By Bev and Phil Haas
Many families take an unnecessarily complicated approach to family devotions and stall after getting started or never begin. Let us help you keep it simple this Christmas.
Keep to the Basics
Family devotions usually consist of reading the Bible, talking, and praying together. The age of your children and how you choose to put those basics together will determine what your family devotional time looks like. For our family, sitting together at a predetermined time with a specific book and having what seemed like a mini-worship service didn’t work. But we know a few families who were able to pull that off.
Phil read through The Children’s Bible Story Book with our kids when they were young and it became part of our bedtime routine. Sometimes we had devotions outdoors, especially when the seasons changed. As our children grew older, we used discussion starters at the dinner table. As we ate dinner, we included a Scripture and a discussion topic.
We know one dad who drove his children to school every morning and used the time to have “faith talks” and devotions with them. He says that was some of the most valuable time he spent with his kids as they grew up. A quick Internet search will yield numerous age-appropriate devotion guides that include discussion questions. A good online resource for linking families with preschool and elementary age children together spiritually is Splink (www.d6family.com/splink). However you choose to conduct your family devotions, the important thing is that you take time with your kids to be with God.
Christmas Family Devotions
The Christmas season naturally lends itself to introducing family time with God. One tradition that helped our family keep the focus of Christmas on Jesus was the use of the advent wreath. Many families use an advent wreath and we adapted the idea to our specific needs. Here’s what we did.
As preschoolers, Brian and Amanda were overwhelmed on Christmas Day with toys, and it seemed as if Jesus got lost in the ribbons and wrapping paper. So together we made an advent wreath; it wouldn’t win any craft fair awards, but it was ours. Starting five nights before Christmas, we would gather around the dinner table, light a candle, read part of the Christmas story from The Children’s Bible Story Book, and pray together. Afterward, each child opened one gift, followed by some family playtime. (As the children grew older, the gift was often one of “doing,” like going ice skating, seeing a movie together, or going downtown.)
We didn’t exactly create a Norman Rockwell scene in the process. When we first began, Brian put his fingers in his ears and said, “You can’t make me listen!” But we persevered and the children became willing participants, acting out the roles, remembering who should next light the candles, and whose turn it was to pray.
Since Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), we also wanted our children to understand about giving. So part of our devotion time included choosing recipients of our “Ring and Run” activity. Each of us would choose a family we felt needed some extra encouragement and some gifts, which usually included a tin of popcorn and a movie. Then Brian and Amanda would sneak to their front porch, leave the gifts, ring the doorbell, and run. We have many treasured memories of those nights—and much laughter as Brian and Amanda raced back from the homes and dove into the back seat of our van. What a great way to live out God’s love by giving! They got to experience the lesson, not just sit and
talk about it.
So keep it simple and fun and be creative with your family devotions. As your children grow older you’ll need to adapt your God time together so it fits each stage of family life. Time together and faith in God are proven building blocks for healthy families.
Send your questions about family life to Phil and Bev Haas in care of The Lookout, 8805 Governor’s Hill Drive, Suite 400, Cincinnati, OH 45249, firstname.lastname@example.org.We regret that personal replies are not always possible. Phil and Bev Haas are involved in education and family ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio. They are the parents of two children and they have one grandson.