Carrying Water…and Complaining

We are blessed to have a very healthy spring within about a 1/2 mile, but…the water doesn’t bring itself to our house! One of our most important (and time-consuming, and difficult) tasks here is water-gathering. We see Kenyan girls, from the youngest age, carrying water in small jugs on their small heads, so that by the time they are adults they can carry 5-gallon buckets (or larger) with NO cover WITHOUT SPILLING  A DROP. It is truly amazing. However, we have not been trained that way, so we depend on arm, leg, and back muscles for lugging containers–and we’ve not been well-trained even for that.

Unfortunately, because the task is one that we are not used to, and we must do it multiple times per day in order to do laundry, wash dishes, bathe, and cook food (not to mention drink!), it often involves complaining on the part of the children. They generally start off with the best of attitudes and intentions, but somewhere between the first and second trip of the morning (or maybe during the afternoon run), they begin to whine, bicker with one another over who carries what, and feel sorry for themselves over the trial that they are suffering.

We’re working on it. It is a character-training opportunity at its best. I’m reminding the children that we should “consider it all joy when [we] face trials of various kinds.” That God works all things for good, and that through adversity we are conformed to the image of Christ. Also, I’m trying to remind them (in an encouraging rather than condemning manner) that we are “supposed to” be a light and a witness to this community, showing the character of Christ so that people will see the Gospel of the Kingdom in action. It’s difficult, because when we go to gather water, it’s typically with an entourage–often as many as 20 children and usually an adult (one who has been more than helpful in fetching water for us, praise God!). They see when we do the task in a manner that glorifies God…and when we don’t.

I was very disappointed yesterday to send four of the children to the spring, with two of them tasked with trading off a large container of water between them, only to have one of them have a bit of a temper tantrum and (according to the siblings’ reports) “scream and cry and throw the jug on the ground” when said child felt that his/her sibling was not taking an appropriate turn. I find that it is sometimes difficult, as a parent, to balance challenging children in their growth and character, with potentially frustrating them with unrealistic expectations. It is necessary to discern what is a character deficiency, and what is simply a knee-jerk negative reaction to an excessive demand. There is a need for wisdom, as well as grace, to navigate these situations and redeem them for the glory of God. I pray that we are doing this successfully.

Please share your thoughts on how you have successfully (or unsuccessfully!) balanced these aspects of child training and made the most of every character-training opportunity.

Children Should be Seen and Not Heard?

We’ve probably all heard the expression, children should be seen and not heard. But in America, I don’t see that as being true. Most parents are concerned with teaching their children proper respect and manners, but children are generally integrated into social situations and taught to interact appropriately with different types of people in various situations.

As we were reading a “Culture” book about Kenya in preparation for our move, it noted that the adage children should be seen and not heard was generally alive and well here. I wondered how our children would compare with theirs. Wonder no more–our children are most certainly seen and heard.

Kenyan children, even while at play, generally do not yell and scream (at least from what I have heard). Even the babies seem quiet; they are carried, held, and nursed what seems constantly  and are quite content for the most part. The only time I have heard a baby cry is early in the morning, upon their waking (our neighbors are all quite close, so not much is secret!). When adults are conversing, children generally sit quietly with their parents or in the background. They seem not to seek entertainment but patiently endure what must be quite boring.

In contrast, while adults are talking, our children may be asked to sit quietly for a while, which they do without complaint, but at some point we will excuse them.Once released, they will wander off into another room or outside, where their happy-but-loud noise generally carries throughout the house (one benefit of having no ceilings and a tin roof!). I hesitate to reprimand them, but the difference is certainly marked. I’m not sure how our Kenyan counterparts react to our children’s ways, but at the same time I don’t know to what extent we will try to conform their behavior.

What is your feeling about children being seen and not heard? Is it better for children to be brought up under this expectation–what are the advantages and disadvantages, for them, for the family, and for society? To what extent would you try to train (or re-train) your children if a cultural or social expectation was at odds with your practices?

