Many parents want wonderful, memorable devotional times, yet they lack ideas. They know devotions are vital to the success of a family, but can it be meaningful, relevant and fun? A parent must first realize the importance and significance of family prayer and devotions. If they don’t, it will be impossible to communicate it to their children.
Two basic things make a home function spiritually: a reverence for the Word and confidence in prayer. Talk about the Lord Jesus. Keep Him in front of the children as the true Head of your home. Timothy’s mother and grandmother did just that. “I am reminded of your sincere faith which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and now lives in you also” (II Timothy 1:5). Years of consistent teaching in the home paid off. God wants every generation to pass it on…“to tell our children’s children’s children.” (Psalm 78:2-7). Solomon reminds us to listen to our mom’s teaching about God (Proverbs 1:8) and our dad’s teaching (Proverbs 4:1). Both parents are to bring their children up in the Lord (Ephesians 6:1-4).
Childhood is a prime time for learning, so don’t allow prime time television to take the place of God in your home. Twenty minutes of devotions cannot take the place of four hours of trash on TV. You must control video or be controlled by video. Children are open minded. Parents are in an excellent position to select carefully what will fill their minds.
Do not throw a dark shadow over what can be a joyous time. Several common attitudes can turn devotions sour:
Guilt: “The pastor said we have to do this.”
Regret: “We should have started having devotions years ago.”
Legalism: “God will punish us if we don’t.”
Desperation: “We’ve just got to do something spiritual in the home.”
Authoritarianism: “We’ll have devotions every night, no matter what!”
Don’t feel like you are the only parents who struggle with having family devotions.
The devil will distract you any way he can. Common problems include:
1. Busy schedules
2. Lack of creative ideas
3. One parent is not interested
4. Age range of children varies (How can we keep them all interested?)
Although teaching our children is both a privilege and a command, many parents don’t lead their children in devotions because they have no prayer life of their own. They know family devotions will help everyone, but they have not made time with God a priority in their own lives. Ask yourself this question, “If I knew that my children would have no other source of spiritual truth than what I give them myself, could they survive spiritually?” We must live as if we were the only source of spiritual training for our children and family.
Teaching our children is a great privilege, given to us by God Himself.
Write out on paper a description of the kind of adult you would like each of your children to become. As you grow with your children, pray over every aspect of each child’s spiritual training. Take authority in Jesus’ name over all the forces that might hinder their progress in God. The Holy Spirit will help you.
No family devotions can have life-changing effects without the Bible, the Word of God, as the foundation. Children must be taught a deep love and appreciation for the Scriptures. Set the atmosphere of respect for God’s Word continually, as parental role models. Never toss the Bible around, or cover it up with magazines or papers. Honor the Word, for it is the road map that will guide your entire family into heaven. “I will not neglect your Word” (Psalm 119:16).
Never use the Bible as a club or a threat. Never belittle your child’s knowledge of the Word, for no one yet has mastered the entire Bible, nor has anyone yet let the Bible completely master them. Let your children know that we are all on this path together. Let them know we all have new and exciting mesas to climb.
You can leave a marvelous legacy to your children by reminding them, by holding up and keeping before them the Five Fingers of Faith:
These five things can be modeled by parents before children learn to read for themselves. They will pick up on your priorities. Some things are better caught than taught.
Four Aspects of the Learning Process
These work in all countries and in all cultures.
1. Repetition: engraving biblical facts on the mind
2. Visualization: understanding Bible facts experientially
3. Internalization: making Bible truths personally meaningful
4. Application: using the truth to change attitudes and behavior patterns
Never divorce prayer and God’s Word. Both are connected. Faith comes by hearing God’s Word (Romans 10:17), and Jude 20 tells that we build up ourselves in faith by praying in the Holy Spirit.
Teach your children the Four Facets of Prayer:
Include praise daily with your children. When something good happens to them, encourage them to praise the Lord for it. Lead them to reverence and worship the Lord.
Teach them to keep their communication clear with God by telling God they are sorry when they sin. They should be taught to confess as soon as they realize what they did offended God and went against God’s Word.
Promote in your children an “attitude of gratitude.” Teach them to be thankful to God for the little things in life.
Think of supplication as asking God for what you need. Encourage them to pray to God on their own, not just in family devotions. Create in them a spirit of true communication with God personally.
