Family Devotions Play-By-Play

Someone recently asked me how to structure family devotions, so I thought I'd share the step-by-step version of how my husband leads in ours... it's not rigid, but this is the general way it happens in our home.

And we don't do it every night (for example, we usually don't do it Sunday nights because we've already worshiped together as a family on that day), and occasionally we miss a night, but more nights than not, this is what you'd find if you peeked into our home, just before bedtime:

  1. Have a short Bible story time. (We shoot for no more than 10 minutes, at the ages our kids are--currently 5, 3, and 1!) Sometimes that's from the adult Bible (sometimes a simple-to-understand version like the NLT, sometimes from the ESV so that they get used to hearing the actual accurate Word of God), sometimes from the kids' version, sometimes from a devotion book. Doug reads it, sometimes with intermittent questions, then does a little application or explanation as necessary. (Sometimes it's just a story focus, oftentimes a character-quality focus, and occasionally a specific attitude/behavior focus-- if we're trying to target a particular undesirable/desirable behavior.)

  2. Occasionally sing a song or act out the story we talked about.

  3. Scripture Memorization, if we're learning something together as a family. So far, we've memorized Psalm 1 and the Beatitudes together. Sometimes we take a break, but we try to be either reviewing or learning something new.

    Specifically, when we're learning something new, we work on one new phrase every night. We take one phrase, sentence or thought, and repeat it about 10 different times (we do this in different voices to make it fun-- say it in cowboy voice, now in a deep MAN's voice, now in a little bitty lady's voice, now in a child's voice, now in a really happy voice, now VERY LOUD, now very soft, etc.). Then we all say it together (with the rest of the passage if it's adding on to something we've already learned).

  4. Prayer time. We each pick someone/thing to pray about (sometimes the kids don't select something, and that's OK- we don't force them to pray)... with a different focus each night of the week, so we're learning to pray for different things:

    • Sunday: SAINTS (other Christians)
    • Monday: MISSIONARIES (by name, we have friends in various countries with kids, so we encourage the kids to pray for their MK friends in other countries)
    • Tuesday: TEACHERS (which, in our house, means I get prayed for a lot!) ;\)
    • Wednesday: WISDOM (in our decisions/lives), WIDOWS (that we know, by name), and WITNESS (for us and people around us)
    • Thursday: THOSE IN AUTHORITY (could be Daddy, Daddy's boss, Pastor Dan, President Bush, Presidential elections, the person making the decision about ____ that will affect our family, etc.)
    • Friday: FRIENDS & FAMILY
    • Saturday: SINNERS (people we know that need to become disciples of Jesus)
Then the kiddos are off to bed.

That's how we structure ours-- and it's usually less than 15 minutes. I could definitely see how as they get older it could get longer, with discussions about what passages mean, memorizing longer things, and praying more intensely together as a family... but for right now it is really GREAT for us, and it's just the right length of time to keep little ones engaged and learning about the Word, and getting to know God.

Perhaps this will help someone else looking for more "definition" about what a family Bible time would look like. Blessings!


Julie said...

Jessica--thanks for sharing these lovely ideas! I especially like the prayer guide for the days of the week. It gives it structure, makes it kinda fun, and would seem to create a little anticipation about who or what you'll pray for that evening.

dcrmom said...

We love family worship and need to be more committed to it. we follow a similar pattern. Our key is to keep it short and sweet. When the kids start getting distracted, it's time to wrap it up. They love to sing, though, we could sing all night.

MInTheGap said...

Our oldest is in the youth group that we lead at church (Patch the Pirate) and they have a devotional to work through every day, so we have actually been doing that together at night. It has a Bible verse and then a principle, and it's the same theme for the month.

Then we have a time of singing, both new songs and they select from time to time, and then we picked up on you're idea somewhat and have a different prayer focus each night.

Now, if we could only keep the 1 year old from putting everything in her mouth during that time...

The Simple Shepherdess said...

Hey Jess! Thanks for giving us a peek into your living room. I grew up in a wonderful Christian family, but we never did a family worship time when I was a child. I have never witnessed this in action, so despite the desire to do so with our children, we have not implemented it. I am so excited to read your "play by play" for family worship. I e-mailed it immediately to my husband!

Joanna said...

wow! fabulous ideas! thanks for sharing!

Prairie Chick said...

Very cool! (Fellow Sonlighter here). I was delighted and surprised to read your daily "focus" list, as we run on an uncannily similar list in our home. Great minds.... ;)

ours is:
Monday-missions and ministry
Tuesday-town and country (our community and nation)
Wednesday-world (nations, communities and people groups in turmoil)

Great blog!


Abbi said...

That was a great post. I also have small kids. We kind of spread our different things throughtout the day, such as prayer, singing and memorization before homeschool, Bible reading before naps, and a prayer song and prayer as the kids are just in bed. It works for us but I enjoy reading about what works for you.
One thing that I think is wise is keeping it short enough that the kids don't get tired of it at learn to dislike it. I know that has happened in some families.

LisaM said...

so good of you to share - I believe that many people would like to have family devotions but just don't know "how". Praying for our men to take the lead so that we ladies don't scare them away from it with our prodding! (I've head of that happening!) Thanks again for all you do.

Jessica said...

Donald Whitney has a fantastic short book (it is about 45 pages or so) called "Family Worship: In the Bible, in History, and in Your Home" that makes a compelling case for the need for family worship time. I really liked chapter three's practical application of what should be included in the time and how to go about it. Anyways, I thought you might want to read it (I read it in an hour) to be able to suggest it to readers who want a little more info.

Jess said...

Thanks for the tip, Jessica- sounds like it'd be worth looking into!

Jessica said...

Oh and I neglected to say that your family time includes the components that he feels are vital... I just thought it would be a good book for anyone regardless of whether they have a family worship time or not.