Thursday, September 4, 2014

Training Them Up: A Family Devotions Guide

The Bible says:
 "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Prov. 22:6.

Who should train them up?
The father and mother, primarily. Well, the father and mother... and the Lord.

Training up children is ongoing. It's 24/7. And one of the best, most important ways to train them up and lead them to Christ is to have family devotions. Many years ago, the Lord was convicting my heart about the need for it. I wanted to do it.

But I struggled with the "how". I had never experienced family devotions.
What do you do?
How long should they be?
How often should we have them?
How do you DO family devotions?
This was my struggle when I was a baby Christian raising baby boys.

Up to that time, I had been reading Bible stories aloud every day since the boys were babes. We would cuddle on the couch and enjoy reading My Bible Friends and look at the large, beautiful illustrations. After a story or two, they were ready to wiggle down off the couch and head to something else. And unbeknownst to me at the time, we were having age-appropriate family devotions! We were spending time together learning about our amazing God, and it was all they needed.

It wasn't until they were a little older - I think my oldest son was around 5, that I felt the call from God to take the next step with family devotions. So, prayerfully, almost 15 years ago, I just decided to step in the waters by faith asking God to lead. 

We started with singing songs. We sang the songs they had been learning in Sabbath School - "Jesus Loves Me", "The Trees are Gently Swaying", "Happy, Happy Home", and others. They love to do action songs, so we did as many of those as we could. Then we would work on a memory verse. At this age, the verse was short and in a children's version so they could easily understand it. We then read our Sabbath School lesson story. We read the same story every day for a whole week. Young children enjoy repetition and it really helps them to learn it. I had a set of Betty Lukens Bible felts, and my children loved to see the story presented with the colorful felts. As the week progressed, they could help tell the story and put the felts up. Sometimes we might even act out the story.
At the end of our devotions, we would have prayer.

As my sons grew, our family devotions changed with them. We started memorizing the books of the Bible in order. (Hint: start with the New Testament it's much easier! Find a song you like that will aid in the memorization process. We also started memorizing larger pieces of scripture - even chapters! One activity we really enjoyed was making memory verse booklets. We stapled several blank sheets of paper together, and the boys had to write the verses out on one side and draw an illustration on the other. This works great for learning the Ten Commandments, Psalm 23, or something similar. We also used scripture songbooks which made it fairly easy to memorize a whole psalm or chapters like 1 Cor. 13 or Isaiah 53. 

The pre-teen and teen years have brought more discussion into our devotional time. We cover our basic beliefs again and study them out from the Bible. As their reasoning skills develop, it is crucial they not only understand what we believe, but where in the Bible it supports our beliefs. They need to be able to defend their beliefs from Scripture. We occasionally review previously learned skills, such as the order of the Bible books, by recitation, or by doing Bible drills (seeing who can find a certain chapter/verse first). We also keep singing the Bible songs and hymns. 


>> Family Devotions Ideas by Age <<



Children's Bible stories on your lap

Toddlers - Age 4

Bible stories with felts
Simple memory verses
Learning to pray

Ages 4-7

Bible stories with felts
Longer memory verses
Saying prayer

Ages 7-11

Bible stories read from Children's Bible
Acting out the story
Memorizing order of books of the Bible
Memorizing 10 Commandments
Memorizing chapters and whole psalms
Make scripture booklets for memory work
Learn scripture songs and hymns

Pre-teens and Teens

Bible drills
Fundamental beliefs study
In-depth Bible studies
Acting out the story
Singing hymns and scripture songs
Leading family worship

I've learned that devotions are a spiritual observance - a meeting with God in His word, in prayer, in song, and in worship. A critical aspect for family devotions is to HAVE FUN! Learning about God and spending time with Him should always be an enjoyable time. As for how much time to spend, it will depend on your children. Don't make family devotions a drudgery. It should be kept fresh, lively, and not too long.

This is how our family devotions have evolved over the years. Do you have devotions with your children? What has worked well for you? I'd love to hear about it!

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