- Our simple time in the Word together
- Family worship
- In the beginning
Many people really struggle with how to go about spending time in God's Word as a family ~ as did we for many years. We tried lots of different things, and ended up doing nothing that we stuck with or grew from or even really enjoyed. There are so many different strategies available and curriculum books to use, and those may work beautifully for many families; but for our younger, and exceptionally large family, we need meaningful yet simple.
We have purchased several of those books in the past, but I found that often times the books required an excessive amount of time in preparation prior to family time, and excessive amounts of energy to implement. They required that I get all kinds of objects ready, many of which I did not have readily at home (such as balloons, or beanbags, or stick matches...). This meant an extra errand in order to accomplish in-depth object lessons. And Bob felt that those studies were very dry. We didn't have time or energy at the end of the day for these complex and shallow Bible lessons, so it never happened. So we went years without this precious time together because we thought it had to be entertaining.
Then we found ourselves spending time in the homes of several different dear family friends who implemented the most simple family devotional times when we were invited into their home for a nice meal. *smile* And it gave us great vision for our own family.
Our simple time in the Word together...
We tried a couple different times of the evening trying to determine when would be best for us, before dinner, or later in the evening; and a couple of different locations in our home such as the family room or the children's bedrooms. We have found that our dinner table after the meal is the best place for us to have family devotions. We eat together, and then the oldest girls clear and load some dishes, wash the table off, Bob prepares what we will be studying that night, we heat up our beverages of choice and begin simple devotions and worship time as a family. It's rich. *smile* Everyone at every age level learns. We ponder, learn wisdom, come before His throne in prayer, worship with hymns, and grow a little closer to our King a few evenings a week... As a family.
We all have our Bibles open to the place where daddy has said he will be teaching from. The kids on their own initiative sometimes like to get their Bibles ready before the meal while we're setting the table for dinner and they set them underneath their chairs on the floor. Other days we just have a couple of the children gather the Bibles from the shelf and deliver them to the table.
Bob and I have loved our Spirit Filled Life NKJV Study Bibles for many years, so we have gradually purchased the same bible for our oldest children as they have come of age when we feel they are ready to begin daily reading and study. They have received those for Christmas, and it has become a right of passage into becoming a young adult. They have recognized this gift and have felt it is very special.
When more of the children were younger we did allow them to sit at the table with a children's picture bible and flip through the stories while we were all at the table. This also helped them to feel included and occupied nicely.
For preparations to study God's Word, Bob does not do extensive preparation before teaching the family. Not that he's being negligent, but rather he's allowing the Holy Spirit to move and lead each evening. That's just his style. Bob sits down at the table with an idea of which book of the Bible he'd like to teach from, trying to be open to the Spirit's lead. He browses the concept titles in our study Bible (the italicized single-sentence subject titles within every chapter of every book, between 1-4 paragraphs long usually), looking for something that seems like it would be appropriate for us that day. Or sometimes one of those titles will prompt him to search another place in Scripture for a concept that would be good for us. He implements this plan unless there is a specific day he's teaching for, such as Thanksgiving in which case he knew he wanted to present the gospel and so sought out a good passage for that in particular.
Bob usually spends about 2-3 minutes after dinner finding our lesson for that night and skimming it while we clean up a bit. He begins by leading the children through the scripture section, letting them participate with reading one verse each and then he expands upon and gives insights about that reading, making it applicable to our lives... And I have been amazed at how perfect for us each teaching has been. The Lord always meets us.
Bob and I pretty much always connect over the course of the day about how things are going and how the children and he and I are doing, but even when Bob and I haven't had the usual time to about these things the Lord has prompted Bob to know just what to teach on. And family Bible time my favorite part of the entire day. *smile* The the children absolutely drink in God's Word, the worship time together afterward, and this family time.
Another idea we got from friends is to use hymnals at home for family worship time. We have so loved doing this. A friend of ours who knew we were looking for used hymnal books found some for us at a garage sale for $.25 each, so we bought 11 books, one for each person in our family. Now I wish I'd bought more so when we have another family over for a shared meal we can have more to offer without having to share. *smile*
Singing hymns was new to me having grown up with only contemporary worship styles, until several years ago when the Lord revealed to me the richness of hymns, the history behind each one, the depth of meaning within hymns, and the accuracy to scripture. Unlike much contemporary Christian music which I now find shallow, repetitive, and often even inaccurate (not all, but much). So when we began using hymnals at home we were not very familiar with which songs to sing.
At first I simply looked up in the concordance the ones we had sung at church the previous week, and which the children had therefore already heard at least once. We continued doing this until the children developed favorites and began asking for specific songs. Now the children have memorized their favorite hymn numbers and they start calling them out eagerly when I ask for requests. We don't need any musical accompaniment, we just sing acapella ~ and we love it. We usually sing about 3-5 songs on average, and we always leave with the children begging for more. But we've been at the table long enough for the youngest ones at that point, and we try to always end on a positive note so we end proactively rather than trying to read and sing as long as we can leaving the children then tired or misbehaving.
Dinner and family Bible time usually takes about 90 minutes total. The first part of our evening, serving our meal, eating, and doing some clean up usually takes about an hour; and then our Bible time getting prepared, reading, discussion, and singing usually takes 30 minutes. This has been a good transition in to bed time, too, as they're quieted down, have good things to ponder in their hearts, and there are no toys out again after the meal then requiring anther clean up effort. We get all the toys cleaned up before dinner, table set, Bibles ready, move through the meal and family Bible time and then off to bed. It's very nice.
In the beginning...
Now just to give you a realistic picture, things didn't just start off miraculously successful when we first began having Bible time after dinner. *smile* At first the kids did some sighing and pouting, being required to remain at the table longer than usual and not being allowed to scamper away for free time. For the first 2-3 days they were not their most attentive, and did not participate very much but rather responded when questioned about what was taught, "I don't know..." It took patience on Bob's part, and perseverance, creativity in drawing them into the conversation, and consistency. And - this is key - we did not let the children determine whether or not we would continue having Bible time based on their initial reaction or comments. *wink* We as the parents determined what is best for our family and our souls, so we began implementing time in the Word together regardless of what the children initially thought about it...
Within a few days their enjoyment was sparked, and they were drawn in. They began asking to help read the scriptures, and got their own Bibles out on their own initiative, first one child, then two...then the next week three and four children had their Bibles out as well. *smile* They were asking questions first about individual word meanings, but then about great concepts as they learned to think and process during the teaching time. They knew Bob would ask specific questions at the end of the teaching time of the older children and they began to really listen intently.
Now they love the sound of Daddy's voice reading aloud. They love his humor while he's reading. Not animation or silliness or entertainment - just enjoyment of reading God's Word, and joy in the teaching and in being with the family; his great analogies to help answer their questions and develop their understanding. And they ask every day to make sure we're having Bible time again soon, and they never want to miss it. They're so disappointed if they need to wait a day or two to have it together again. The children's enthusiasm so blesses our hearts. *smile*
May this glimpse into our family Bible and worship time give you encouragement that family devotions can be very simple, effective, and meaningful for any age of child. We as parents just need to open up the Word and begin sharing it with our children. It needs to be a priority. We really never have a valid excuse that we don't have time. We have to make time, at least a few times per week. We all prioritize what is most important to us. If necessary I encourage you to eliminate things from your life that are taking up too much time. May the Lord draw you to Himself through family devotions and worship time. *smile*
Blessings on your family's time in the Word,
You might also be interested in some of my related posts:
Character Training For Children - A Core Aspect of Discipleship
Developing the Character of Faithfulness
Living Life on Purpose, "Isn't it exhausting?!"