Thinking as a Child
As a child, June through August meant that I spent every waking minute playing outside in the warm, summer air. From the moment I awoke, until I went to bed, I would be outside playing. Yet, there were two times during the day I would be forced inside: lunch and dinner. Eating as fast as possible, my goal was to get back to playing, as quickly as possible. But I can still remember my father usually responding after dinner with, “You need to wait, we’re going to do devotions as a family first, then you can go outside.”
To this day, I remember the unforgettable sinking feeling which filled my heart when he said this. I probably even protested on occasion. All I wanted, was to go outside and continue whatever it was that I had planned. Yet, here was someone conveying the message that more important things existed than me doing whatever I liked, whenever I liked. More so, amidst the frantic pace I was living, albeit as ten year old boy, it was important to slow down for a moment.
As I have grown older, the pace of life has increased. But I still remember the actions of my father which have left an indelible mark upon my own life as a husband and father. Proverbs 4:1-4 states, “Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight, for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching. When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live.”
In this passage, to pass on the knowledge of God’s word is a huge and responsibility as a parent. It’s not just something Solomon is teaching to his children but rather is something that is passed down, from generation to generation. Elsewhere, the Proverbs tell us that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge”. We will teach our children many things throughout life, but to teach them what it means “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself”, is to provide them with an understanding which will far outweigh anything else they can learn from you. With that said, I would encourage you to consider three things when it comes to establishing a time of family worship together:
1. Be consistent. Children thrive on rhythm in their home life. When you make this a consistent time in your home, they will look forward to it. Expecting it, they may even ask to do devotions if you forget. Also, remember that every home is different. Before breakfast, after dinner, middle of the day. Find what works best for your family and do your best to stick to it.
If you miss a time together, don’t stop. Keep going. You need to remember that times which truly leave a mark in a child’s life are neither built or destroyed in a moment but happen over the course of time. Whatever you choose to do, do it.
2. Approach the Bible courageously. It can be scary teaching a book that you often find confusing. However, it is important to remember that all truth, is God’s truth. So, even if there is something in there that you do not understand, it does not mean to stay away. Instead, you have a chance to explore the Bible together. If they ask a difficult question, it is a good opportunity to respond with, “That’s a great question, I don’t know the answer but let’s find it together!” or “Let’s ask someone at church on Sunday who might know the answer to this!” This is a great opportunity to build a love for searching out the scriptures for answers.
3. If met with opposition, respond with grace. It is entirely possible that your children may initially think this is a hindrance to what they want to do. However, it’s important to remember that if you respond with a legalistic attitude of ”you will do this, or else” then you have already started on the wrong foot.
Take time to explain why you’re doing this. Include them in the process of reading, singing and prayer. If your desire is for your child to have their own personal, vibrant faith in Christ, mimicking it through family devotions is the best way they can understand this concept. These things do not magically spring up, they are taught and you are the primary teacher.
Family worship is one big part of cultivating a personal walk with Christ. My prayer is that you dig in with your children and begin (or continue) that process. Consider some final instructions from Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” The Lord be with you and your family as you grow together.