As parents, we take our children’s needs and our responsibilities to meet them very seriously.
We think about discipline, we talk about discipline, we practice discipline.
We think about which school to send our children to—home school, private school, Christian school, public school. If we homeschool, we think about which curriculum would work best for our family.
We pay for music lessons, we transport the kids to and from lessons, we make them practice, we buy them instruments…we even suffer through band and orchestra concerts.
We put our kids in sports, thinking about which sport best fits our child’s personality, or what we loved when we were a child.
Mothers think about healthy foods. They plan menus, shop, prepare good foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, even healthy snacks.
But if you could give your children what they need more than good education and healthy food, or sports or music, would you not do it? If Jesus himself told you what they need, would you listen? Of course you would! The good news is that Jesus has in fact told us, so let’s listen and follow his instructions…
In Matthew 4:4 Jesus says,
Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
That’s pretty clear. It’s not that good healthy diets for our children’s bodies aren’t important, but that their spiritual growth and health is more important.
Here’s the good news: we don’t need to wonder where to find the word of God, or search for it. We have it. God has graciously given us His Word. We all have it already at hand.
We don’t like to think about our responsibilities as parents to our children in this area, but of course we must!
Did you know that Sunday schools used to be frowned upon? Evangelicals and conservative Christians did not want Sunday schools in their churches. Why? Because it is the responsibility of parents to feed their children spiritual food. Not the church’s.
Old-school Christians were afraid people would get mixed up. If the church took over the basic spiritual training of children, the parents would get lazy and not do it.
And I think we can all cop to that. We generally think of family devotions as the cherry on top of our children’s spiritual food. But it’s not. It is the main dish. Sunday school should be the cherry on top of what you are already doing with them at home.
If we really believe that, I guess we better boost up our efforts. But how do we proceed?
It’s easy to feel so defeated by our failed efforts in the past, or by the sheer weight of the responsibility, that it is too depressing to try. But we can’t allow ourselves to be defeated or get lazy in this important task.
Husbands, if your wife told you that it was too hard to think through healthy foods and prepare good meals, that she thought junk food would be just fine for the kids, that she was done with family dinners…would you be willing to let her proceed down that path?
No. And not only because your children need healthy food, but because it is a known fact that the time around the dinner table is known to be one of the most important things that happen in your children’s basic development. Even non-Christians know and have statistics about how important the family time around the dinner table is. It’s the basis of social development, of learning manners, of learning to converse, of sharing ideas.
So if the family dinner table is important for all these other aspects of life, how much more so family devotions. It gives our children not only the basic knowledge of Scripture, but how it relates to their lives.
If we don’t give it to them, how will they know that it is sweeter than honey? Devotions is a sweet time for the family to sit together feeding from the Word of God, and it’s a good time to be training our children in other areas too. It’s a time for toddlers to learn to be quiet and sit still. It’s a time for preschoolers to learn to pay attention. It’s a time for elementary children to begin to understand spiritual concepts and for teens to learn how to apply these truths to their lives.
I’m not saying this is easy. It’s not. It’s a discipline. It’s a discipline for us as parents when we would rather pick up a book or switch on the TV. But discipline always has good results.
If you have primarily little ones, it would be easy to think, Yeah, we’ll start when the kids are older. But guess what, you won’t! You need to start now. If the children are all little, start small. My father had little ones in mind when he wrote his book, The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes. This book is ideal for 1- and 2-year-olds. They love it, which is why millions of these books have sold over the last 60 years. Start there.
If you have slightly older children, read one page from the Bible. This does not take long. Close in prayer. Wow, how hard could that be?
So let’s think about what it might look like. Each family is going to have a different style of devotions because each family has a different personality. Don’t be intimidated by someone else’s style of devotions. Just do it!