11 Jan Dads, Shepherd the Flock
I’m not sure what you think about when you hear the phrase “family devotions.” Maybe you think of the perfect American family—Ward and June Beaver types—gathering their mild-mannered children around the living room as Dad waxes eloquent about the Gospel, kids sitting perfectly still with hands folded neatly in their lap. Or maybe you go to the other extreme and imagine chaos. Your two-year-old as jittery as a sinner on judgment day, none of the kids wanting to be there, teenagers perfecting their eye-rolling and trying to tweet under the table. All is lost.
Whatever the image you have in your mind, I assure you, don’t let it keep you from pressing onward. Leaders lead even when the people they’re leading don’t want to be led, and Dad, God calls you to lead.
In 2017, we want to help you successfully lead your family in Gospel-instruction. We want you to overcome your fears and insecurities, to grow in boldness and love, to model godly manhood for your kids—boys and girls. We want you to take the spiritual burden off of your wife and place it squarely on your shoulders, where it should be. This is your role, Dad, and I promise you, by God’s grace, you can do this.
Allow me to give you four considerations for starting family devotions.
Desire (not begrudgingly)
Dads, you have to see from Scripture that this is your load to carry, not solely, but primarily. If you don’t feel the weight of that and only gather the family around because it’s “what you’re supposed to do” or because your wife keeps nagging you, it will fail. You may last a month or two, but begrudging submission never endures.
Similarly, wives, when Dad is leading the family, you can help by taking care of distracting children. Maybe the youngest is having a hard time, don’t force them to sit through it, quietly remove them from the room. There will come a day when they can sit still.
If Dad hasn’t quite learned how to phrase questions so the kids can understand, you can also help by rephrasing them so the children can understand. Maybe Dad has a hard time putting things simply and you know what words and phrases your kids know and don’t know. It’s not stepping on toes to rephrase questions, its teaching and helping your husband understand his child’s language. So feel free work together.
Lastly, be paying attention. If the kids see mom scrolling through Pinterest while Dad’s trying to lead they’ll check out–hypocrisy stinks and kids have super-sniffers. Honor your husband’s effort, whether he’s strong out of the gate or bumbling and falling all over himself, show your kids that this is important and we all need to be paying attention. If you don’t want to be there, your kids won’t want to be there either. Both parents need to be active participants.
Have a Plan, but be Flexible
Before you start, make a plan, have an idea of where this ship is going. Here are some questions you ask,
1. What books are we going to use?
2. What’s age appropriate?
3. Are we going to sing?
4. How long will it be?
5. How often will it happen?
6. What night is bath night?
7. What night is House Church?
Devotions have to fit into your family rhythm. So thinking through your unique family dynamic and schedule will help. But realize that family rhythms change. As kids grow and more after school activities and weekend sports get added to the schedule, available time moves around. So be flexible in your schedule, but firm in your purpose. Ensure family devotions always have a spot in the schedule.
Regular doesn’t have to mean every single night, though I know of some families that do it every night. We don’t do devotions every night, sometimes the other things of life butt in, but we do do them regularly. Anywhere from 3-4 times a week I bring the family around and we have a time of song and devotions.
Maybe every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday works best for you, maybe every single night. Just be sure to be consistent. Especially when your kids are young, consistency proves to the kids that this is important to Mommy and Daddy and it is not something you’re going to waiver on.
Fit the Ages
Dad, your children aren’t Doctors. Maybe someday, but right now they think and act like children. Therefore, for a successful devotion, it’s important you put things on their level. Not dumbed down, but said and asked in a way that they can understand.
There’s no need to teach them about the Hypostatic Union when they’re four—that level of detail can wait until they’re a bit older. But you can still teach them that Jesus is both God and man in a way they understand. Similarly, the older your kids are, the more involved they can be. If they’re old enough to read, have them read the passage of Scripture or say the prayer. Having the older kids participate gives them practical experience they can use someday within their own family.
When it comes to family devotionals, there are no silver bullets. The structure will change as your family goes through different stages, but these four elements should always be considered: desire, plan, consistency, and adaptation. If you’ve never done family devotions, you need to start. It’s an imperative part of our Christian life and your family is weaker without it. Let 2017 be the year of change in your home. Be bold, take charge, be tender, have fun, and lead.
This article was written by Tom Jones.