Kim Stilwell was a guest writer here for several years before her death. She was the mother of five children, wrote for her state’s homeschooling association each month, and was a wonderfully sweet friend of mine. We hope that her words will encourage you as much as they have our family!
“Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
Our family makes a practice of having family devotions nearly every evening at 7:00 pm, right before my husband leaves for his evening job. Family devotions is the highlight of our evening. Everything else revolves around that. When it is time, my husband announces it is time for family devotions, and everyone drops what they are doing and goes to the living room. Our four older children sit on the couch with Daddy. I sit in the easy chair (that way the children can see the pictures of the Bible story). Our two year old sits on my lap.
First my husband reads a simple Bible story geared for our younger three children’s ages. Then those of us who can read alternate reading verses in the Bible. We recently read through the book of Genesis and are now working on reading through Psalm. We read through Proverbs before we read Genesis.
After that each family member picks one chorus to sing. The “B-I-B-L-E”, “Daniel Was a Man of Prayer” and “Jesus, Others and You” are big favorites. Then my husband will call on one of us to pray. After that he reads out of a Bible story book geared for our older sons’ age level.
Obviously, our primary reason for having Family Devotions is to teach our children God’s Word, but we have found that it has several “fringe” benefits. Learning to sit through the half hour of Family Devotions has helped teach our children to sit through church (though I will be the first to admit that some of our children find sitting still much easier than others!). Being able to help our children understand the concepts of sitting still, being quiet and listening is much easier if we “practice” doing this at home while we have our devotions.
Another benefit of having Family Devotions is that it helps us see where our children are spiritually. As we ask them questions about the story and as they make comments, we often learn where their hearts are. It also helps us learn if they have any confusion concerning the Scriptures. After one story about Heaven one of our sons said, “I don’t want to go to Heaven, I want to stay here.” At this point my husband was able to clear up some misconceptions that he had about Heaven. I doubt our son would have ever admitted this in our normal conversations, but he felt free to do so during our family devotions.
Having Family Devotions is also an opportunity to make sure we have time together as a family nearly every day. I know, from listening to mothers of adult children, that when we look back on the time when our children were small, we will remember the moments we spent together as a family more fondly then anything else.
It is our prayer that Family Devotions will be come such a part of our children’s lives that they will continue to have it with their families some day. We hope to set an example for them as to how to learn God’s Word.
I would love to write that when it is time for Family Devotions the children say, “Oh, I can’t wait to hear God’s Word tonight and to see how I can apply it to my life!” but more often we hear comments like, “It was MY turn to sit by Daddy tonight” or “I wanted to pick the song he picked!” Should we stop having family devotions because of this? No! It simply gives us more teaching opportunities to work on their selfish little hearts. Sometimes we do see something that makes us realize how efforts are being rewarded such as when we hear our children share what they have learned in Family Devotions with a friend. Just last week I heard our eight year old say to his younger brother, “You don’t have to be afraid of the dark. Remember what we learned in devotions? God is always with us!”
Several of our friends have family devotions, too. One thing I have learned over the years is that the way each family has devotions is as unique as each family. There is really no “wrong” way to do it as long as it has the Bible as it’s main focus. Some families with older children read through the Bible. Other families use Bible Story books. In some families the Dad does all the teaching and in other families, each member of the family takes turns bringing a devotional.
Sometimes the father of the family is unable or unwilling to lead the family in family devotions. A wife should never nag or push her husband to do this. If the father can’t or won’t, the mother can lead her children in Bible reading and prayer when the father is at work. Yes, it is ideal if the father leads the devotional time but the children will still be blessed and learn if the mother does the teaching.
As parents it is our responsibility to disciple our children. We do this in many ways but the most concrete way we do this is through our Family Devotions. An enjoyable bonus is that our children really enjoy it and miss it when we don’t have it for some reason. As I sit across the room looking at my children singing or listening intently to the Bible story, I have to say, there is no sweeter sight on this earth to me.
Recommended book: Creative Family Times by Allen & Connie Hadidan and Will and Linday Wilson.
Good family devotions resource: Keys for Kids
Kim is married to her best friend and high school sweetheart, Jeff, for 23 years. She grew up in Central and South America. At age 20, she married her high school sweetheart. They have 13 children, five of which they have had the privilege of raising here on this earth and eight who died through miscarriage and make Heaven sweeter for them. She’s an experienced homeschooling mom, and she also writes monthly articles for her state’s homeschool newsletters. You can contact Kim at email@example.com or visit her at her blog.