Family Devotions, Where do I Start?

In Articles, Extended Family, Family by Joshua Tong

Family worship is hard. It is one of those disciplines that most men want but fail to practice consistently. We know it’s good for our families, but never seem to be able to find the right time for it. The morning is too rushed, dinner is too loud, and by the time bedtime rolls around, we’re too exhausted. Before we know it, we realize that we have had very little spiritual influence in our children’s lives.

I want to suggest some practical steps that you can take to start doing family worship consistently. But first, a definition.

By family worship, I mean the gathering of the entire family in the home for intentional discipleship. It’s not taking your family to church. Nor is it dropping your kids off to a youth group. It’s not even the moment-by-moment spiritual discussions that take place in the regular course of life. All of these are wonderful and contribute to your children’s discipleship (in fact, I would say that the first is absolutely necessary), but none of them are substitutes for family worship.

There is something uniquely powerful about a man gathering his wife and children together in the home to lead them in a discipleship moment. It solidifies your family identity.

It’s one thing for your kids to learn Bible lessons at church. It’s another thing for your kids to hear them in the home from their father. Family worship helps our children see that following Christ can’t be partitioned off to certain times or places. Following Christ completely transforms all of life, including in the home. And when your children see you leading, they will look up to you as an example of what this looks like.

There is no template for family worship. For our family, it mainly involves reading something together and singing. Others may choose to emphasize prayer more than we do. Whatever it is, the important thing is to start.

Here are some ideas to get you going:

1) Start Simple

Some men don’t lead in family worship because they don’t believe they’re strong teachers. They can’t imagine opening up the Bible with their kids and explaining how it makes a difference in their lives.

The first thing I would say to this is that you’re probably a better teacher than you think. After all, God commands you to teach your kids (Ephesians 6:4), and He always provides what He commands (Philippians 2:13).

But the second thing I would say is that you don’t have to be a particularly strong teacher in order to lead in family worship. We live in a golden age of Christian publishing. There are so many resources out there that the hardest part is simply choosing which one you want to use!

Start simple by picking a resource and reading it together with your family. These resources often come with discussion questions that you may want to use, or you may want to craft your own. You don’t have to prepare anything. Just gather your family, open up the book, and start reading.

2) Be Consistent

We all know the power of habits. Habits enable us to do hard things more easily because we’ve become used to them. For example, I came home today exhausted, but I still went on the treadmill because it’s a running day!

It is said that it takes a little more than two months for a new behavior to turn into a habit. That’s a long time, and it reflects a long commitment that requires a lot of willpower. But as you continue, it will take less and less willpower until it almost becomes automatic.

The same is true of our spiritual habits. We all know how hard it is to start reading the Bible every day when you haven’t done so in a while, but it gets easier over time. Before you know it, you’ll be reaching for your Bible every time the coffee is on, or you sit down for your lunch break, or you’re settling into bed.

There’s no reason why individual habits can’t also become family habits. Yes, it will take leadership. Yes, it will take willpower. But eventually, it will become almost automatic.

3) Mix It Up

Sometimes a particular teaching method feels like it’s becoming stale. It may be getting stale for the listener, or it may be getting stale for the teacher.

In order to avoid this, I try to rotate through a few different teaching methods. I may spend two months reading a devotional, then the next two months memorizing a catechism together, and then the next two months reading a book of the Bible together. We have even spent a few weeks reading Christian fiction together (children’s adaptations of The Pilgrim’s Progress are our favourite).

Embrace diversity in teaching methods and materials as long as they reflect and reinforce biblical truth.

4) Trust the Process

Family worship rarely comes with immediate results. Your kids will be poking each other, playing with their food, or gazing off into space all as you try to communicate weighty, eternal truths to them, and you’ll think, “Is any of this worth it?”

It is absolutely worth it. Sometimes what you told them will come up later on when they face a difficult situation at school. Other times it may come up during a parenting opportunity you have in the home.

Whatever it may be, remember that even if they forget 99% of what you taught them, they will certainly remember this vitally important truth: the Bible was important to Daddy. And that’s a legacy worth fighting for.

About
Joshua Tong
Joshua Tong serves as the Senior Pastor at Sovereign Grace Church in Bradford. Before entering full-time ministry, he worked as a criminal defence lawyer in Toronto. Josh also serves as a teacher at Innova Academy in Newmarket, a Board Member at Redeemer University in Ancaster, and a Council Member with The Gospel Coalition Canada. He and his wife Nina have six wonderful children together.
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Joshua Tong
Joshua Tong serves as the Senior Pastor at Sovereign Grace Church in Bradford. Before entering full-time ministry, he worked as a criminal defence lawyer in Toronto. Josh also serves as a teacher at Innova Academy in Newmarket, a Board Member at Redeemer University in Ancaster, and a Council Member with The Gospel Coalition Canada. He and his wife Nina have six wonderful children together.