September’s Most Popular Search Terms

To be quite honest, I don’t pay much attention at all to our Web stats. Occasionally I check to see where folks are linking to our site from, and even more infrequently I actually pay attention to the search terms that drive traffic here. Just in case you were curious, here’s a short list of the most popular terms (besides “Values-Driven” and “Values-Driven Family”) that led people to visit www.valuesdrivenfamily.com:

If you’re interested in Growing to be Like Jesus, feel free to use the code BLOGSPECIAL to get it at 40% off. I’ll leave the code active for one week!)

There you have it…what brings YOU to our site? 🙂

One-Word Description

During our last convention trip, as we were all cooped up in the trailer, I decided to take out a card game that we play once in a while, called “The Art of Conversation.” Each card contains a “conversation starter” question and the rules of the game teach–you guessed it!–the art of conversation.

I picked a question for my five year old daughter that asked, “What one word would you use to describe yourself?” Almost before I got a chance to finish the question, I got several replies from the other children, responding about the one I had asked. In defiance of all of the “rules” of The Art of Conversation, one sibling yelled, “Bossy!” and another said, “Loud!” I thought to myself, and then said out loud, “That is really an unkind way to describe your sister. Let’s give her a chance to answer the question.” I asked it again and waited for her response.

Now, this particular child is pretty loud. And sometimes bossy. She also has a good sense of humor. I actually could see her describing herself as “loud” without a problem, since having a “gentle and quiet spirit” is something she gets a lot of reminders about. I kind of expected her to do it, just to get a laugh. (And, quite honestly, that might have been the first adjective that popped into my mind as well.) But very quietly, she said,

“Helper.

And I was surprised that I had never really seen her that way. At least, that’s not the dominant trait that I would have focused on in describing her. And yet, it is true. She’s a very willing helper. She enjoys helping me and helping her siblings. It gives her a sense of accomplishment and confidence in what she is able to do. I know that she also enjoys helping me because it gives us a chance to spend some “quality time” together. She always asks to help, almost always serves cheerfully, and normally goes above and beyond in the quality of work that she does. I was sorry that this wasn’t the first thing that I had thought of in asking such a question of my daughter.

This little question-and-answer has been on my mind a lot lately. I’m continually reminded of how easy it is to “label” a particular person, especially in a negative sense, rather than focusing on the good. And we all know what self-fulfilling prophecies words can be. So, I ask you, what “word” do you associate with each of your children, or your husband, in particular? How does that affect how you interact with them? Do you think that your assessment manifests itself in the way that you behave toward other people in your family? Perhaps more pointedly, I wonder what our “labeling” of others says about us.

“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

The Strong-Willed Child

I’ve posted before about my strong-willed daughter (here and here…and here, too); our oldest son has a bit of a strong will as well, although any “issues” we have with him as a result of his personality are few and far between these days.

In a recent email communication, one mom commented, “what is your advice for that “strong willed” child. I know you had mentioned that you have one and I do too and have had a hard time dealing with it!! …any advice would be so helpful and greatly appreciated!!!” I decided to sit down and address that one at some length, then figured I might as well post it to the blog. I hope you will add any of your ideas that might be helpful to other moms and dads with strong-willed children.

Easy things you might already be doing:

  1. Offer choices when possible. Don’t make everything a matter of the child’s choice, but when possible, give some freedom: what to have for lunch, which game to play, whether to do dishes or laundry for his or her daily chore, or whether to start the homeschool day with Math or Language Arts. These choices, when offered within reason, allow the child to make choices over non-essential things so that when you (the parent) need to ask something that does not involve choice, there is more willingness to comply because of the give-and-take.

    However, do not let this strong-willed child question your authority when decisions need to be made. If I have a habit of letting the child “choose” certain things but see that he/she is being rebellious, I will often remove the freedom to choose. Children should be aware that they exercise freedom within boundaries, and that their privilege in this area is just that–a privilege. They should understand that rules are for their benefit, and that they are blessed when they show respect to their parents.

