Free Resource: Sharing God’s Story @ Home (Sample Family Devotion)
Why Family Devotions?
A devotion is simply an intentional action in which people take time to learn about and worship God. Devotions are times that we show our love to God (and to others). It’s common for those who practice devotions to do them alone, in a private setting (home, work, etc.). They often include times of prayer, silence, journaling, Scripture study, and/or reading a spiritual reflection. Solo devotions are a wonderful and important faith practice.
But, in a household with more than one person, especially those with children, (i.e. a family) doing devotions as a family is also a valuable and important practice. All faith practices help us to focus our lives on God and live the love that God gives us and calls us to share with others. When you do faith practices as a family, family members:
- Teach and learn from each other about the love of God and how to practice it.
- Grow closer to God.
- Build close, intimate relationships within the family.
- Make it more likely for children to remain in the faith as they get older.
What Do Family Devotions Look Like?
Family devotions are as varied as the contexts that they are practiced in. The main difference from solo devotions is that communication (aloud) is essential. Participants talk to each other. A conversation happens.
While it’s certainly possible to have family devotions that are fluid and ever-changing, it’s helpful to create a flexible structure to follow. As with most things, this time has a beginning, middle, and end:
- In the beginning, it’s good to have some transition from “normal time” to “God time.” This can be lighting a candle, saying a prayer, or singing a song. The quality is less important than just doing it.
- With my kids, we start with singing a short song (and let me tell you, the quality is not that great!) and light candles (we have two, so they don’t argue about who gets to do it).
- The middle is the point of the whole thing. This can include a Scripture and/or other spiritual reading, prayer, and conversation. This conversation is, again, what makes family devotions different. The conversation can be about what was just read, what happened in each person’s day or possibly even combining the two.
- When my kids were younger, we read a story Bible, but now we read a Scripture passage. We also share “Highs & Lows” (telling each other a high point and a low point from your day), and pray for each other, using what we’ve heard. Our highs & lows conversation tends to last a while, as we ask each other questions and sometimes give more than one high or low.
- The end is like the beginning. It’s a transition time back to the rest of the day. If you use a candle, then here’s the time to blow it out. One powerful action is to give each other some sort of blessing. Go around and trace the shape of a cross on foreheads or hands and say a simple blessing, like “Jesus loves you.” It’s a wonderful thing to have a child (youth, or teen) give adults a blessing.
- We often just end with our prayer and blowing out the candles. Unfortunately, we’ve gotten away from the blessing ritual, mostly because we’re generally late for bed at this point and rushed.
No Experts Required
The truth is that every family can do devotions. While training and practice in church (hint, hint, faith formation leaders!) are extremely useful in getting families comfortable and started with devotions, they don’t take any sort of special training. If you can read out loud and hold a conversation, you can do it. In my experience, the only important things are desire, discipline, and flexibility.
I think flexibility is key. If you plan to do devotions at bedtime (probably the most common time but doesn’t work for everyone) but are driving home late, do them in the car. Running late? Take something out. Kids fighting? Practice some deep breathing, or (if you’re brave) go around and ask forgiveness from each other.
Recently, I had a plan for Bible readings to follow. When we got to the story of Joseph in Genesis, my kids wanted to hear the whole story. Since my kids were asking me to read the Bible, I just tossed out my plan and kept reading (I have a similar policy if they ask for a certain vegetable). We’re now in the Book of Joshua. This, by the way, is after years of devotions, and, I’ll admit it, my family’s weird.
If you’d like some help in planning your devotions, one possibility is to use our Living the Word: Sharing God’s Story @ Home devotional bulletin inserts, which can be used by households and individuals. As you can see in our sample devotion, each insert has material for an entire week’s worth of devotions, though you can also start with just once or twice a week.
-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
2018-2019 (NL Year 1) faith formation materials are now available for purchase. Fall lessons can be downloaded right away! You can download the 2018-2019 Planning Tool and Scope & Sequence to start your planning for the next program year!
For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!