometimes, it can feel overwhelming to try to lead these devotionals. Relax! It doesn’t have to be as complicated as you think.
Here are ten tips to get you started leading family devotionals:
1. Set realistic expectations
I’m not sure about you, but I’ve never been able to successfully lead an hour and half Bible study with my ten year-old and four year-old. Through trial and error, I learned a while ago that 10-15 minutes of Bible reading, discussion and prayer over the course of many days adds up. If all your kids can do is manage a short time to read God’s Word and discuss, then build on that!
2. Keep it simple
As a student pastor I plan at least two services each week for students. These include games, welcome, announcements, teaching lessons, small group questions, etc. When it comes to a family devotional, keep it simple. There are so many different ways to lead a family devotional. Our simple method usually consists of looking at a passage of Scripture, asking some questions and discussing for a bit and then praying for one another. Keep it that simple and it will be sustainable and repeatable, which is what you ultimately want.
3. Pick the easiest time
For a while, my wife and I were trying to schedule a once a week Bible study after dinner on Monday nights. Inevitably, something would come up or we would get done with dinner and need to clean up and get kids cleaned up. By the time we looked up it was almost bedtime. We decided to keep a family devotional book and Bible on the kitchen table. Now, before we clean up from dinner, we grab the devotional book and Bible and have a 5-10 minute Bible discussion. Every family meal (which isn’t always every day) is completed with this routine. Our kids have come to expect and enjoy this time. The point is to find what works best for your family’s rhythm and is repeatable.
4. Pray throughout
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received from a friend was to pray and ask the Lord to show me what He was trying to do as I talked with students. This translates easily to my family. When you lead a family devotional time, be asking the Lord to show you where He might be trying to disciple your kids. Invite Him into the conversation. This attentiveness to the Holy Spirit will lead you as you discuss.
5. Ask questions and listen
The best Bible studies are filled with lots of conversation. This means lots of questions and listening. As you pray, the Lord will sometimes give you the right question or allow you to sit quietly and just listen to your kids. When they are talking, it means they are engaging. Therefore, opening a great window into their heart and what they are processing and thinking. Don’t feel you have to talk the entire time – as a matter of fact, please don’t talk the entire time!
6. Use your resources
There are so many great resources to leading a family devotional. Two of our favorites are Dinner Table Devotions and Discussion Starters, by Nancy Guthrie, and If I Could Ask God Anything: Awesome Bible Answers for Curious Kids, by Kathryn Slattery. Your church should have some great suggestions for you depending on the age of your kids. Whatever you use, the important part is to open your Bible and read together!
7. Have fun
If you or your kids aren’t having fun opening God’s Word together and being together, then something is wrong. Yes, there will be times where we will have more serious discussions, but spending time with your family in God’s Word should be enjoyable. Make it fun for your kids, so they’ll be that much more likely to want to sit down with you the next day. Be silly. Be creative. Laugh.
8. Let them lead
Depending on the age of your kids and their maturity level, give your kids a chance to lead your family devotional. I’ve been surprised so many times in ministry when I challenge students to step up and lead. Kids are begging to be challenged. And just think about how much you personally learn when you prepare to teach something. If anything, allow your kids the opportunity to read God’s Word aloud for the family and/or pray at some point during your time together.
9. Pray out loud
This is important. Prayer should be a part of every family devotional. There are so many ways to pray, as well. Allowing your kids the opportunity to hear you pray instills a foundation for prayer. It also gives you an opportunity to regularly bless them and let them hear your blessing aloud. Pray for one another, pray for neighbors, pray for enemies and pray the Lord’s Prayer.
10. Stay faithful
Remember the point of regular, family devotionals isn’t to have the most polished, prepared Bible study in the world. The point is to have them regularly. I promise, if you are seeking to build this habit within your family, the Lord will use it no matter how “good” or “bad” you think it’s going. There will be times where it will feel like you did nothing or there was no good conversation, but put that out of your mind and get back to it the next day. Quantity is more important than quality!