  2. Establish solid routines: I believe that all children, and those strong-willed ones in particular, thrive on routine. Not necessarily a firm schedule, but a good routine. Children benefit from understanding expectations and knowing when their times of work (and the reward of play) will be. A good routine will include short periods of work (30 minutes or so), followed by about 10 minutes of “rest”/down-time if possible. This may include reading a book, playing an active game, making a quick phone call, or sitting down with a cup of water or juice (which in our house is always watered down!) 🙂

    If you have younger children, don’t let their will dictate whether or not they will take an afternoon nap. Little kids need naps–or at the very least, an enforced “rest period.” They don’t know that they need it, but they do. My strong-willed 5 year-old still naps every other day, but she would rarely choose to do that. However, after going “no nap” at age 5, I saw that she really needed the alternate-day rest period and implementing this scheduled nap has made days much less dramatic for everyone.

    Make sure your routine includes breaks for snacks or hydration as well. Don’t over-do the snacks, and make sure they’re healthy–but hydration in particular can make a great difference in mood.

  3. 5-minute warning: Every child (but, again, those strong-willed ones in particular) appreciates having a 5-minute warning when an activity is coming to an end–especially if they are having fun. But let your “five minutes” be pretty close to an actual 5 minutes, or they’ll learn not to take you seriously.

The “more important” things:

Doing the “practical” things above will likely help keep the battle of wills from becoming an issue quite so often. However, I’ve found that focusing in the externals (the “doings”) very often misses the heart. It’s kind of like putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound. Instead, there are some deeper and more intensive things that will get to the heart of the issue of will–these are the “spiritual” steps that will have a more lasting impact.

  1. Pray. Perhaps obvious, but don’t neglect to do it. Pray for your own (parents’) wisdom in every situation. Pray not just for your child to be submissive or obedient, but for all of you to learn to have an eternal perspective about daily events and grow in your relationship with the Lord so that love, unity, and His glory would be everyone’s ultimate objective in every situation.

    Pray with and for your children. Ask them how you can pray for them, and pray aloud with them.

  2. Focus on the eternal and the important. It’s easy to make mountains out of molehills and succumb to the “tyranny of the urgent.” When you’re involved in a battle of wills, the temptation is to think that you must “win” the battle–but if your focus is not where it should be, you may lose the war. It’s not worth it! Think first, about what God’s desire is for each and every incident, and how you can glorify Him. Think about how you can grow through trials, and how you can encourage your child to do the same. Pick your battles.

  3. Build relationships. Don’t let your child’s strong will determine how you will view him or her. Resist the impulse to label him (even in your mind) as “the trouble maker,” “the difficult one” or something. See him as a unique individual with God-given gifts, and loved by God. Find the good. Spend time building your relationship with this child in a positive way so that when you do have to provide correction, it will be more than balanced by loving and joyful interactions. Find out your child’s “love language” and focus on those areas, but always look for little ways that you can express caring.

    Don’t engage in relationship-building activities contingent upon your child’s “performance.” They need your time and attention, regardless of their behavior. In fact, their behavior might be improved if you make it a point to regularly invest in them.

    Decide to give grace sometimes, and “reward” a child with special time or a special treat because you love them, not because they deserve it. I don’t even mind pointing out to my children that these “little blessings” I occasionally bestow on them aren’t merited…but just because I love them.

  4. Encourage. It’s easy to pounce on the bad attitudes, the disobedience, the forgetfulness, and all the other wrong behaviors. But don’t forget to liberally encourage. And by that I don’t mean the “puffed-up,” artificial self-esteem type of stuff. Encourage them about what they are doing that shows progress, pleases the Lord, or blesses others. There’s almost always something good about every situation, if you can find it.

  5. Disciple, with grace. Model good attitudes, patient endurance, and cheerful service for your children. Then you will earn the right to disciple them in these areas when they struggle.

