How I Lead My Children in Personal Devotions
Last weekend I mentioned on Twitter that I had finished planning out my kids’ daily devotions for another week; this led a few people to ask what these devotions look like. Though I am by no means an expert in this area, I am glad to share how I lead my children in their personal devotions.
I have always wanted my children to form the habit of doing personal devotions, but it took me a surprising amount of time to realize that if they were going to do this, I would need to take leadership—not just one time but on an ongoing basis. I find that the kids are quite eager to do devotions, but also very quick to lose the habit if I do not help them maintain it. It was not until I stepped up my leadership that they began to do it with regularity.
I aim to have my children do personal devotions at least 5 times per week (we also do family devotions every evening following dinner). Ideally I would love to have them doing devotions every day, but experience shows that this will be the exception more than the rule. On Wednesday evenings, for example, we have a mid-week service at church and are typically not home until well after the kids’ usual bed time. So for practical reasons, 5 seems like a reasonable target.
My children are currently 11, 8 and 5. The 11-year-old and 8-year-old are good readers and are largely self-sufficient when it comes to devotions. The 5-year-old is not reading much yet so we have a different system for her. Let me tell you what these look like.
Devotions for Children
Every weekend I budget a few minutes of time to sit down and organize a week’s worth of devotions. I begin with David Murray’s Bible Reading Plan for Kids. David has very helpfully put together a plan that takes children a few verses at a time through books of the Bible. You may like to read about the philosophy behind his program here. Essentially he emphasizes brevity, variety, simplicity, accountability and unity, seeking to have his children spend just a few minutes each day reading the Bible and reflecting on what they have read. I am indebted to David for this program but even more for modeling a father’s involvement in leading his children in their personal devotions.
David offers the devotions in two versions. The first is for families that will have their children doing morning and evening devotions and the second is for families that will have their children doing only one or the other. I have opted for just one time of devotion per day.
What I have done to this point is take David’s devotions and then adapt them a little bit just to make them fit our circumstances. I take out the Monday-Sunday headings for each day and replace them with Day 1, Day 2 and so on. Then I also add a specific prayer component, giving the kids a particular prayer focus for each day (themselves, family, friends, church, etc) and having them think about 1 thing to be thankful for, 1 thing to ask forgiveness for, and 2 things to ask God for.
When all is said and done it looks like this:
I print those out in booklet form, punch holes in them, and put them in a half-sized binder—each child has his own binder which Aileen has decorated and personalized. Then, each night, right before bed, my kids read the appropriate section of Scripture, answer a question about it, and pray. It takes only a few minutes, but it gives them a consistent way of reading through a book of the Bible, it gives them something to think about, and gives them guidance as they pray. I try to follow-up with them when I tuck them in to hear what they have read and what they have learned.
Devotions for Younger Children
That is for the bigger kids. My youngest child is 5—too young to read on her own but old enough that she would be devastated to be left out. For her I put together a younger version of the program. Every night Aileen or I will read her a story from a children’s Bible (we’re currently reading The Big Picture Story Bible with her) and her assignment is to draw a picture of what we have read to her. (click to download a sample)
To this point I have relied on David’s study through Luke to provide the content for the devotions. When that study is complete I may go with whatever else David has done by then or I may create the readings and questions on my own. The more I go with this program, the more I find I am adapting it to the specific circumstances of my family (which is exactly as it should be, I suppose).
This is just one way of leading young children in doing their devotions. I’d love to hear how you have led your children in this.