As we enter into a new year, you’re likely thinking that 2017 will be different. Right?! Well, we all know how that goes. But that doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to make resolutions.
The dawning of a new year reminds us of new beginnings, so it’s a perfect time to evaluate and reorder our lives. Those of us who are parents with children still at home, particularly younger children, have a special responsibility. Let me encourage you to evaluate, reorder, and, if necessary, structure family devotions. As pastors and church leaders, we don’t want to come to the end of our lives and realize that we failed to shepherd our own families. So, as we begin a new year, allow me to share three keys to sustaining fruitful family devotions: conviction, content, and course.
Conviction: These things must first be on your heart.
Whatever steps you take toward shepherding (discipling) your family should be borne out of personal conviction that this is the biblical requirement for parents (Ephesians 6:4; see Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Psalm 78:1-4; Exodus 13:3-10; Joshua 4:1-7). If you are convinced from Scripture that you as the parent are the primary discipler of your family, then you will want to establish helpful practices on an ongoing basis to assist you in your effort to raise your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. One such practice is family devotions.
If you presently do not gather your family for a simple time of Bible reading and prayer, pray that the Lord would grant you the grace to see the necessity of shepherding/discipling your family. Ask for the strength to be faithful in implementing helpful strategies to fulfill this biblical command.
Content: What should I be teaching my children?
I propose there are two primary areas that we should be covering with our children on an ongoing basis. First is the gospel: we should be telling, re-telling, teaching, and living our lives in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our children should understand the difference between rebellion, religion, and the gospel. There are many helpful resources available to this end, but it’s best to go directly to God’s Word, the Bible. Choose a translation that is faithful and easy for your family to read and understand. Personally, I’m looking forward to the new Christian Standard Bible (CSB) that Holman Bible Publishing will make available this March.
Second, we should disciple our children in worldview thinking. In other words, we’re to teach our children the implications of the gospel and its perspective on all of life. According to Ronald Nash, a worldview is comprised of at least five components which ask and answer life’s ultimate questions: What do you believe about God (theology)? What do you believe about humanity (anthropology)? What do you believe about truth and how we know truth (epistemology)? What do you believe about this world and the world to come (metaphysics)? What do you believe about right and wrong (ethics)? These questions can only be answered properly in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The best way to address these questions is to ask them of the Bible as you are reading together.
Course: How do I go about discipling my children?
Having the conviction to disciple your family, and understanding that the primary content of family devotions is the Bible is important, but it’s not enough. You must also establish a regular time, place, and plan.
When we gather our family at the same time and place, using a clearly understood plan, the regular rhythm of family devotions will become a family expectation. But be sure to keep is simple, though. Too many parents (and children) are scared away from family devotions for fear of what it may involve. Don Whitney, in his book, Family Worship, suggests that there are essentially three components to family worship (44-48):
Read Your Bible: “Chapter by chapter, read through entire books of the Bible together. Read enthusiastically and interpretively. Explain key words, clarify meanings of key verses. Ask the children to choose a verse or phrase and explain it to you then have them pick one for you to explain.”
Pray Together: “Whatever your approach, pray about at least one thing suggested to you and your family by the Scripture passage you have read. You will not only pray for (and with) your family, but you’ll also teach them by example how to pray.”
Sing: Singing helps us remember. Find a hymnal that is strong theologically. “Your church may have some unused or older ones, perhaps at no cost. As to music, some families sing along with recordings, while others use family musicians. Most families simply sing without accompaniment.” Your goal is to obey Scripture (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19) and help your children remember the truths of God’s Word through singing theologically rich songs.
As appropriate with the age of your children and the season of your life, you may add other components to your time such as Scripture memory, catechism, reading of devotional books, missionary biographies. But the priority is to read your Bible and pray regularly with your children. May the Lord grant us the grace to raise our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. And may He allow us the joy of seeing our children teach their own children, so that their children too may hope in God.