    Proactively teach God’s Word and help everyone in the family to apply it to real-life situations, especially in relation to attitude (but also, by extension, anger and other emotional outbursts). Through this consistent exercise, you can create a more consistently joyful home atmosphere. Your strong-willed child, in particular, needs this foundation! If you have read and discussed applicable verses during family time, it becomes simply a reminder to the children when attitudes or anger flare, to share one of the verses in an encouraging manner and say something like, “This is what we talked about the other day (or last week, or whenever)…this is one situation where you can choose to obey God’s Word.”

    The approach of meditating on God’s Word and using it during life’s “teachable moments” is not an instant-fix, but it gets to the heart and will prove more effective than other “band-aids” in the long run. The consistent teaching and application of the Scriptures has been the one thing that I would say has affected the most change in the atmosphere of our home and in dealing with our strong-willed children. So I encourage you to turn to God’s Word to correct bad attitudes and other outbursts in your home; pray with and for your children as you minister the encouragement of the Word and trust God that His Word will not return void!

Feel free to comment about anything that has worked in your home; this post is by no means exhaustive. 🙂

New Year’s Resolutions

Do your New Year’s resolutions only last ’till February? Yeah, mine, too. That’s why I usually don’t make them. This year, however, I’m going to cooperate with God in setting some goals and I do believe that the Holy Spirit will help me to make progress…and hopefully well past February. So here goes:

  • Complain Less. When those “big things” happen, like the washing machine pouring water all over the basement floor or a child falling out of the bunk bed and breaking her leg, usually there’s no time for complaining. And anyway, I typically can surrender those things to God because of course they happen in His Providence and for my good (Romans 8:28). However, it’s the “little things” that get me, and which I am prone to complain about. You know, like getting the wrong kind of juice for the coupon you planned on using and not wanting to go back and get it because the toddler is laying on the floor in the middle of the checkout line begging for water and the other children are starting to get glazed over looks based on how long you’ve already been in the store, and you just can’t believe they wouldn’t volunteer to send someone to get it for you.

    Ahem. Of course these are all just hypothetical situations. I do resolve (by the power of the Holy Spirit) to complain less this year, especially about those little things. “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.” (Philippians 2:14-16).

  • I also want to focus more on Scripture memory this year, for myself and for the children. We are supposed to wear “the belt of truth” and, in fact, our only defensive weapon against the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (see Ephesians 6). I believe that the time is coming that we will all need to be equipped to stand firm in the Truth, and Scripture memory may well be our anchor. Regardless, it is also important for our own personal spiritual growth.
  • I want to carve out more time in my schedule/routine for personal reading, Bible study and prayer. I tend to get too busy and I do crave to spend more time with the Lord growing in my relationship with Him. Sometimes my quiet times are more for the sake of “doing” them than for the purpose of “being” with the Lord, and my attitude about that is changing. I’m realizing that I need to be more flexible about some things so that I can prioritize time with God. I also want to encourage the children to do this.

What are your resolutions this year? Judging from our recent sales of Values-Driven Discipleship: Biblical Instruction and Character Training Manual, I would guess that many of you are hoping to get back on track in the discipleship of your children, making the Word of God a more constant presence in your training, encouragement, and correction.

As well, if you’re looking for an economical way to make progress with time and money management (budgets and schedules/routines) you might want to check out our Home Management Bundle, which is only $4.95. It includes chapter excerpts from The Values Driven Family on Budgets and Schedules, a “Home Management Nuts and Bolts” seminar, several planner pages, and a Microsoft Excel workbook budget tool. Here’s what a recent customer commented about this on our Facebook Fan Page:

“OK, I LOVE THIS PROGRAM! Love seeing the year at a glance and I must admit I am a nerd because I love the pie chart! Such a God-thing that you put this up today and I can’t wait to show hubby in the morning! He too is mourning the loss of our old system and wanting structure again! THANK YOU so much!!”

We are so thrilled to know that this tool is helping families to be better stewards of all that God has provided them!

Have a blessed New Year as you grow in the Lord!