Don’t insist that children pray aloud. They are not praying to you. Do not force them to pray long prayers. Children feel pressured when they are unable to remember a long list of things to pray about. Make a prayer list and have each child pray about certain things. Be sure to praise God together for answered prayers.
Vary your positions when you pray. You can stand, sit, kneel – even lie down and pray. Sometimes you can have devotions in the backyard or a different room in the house. Variety lets the child know that God hears them wherever they may be. Keep a photo album of friends and relatives to pray for. Pass around their pictures as you pray. Children need a point of reference for their prayers.
Never criticize a child’s prayers. This is important. If you criticize their prayers or grammar, it may build walls. They may come to view prayer as something negative, that God may not accept their prayers if they pray “wrong.” If they feel you do not find their prayers acceptable, as the child grows older, he/she may abandon any attempt to pray, feeling that God may not find his prayers acceptable either. Build on their faith, not their faults. Few children have ever had an overdose of honest praise and encouragement.
Devotions and Scripture Memorization with young children
Begin to think of memorizing Scripture as a normal thing expected of every Christian. Ask your children what they think about memorizing a few verses. Find innovative ways to get the Word down into their spirits. Planting the Word of God in their minds is planting good seeds. It will help them cultivate new patterns of thinking and behavior. Never again will you have such a great opportunity to almost completely control the influences that shape your child’s thoughts and values. Although children do not tend to meditate deeply on the Word of God, they will later in life. The younger they begin to receive the Word, the longer it will affect their way of living. By meditating on the Word of God, success in life is guaranteed (Joshua 1:8). When Jesus quoted, He always quoted the Old Testament, nothing else. He defeated the temptations of Satan—and Satan himself—by directly quoting the Word of God. All the New Testament writers quoted the Old Testament.
Reasons why people don’t memorize Scripture include:
1. It’s too hard!
2. It’s not exciting!
3. It takes too much time.
4. I’ll forget it later anyway.
So how can you begin to get the little ones to remember Bible verses?
1. Begin with simple verses. Repeat them often. Look them up in the Bible and make the verse part of family devotions.
2. Review, repeat, reinforce.
3. Look at the verse in the Bible. Say it more than once. Make comments about the value of that verse.
Make devotions and Bible memorization fun. Download songs that have that special verse in the lyrics. Make up a simple poem about that verse. Ask your child during a meal if they remember their verse. If not, never scold them, but rather repeat the verse over with them a few times. Never make a memory verse a stick to break their back with. Memorization of a verse must be done in such a way that the child will want to learn more.
Notice the child’s eyes. He/she will constantly focus on the source of the activity or interest, wanting to see and hear what’s going on. Preschoolers can’t resist entering into any activity that intrigues and welcomes them. Our little ones love to be included. Capture their interest. A child will often be so intent on watching others at the table; he will suddenly get tired and put his little head down on the table and go to sleep. Christian parents need to be aware of the child’s constant need to observe and to absorb. This is why too much television is dangerous. Remember, the tater-tots of today will be the couch-potatoes of tomorrow. Take advantage of this interest in learning at this important time of their lives and give them the Word of God in tot-sized portions.
Little children are capable of learning about:
God and Jesus
Obedience to God and parents
Children love Bible stories and they instinctively respond to the life of Jesus. They will tend to retain interest when a story is told in an attractive and enjoyable way. By making use of the types of stimuli children enjoy, they will look forward to family devotions.
A Few Tips:
1. Keep it short. You already know the shortness of a toddler’s attention-span.
2. Don’t drag out devotions and make them pay for your lack of advance planning. Vary the lengths of time according to the interest of your children. If you overburden them with long devotions, they will find a hundred excuses not to be there or to participate.
3. Use lots of visual aids.
4. Be animated when you tell a Bible story – make it exciting.
5. Use physical closeness during devotions. Hold your child if he/she wants to be held, or sit close. The child will associate the closeness of God with the closeness of yourself.
6. Avoid scolding during devotions. If a child needs correction, remove him/her from the family circle and deal with the child in private.
7. Reinforce the teaching throughout the day.
8. Around the house, sing the songs you sang or will sing in devotions that day.
Christian parents have the advantage of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to guide them and give them ingenuity throughout the child-rearing years. The Spirit of God is always ready to give you fresh ideas when it comes to instructing your children in the ways of God. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth. God will meet your child at his/her level of understanding. John 3:1-21