I was asked last week about tips for family devotions, especially dealing with young children. My first piece of advice? JUST DO THEM! Something is better than nothing. But to make it effective and more enjoyable, here are some tips:
1. Keep it short and gradually build up as they grow in endurance. At first, we only did 5 minutes. We are now doing 30 minute devotions each day with the children ages 12, 7, and 4. It takes time and practice.
2. Don't make it lecture time, make it interactive. Let them act out the stories, praising the characters for good choices, and scolding the characters for bad choices. Ultimately remember though, the stories are not about the characters. They are about God revealing Himself to man. Look for character traits of God in each verse/story.
3. Focus on one main truth that you want them to grasp, not several truths.
4. Keep it concrete. Young children do not think abstractly. Symbolism may stump many of them. Give them "milk." Save the "meat" for when they can grasp it.
5. Maybe start with proverbs and pick out the easy verses... or work through the book of Genesis. The stories in that book are pretty fun for young children.
6. If you enjoy it, they will enjoy it more. And if you dread it...
7. Be consistant. Do devotions at the same time each day. We started out by including it in our "night-night" routine. Get dressed for bed, brush your teeth, and do devotions... give lovin's and sugars and head to bed. Now we do them at 8:30 AM because it works better in our schedule. We are often in confrences in the evening.
8. If it has been a long day and everyone is tired, at least take time to pray together before bed so that they still stick to the routine, but don't get in the habit of skipping Bible time. It sends the message that prayer is all we need and not God's Word.
9. Have a specific place your family meets for devotions.
10. Bring "curiosity" builders... when you tell the story of God giving water out of a rock, bring a rock to devotion, etc.
11. Give enough meat for older ones, but keep it short enough that the younger ones don't get too wiggly.
12. Devotions are a great time to work on sitting still. Sometimes learning self-control is a lesson all on its own!
13. Let everyone be involved in prayer at some point. Maybe everyone each night, or maybe one different person each night taking turns.
14. Prayer IS part of the devotion. Don't rush it... but if you have sleepy kids... don't exhaust them either.
15. Involve missions prayer in your prayer time. Collect missionary cards and everyone gets a different card each night to pray for... or maybe focus on one missionary a night. Grab a globe or map so you can find where they serve. This is great for the older ones!
16. Be human. If the devotion reminds you of an example in your life, share it! It makes it real! Good or bad... but don't elevate the bad in any fashion. Sin is serious and they need to see that. They also need to hear how God is working in your life.
17. If you are doing personal devotions and God really shows you something... convicts you about something... by using a verse in the Bible, share that for devotions! You will be passionate about it, they will see the benefit of devotions and how God uses His Word to change us.
18. Hubby is the head of the home. He really needs to lead family devotions. But occasionally if God deals with you about something, volunteer. Ask him if you can lead them. If hubby will not or cannot lead, you are still instructed to teach your children. Don't hesitate to do devotions with them.
19. Often, as Jason is leading devotions, I may be able to word things in a manner that the younger ones may better grasp. Sometimes I will speak up and help them understand... or if I have a personal example, I share,too. I am not there to teach my hubby, but he sure loves it when I help him explain things to the young ones! It is really kind of a "tag-team" thing for us, but he is clearly the leader/instigator of the devotions.
20. Pray that God will guide you both in raising your children... especially through personal devotions and family devotions. He will grow you and mature you as much as your children.
I hope these tips have helped. I wish I had more time to write. Let me know what method you choose for your family. I'd love to hear any successes you have.