During the recent EPIC trip to England I was able to hold an event in London where we opened the floor up for questions. Here is my answer to one of the questions: What is some practical advice you have for family devotions? (In early June I will be in South Africa where I will be holding another similar event. Join me in Johannesburg on June!)
About family devotions: yes, I would say family devotions first ought to begin when the family begins, which is not when children are born, but when the marriage commences. My wife and I learned that too late and we waited until my child, my son was born, and really until he was a little bit older before we started that, and we really wish we had started it earlier.
In terms of family devotions, you can find a lot of material out there. One of my concerns is that it’s often made to sound pretty difficult. You read these books and you see what appears to be families sitting down for a half hour of fully engaged heartfelt worship and it can seem, first like my family is not like that, and also that just seems really hard. So, I like to focus on the simplicity of family devotions and then just the necessity of doing it over a long, long-term. So, doing a really long, engaging family devotion for a week and then giving up because it’s too long and it’s too hard to prepare, no, just do it night after night and keep it simple and just commit to doing it and expect that God is going to work much more over a long period of time. So, I think we tend to overestimate what we can do in a very short period of time and underestimate what we can do in a very long period of time. And when it comes to family devotions, my family, we read the Bible and we pray. We do that first thing in the morning. Everybody wakes up, comes downstairs, I’ve already been awake, but everyone else has just kind of gotten up. We read the Bible, a short passage. I offer a couple of explanatory notes and then we pray. And that’s it, and we may do that again at dinner. But we’re trusting that 18 or 20 years of that are going to take root in our children’s lives.
I think it also bears pointing out that most of the family devotion material is written by people in whole, healthy families, and that’s not everybody’s experience. So there’s a lot of people when they hear family devotions, it just brings pain. You know, I’m a wife and my husband is not saved and my kids aren’t really interested. We can’t do family devotions. Or, I’m a young person and my family’s not doing devotions. So, I’d also want to say, family devotions is wonderful, and the Lord uses it, but it’s not the only thing He uses.
And I think the importance of modeling it; so as you read older pastors, puritans, they used to go house to house and do devotions in the house with families and I think part of that was modeling how to do these things. What we’ve done in our church before is we’ve cleared off the front of the room, we’ve put a table up there and we’ve had like our pastor and his family sit around the table and he’s done family devotions in front of the church. Now, it’s a little bit weird, but he’s just trying to model for the church, this is not difficult. Anybody can do this, any family is able and hopefully will see that simplicity and do it, and we intend to do that from time to time, is get a different family up there, just do your family devotions in front of the church on a Sunday night. And we’ve found that helpful, again just modeling the simplicity.
So, do it, keep it simple, at least initially. You can add later, but keep it simple initially and just keep doing it for 18 or 20 years and see the Lord work through the preaching of His Word and through prayer.