A mother in Austin, Texas writes, “Here are some important things I have learned from my six-year-old son. A king size waterbed holds enough water to fill a 2000 square foot house about four inches deep. If you hook a dog-leash over a ceiling fan, the motor is not strong enough to rotate a 42 lb. boy wearing batman underwear and a superman cape. It is strong enough, however, if tied to a paint can, to spread paint on all four walls of a room. Always look in the oven before you turn it on. Plastic toys do not like ovens. However, the fire department in Austin, Texas has a five-minute response time. The spin cycle on a washing machine will make cats dizzy. And…cats throw up twice their body weight when they’re dizzy.” (from “Car Talk”)
Ok, though I am sure some of you parents can relate with sighs and groanings, there are actually some really positive things we can learn during the shut-down. Many people are learning to play an instrument or speak another language. Some have started a blog or are working on the great American novel. Many who have not had time for exercise are being introduced to the joys of running or hiking or cycling. Some are working on really getting to know their spouse, or their children. Those are all excellent pursuits, and I would like to suggest one more.
With churches being limited to streaming services online or using conference calls to keep up with and teach the Bible to their people, the home has become an even more critical center for spiritual instruction. Dads and moms are awakening to the truth that they can teach their children to read and study the Bible. They are making time for prayer as a family and encouraging their children to develop a deeper relationship with God by talking to him and listening to him speak through his word. Many call this, “family devotions.” If you are unfamiliar with the term and don’t really know how to get started, let me encourage you with a few basic principles that my wife and I used with our children when they were still at home.
Pick a book of the Bible you want to take the family through, and then read a chapter or a part of a chapter every day. Proverbs is a great one. Take turns reading. After reading he passage, I would ask each child, “What did you like? Or what question do you have?” They knew the question was coming, so they were listening carefully as we read through the section, and they were asking the Lord to show them what they needed to hear in it. There was almost always a good discussion, and I especially enjoyed their questions. That gave me an opportunity to help them see something that they didn’t understand. Our children need to sense that there’s a freedom to ‘not know’ so they don’t feel foolish asking a question! They also need to know that you don’t know everything. That teaches them that learning the wisdom of the Lord is a lifetime process, and we are all students. There were times when I said, “I don’t know! But I will try and find an answer for you, and we will talk about it more tomorrow.” One other thing: some say they are waiting until their children are old enough to read before they start doing family devotions. Why wait? Read to them, and there are some excellent resources you can use with small children along with the Bible. My favorite is Sally Lloyd-Jones’ wonderful book, The Jesus Storybook Bible.
After your time reading, spend some time praying. I would ask for prayer requests and then we would go around the circle, and each child would pray, even if it was just a sentence. We watched their prayers and their faith grow over the years.
Here’s the really exciting news. Leading family devotions does not require a Bible or seminary degree. You do not have to be an elder in your church, or even sing in the choir! Normal men and women can do it, and as they say, God must really love normal people like you and me, because he made so many of us.
Does this mean that when the churches open their doors again, you don’t have to go back? No! We need the body of Christ, we need the fellowship, the corporate worship, the preaching, the serving, missions, and all that goes into what is a healthy church. Your pursuit of learning to do family devotions will make your family a healthier member of the whole body, so start today, and don’t ever stop. My wife and I still have family devotions, just the two of us!