Parents are responsible not only to teach God’s Word to their children but to “teach them diligently.” Deuteronomy 6:7 describes the level of persistence with which we are to teach our children: “and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”
In other words, your home is to be an ongoing school of discipleship—a Bible school. The most practical way I know to obey the instruction to diligently teach God’s Word to your children is to read the Bible daily with your children. In our home, we called this time “Family Devotions.” Some call it “Family Altar.” But whatever you call it, do it. Have a time every day when as a family you learn from God’s Word together.
If family devotions weren’t part of your own growing up experience, beginning them in your home may feel intimidating. But it’s not as hard as you think. Any parent with a real relationship with God—even a new Christian—can lead their child spiritually.
Here are a few tips to help:
1. Set a time. You don’t leave your children’s academic education to happenstance. You don’t take them to school only on the days they feel like going or the days your schedule is free. You make it a priority in your lives around which you plan. A responsibility as vital as teaching our children the eternal truths of God’s Word must likewise be something we take seriously enough that we set a definite time for it.
Invariably, distractions will come up. Fight them.
As our children were growing up, we had the same pressures that any other family faces: rushing the kids to school, unplanned urgencies, and distracting frustrations. But with everything in us, Terrie and I wanted our children to have a strong foundation in God’s Word.
We had to resist the lie that if our family devotion time couldn’t be perfect it wasn’t worth doing. Even if our time was rushed, at least it was there—a pause in the day of our children where we read the Word of God and prayed together as a family.
2. Start simple. You don’t have to be a theologian. (In fact, your children will probably appreciate it if family devotions do not resemble seminary.) You don’t have to know the Bible inside and out, and you may not want to begin with the book of Leviticus. But there isn’t a Christian parent who has a tender heart to God and a real relationship with the Lord who can’t open to the book of Proverbs and give a spiritual insight for his child every day.
Proverbs is, in fact, a good place to start. Another great starting place is telling the stories of the Bible. When our children were very young, we sometimes acted out the Bible stories. This made family devotions fun and the Bible memorable.
Another direction is to teach them the basic truths from Scripture applicable to their age—obedience, respect, contentment, and so forth. You can do this through Bible stories (Cain disobeyed God, but Abel obeyed) as well as through direct verses (Ephesians 6:1 teaches, “Children obey your parents…”).
3. Grow with your children. As your kids grow, let the emphasis of family devotions grow with them. Beyond the stories of the Bible, teach them about the people in the Bible and how we see God’s grace at work in their lives. Teach also the truths of the Bible: the commands of God, the sin of man, salvation through Jesus’ blood, grace, faith, the fruit of the Spirit, forgiveness.
For older teenagers, you may want to study a topic (anger, speech, relationships, making decisions) or read through a particular book of the Bible, highlighting insights.
As your children grow, study what Scripture says regarding contemporary issues and holy living: creation versus evolution, God’s definition of marriage, abortion and the sanctity of life, music, purity, the accuracy of God’s Word, etc.
4. Emphasize application. As D.L. Moody said, “The Bible was not given for our information, but for our transformation.” No matter how brief your time around God’s Word is or what portion you read, try to draw a specific application. This will tell your children that the Bible is applicable to daily living—and it is.
As a parent, you have the responsibility to set the spiritual direction for your family. Your children need a dad and mom who like Joshua will say, “…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15) and who follow that declaration up with purposed time of worshipping the Lord and teaching their children the ways of the Lord.
This post is an excerpt from my newest book, Making Home Work in a Broken Society. The book will be available next month, but you can read the first chapter early at makinghomework.com.