Training, Encouraging, Disciplining, and…the Holy Spirit

If you’re at all familiar with Values-Driven, some things should be obvious: we take very seriously our parental duties of training, encouraging, and disciplining our children. We also have a discipleship focus and desire to show them a lifestyle of loving and serving the Lord. We have proactive things that we “do” to support each of these aspects of biblical parenting, but we also are well aware of the necessity of bathing our efforts in prayer. In the past few days, we’ve had a couple of instances which have also reminded us of the blessing of seeing the Holy Spirit work–God doing His part as we do ours.

When it comes to disciplining our 5 year-old daughter, Marc and I often joke that she has an iron backside and a will to match. Everything she does is dramatic–including her repentance. Once there is breakthrough, her sorrow is heartfelt and genuine. The change in her behavior is instantaneous–the Holy Spirit has obviously been doing something. Those are the moments that make it all worth it.

The other day, I saw the Holy Spirit at work when we were unaware. On Saturday morning, our 10 year-old son *sighed* about coming in for family devotions because he was anxious to try out the new bow he’d gotten as an early Christmas present from his Uncle and Aunt. Marc reminded him that nothing should come between him and his relationship with the Lord and casually said, “If anything comes between you and God, maybe you should give it away.” The reminder helped him to adjust his focus and we carried on with Bible reading and prayer as usual.

Later in the afternoon, my 5 year-old daughter was helping me cook supper. While we stood at the stove, she confessed, “Before when you asked me to do some cleaning up in my room, Hannah [her sister] did it all because I was playing with my new doll set.” (Her magnetic “dress up” doll, also an early Christmas gift from another Aunt!). “And remember what Dad said about giving things away if they come between you and God? Well, I thought I liked my set too much. And I don’t think Bekah’s [her older sister] is as nice as mine. So I asked Bekah to trade sets with me so I wouldn’t disobey you when you asked me to do something.”

After thanking her for sharing her heart and encouraging her about her decision–reminding her how much that pleased God–I had to remind myself, she’s only 5! How long did it take me to arrive at a willingness to intentionally give up things that would distract me from loving and serving the Lord? And we, as parents, had really done nothing to prompt it; it was simply the work of the Holy Spirit. All I can do is praise God!

Likewise, our ten year-0ld son came to me yesterday morning after our family devotions and said, “I’d really like prayer. I want to get back to living moment-by-moment and I know I need God’s help.” This makes sense if you’ve read the free ebook we offer on our site, Keys to Kingdom Expansion. It talks about not living “day by day,” but rather, moment by moment, purposefully living each moment to please and glorify God with the choices we make–our thoughts, our words, and our actions. Our boy has taken this to heart, but obviously felt like he had been slipping of late and needed God’s grace and power to help him in this area. Again, this was an internal struggle of which we, as parents, had been relatively unaware. His behavior hadn’t reflected any significant change; he hadn’t been receiving any more correction than usual nor seemed “off” in any way. But the Holy Spirit had obviously been working in him to persevere in walking in a manner worthy of our Lord and Savior…so of course we prayed for his cooperation in that effort.

I don’t share these stories to say anything about our parenting–hopefully you can see that these stories of God’s work in our children’s lives and spiritual growth have very little to do with us and our efforts. Instead, I share this to encourage you to remember that as we work, God works. Don’t forget to pray for your children and ask God to work in your children’s hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to lead and guide them into all truth. Encourage your children to “do” what they can to cooperate with God, but also to listen for the promptings of the Holy Spirit–through the Word, through other godly Christians, or through the “still small voice” inside of them. Remind them that it’s important to listen to the Holy Spirit and obey, so that the voice of God will get LOUDER and not be drowned out by the world or by the lusts of their flesh.

Likewise, as we disciple our children in this area, I pray that we all, as parents, would model this lifestyle of listening and obeying, so that we might all the more glorify God, moment by moment.

Tips on Family Devotional Time

Bible reading

There are many ways to go about having family devotional times. I believe that it’s best to let the Scriptures speak for themselves, so I personally do not use commercially-written devotional guides. I simply read the Bible to the children. If I’m concentrating on a values-related topic, I will just read from a binder of verses (the “Values-Driven Discipleship” manual).

My approach is simple. I want our children to grow in God’s Word and become accustomed to hearing and understanding the Word of God at an adult level, so I always read from an adult Bible during our devotional time. The children do also have their personal Bible reading times later during the day. At those times the younger children will read beginner’s Bibles, Bible picture books, and the like, but as a family we read aloud from a consistent translation. Some people prefer KJV, while others like the readability of NIV, NKJV, or NASB. You should choose whatever is most comfortable for you.

I am a firm believer in reading for “depth, not distance.” In other words, I don’t feel it’s necessary to cover a whole chapter in one sitting. I may begin with that intention but the Holy Spirit often leads us into discussion on a particular verse or prompts us to look up other verses that help us understand a particular point in greater detail. At other times, however, I may read more than a chapter. It usually depends on our time constraints and how well I feel the children are attending to the reading.

Love for the Word, not a legalistic approach

Even if you choose the “just read the Bible” approach, you probably are aware that there are many methods for this, as well: reading straight through the Bible, going from one book to another, or doing a topical study and digging through the many relevant Scriptures. And of course, there’s what one friend of ours called the “pray and point” method of simply asking God for an applicable Word and reading whatever passage you open up to. I’ve done all of the above at one time or another, depending on time constraints, interest level, family happenings, and the like.

For us, what has been most important is that we not allow ourselves to be bound to a legalistic view of what “family devotions” should be. We let the Holy Spirit lead us and we always focus on the Bible alone. These are our only guidelines. We want to encourage in our children a love and respect for God’s Word, and we want them to know that they can and should turn to it for encouragement, guidance, and conviction—at all times! By being flexible in our family devotional time, I believe that our children will learn to listen to the Holy Spirit and trust in God for daily guidance through personal reading and application of the Word.

Edification, not entertainment

The family devotional time should be an adult-led time. This helps children develop a reverence for God’s Word and understand its importance in their lives. While it should not go on so long as to be boring for the children (they do have short attention spans!), this is a good time to encourage them to be self-controlled and put their best effort into hearing and understanding the Word. Brief discussions, occasional questions directed at the children, and the like, will make the time interactive and interesting for the whole family.

Of course, I do try to read with inflection, occasionally take turns in the reading, or even act out different verses or stories (storms are lots of fun, and there are many opportunities for drama with the parables of Jesus and the well-known Old Testament stories of Noah’s Ark, Abraham’s almost-sacrifice of Isaac, Joshua and the battle of Jericho…the possibilities are endless!) Again, however, I do believe that the focus should be on the Word itself, and not on the entertainment value it can impart. There are plenty of other opportunities to integrate this element if you so desire, but nothing compares with teaching our children to hear, obey, and revere God’s Word as the foundation for our lives. The family devotional time is a great starting point to engender a lifelong love of the Bible.

EXCERPTED FROM “VALUES-DRIVEN DISCIPLESHIP BIBLICAL INSTRUCTION AND CHARACTER TRAINING MANUAL” by Marc and Cindy Carrier, available at http://www.valuesdrivenfamily.com

Tips on Family Devotional Time

Bible reading

There are many ways to go about having family devotional times. I believe that it’s best to let the Scriptures speak for themselves, so I personally do not use commercially-written devotional guides. I simply read the Bible to the children. If I’m concentrating on a values-related topic, I will just read from a binder of verses (the “Values-Driven Discipleship” manual).

My approach is simple. I want our children to grow in God’s Word and become accustomed to hearing and understanding the Word of God at an adult level, so I always read from an adult Bible during our devotional time. The children do also have their personal Bible reading times later during the day. At those times the younger children will read beginner’s Bibles, Bible picture books, and the like, but as a family we read aloud from a consistent translation. Some people prefer KJV, while others like the readability of NIV, NKJV, or NASB. You should choose whatever is most comfortable for you.

I am a firm believer in reading for “depth, not distance.” In other words, I don’t feel it’s necessary to cover a whole chapter in one sitting. I may begin with that intention but the Holy Spirit often leads us into discussion on a particular verse or prompts us to look up other verses that help us understand a particular point in greater detail. At other times, however, I may read more than a chapter. It usually depends on our time constraints and how well I feel the children are attending to the reading.

Love for the Word, not a legalistic approach

Even if you choose the “just read the Bible” approach, you probably are aware that there are many methods for this, as well: reading straight through the Bible, going from one book to another, or doing a topical study and digging through the many relevant Scriptures. And of course, there’s what one friend of ours called the “pray and point” method of simply asking God for an applicable Word and reading whatever passage you open up to. I’ve done all of the above at one time or another, depending on time constraints, interest level, family happenings, and the like.

For us, what has been most important is that we not allow ourselves to be bound to a legalistic view of what “family devotions” should be. We let the Holy Spirit lead us and we always focus on the Bible alone. These are our only guidelines. We want to encourage in our children a love and respect for God’s Word, and we want them to know that they can and should turn to it for encouragement, guidance, and conviction—at all times! By being flexible in our family devotional time, I believe that our children will learn to listen to the Holy Spirit and trust in God for daily guidance through personal reading and application of the Word.

Edification, not entertainment

The family devotional time should be an adult-led time. This helps children develop a reverence for God’s Word and understand its importance in their lives. While it should not go on so long as to be boring for the children (they do have short attention spans!), this is a good time to encourage them to be self-controlled and put their best effort into hearing and understanding the Word. Brief discussions, occasional questions directed at the children, and the like, will make the time interactive and interesting for the whole family.

Of course, I do try to read with inflection, occasionally take turns in the reading, or even act out different verses or stories (storms are lots of fun, and there are many opportunities for drama with the parables of Jesus and the well-known Old Testament stories of Noah’s Ark, Abraham’s almost-sacrifice of Isaac, Joshua and the battle of Jericho…the possibilities are endless!) Again, however, I do believe that the focus should be on the Word itself, and not on the entertainment value it can impart. There are plenty of other opportunities to integrate this element if you so desire, but nothing compares with teaching our children to hear, obey, and revere God’s Word as the foundation for our lives. The family devotional time is a great starting point to engender a lifelong love of the Bible.

EXCERPTED FROM “VALUES-DRIVEN DISCIPLESHIP BIBLICAL INSTRUCTION AND CHARACTER TRAINING MANUAL” by Marc and Cindy Carrier, available at http://www.valuesdrivenfamily.com

Tips on Family Devotional Time

Bible reading

There are many ways to go about having family devotional times. I believe that it’s best to let the Scriptures speak for themselves, so I personally do not use commercially-written devotional guides. I simply read the Bible to the children. If I’m concentrating on a values-related topic, I will just read from a binder of verses (the “Values-Driven Discipleship” manual).

My approach is simple. I want our children to grow in God’s Word and become accustomed to hearing and understanding the Word of God at an adult level, so I always read from an adult Bible during our devotional time. The children do also have their personal Bible reading times later during the day. At those times the younger children will read beginner’s Bibles, Bible picture books, and the like, but as a family we read aloud from a consistent translation. Some people prefer KJV, while others like the readability of NIV, NKJV, or NASB. You should choose whatever is most comfortable for you.

I am a firm believer in reading for “depth, not distance.” In other words, I don’t feel it’s necessary to cover a whole chapter in one sitting. I may begin with that intention but the Holy Spirit often leads us into discussion on a particular verse or prompts us to look up other verses that help us understand a particular point in greater detail. At other times, however, I may read more than a chapter. It usually depends on our time constraints and how well I feel the children are attending to the reading.

Love for the Word, not a legalistic approach

Even if you choose the “just read the Bible” approach, you probably are aware that there are many methods for this, as well: reading straight through the Bible, going from one book to another, or doing a topical study and digging through the many relevant Scriptures. And of course, there’s what one friend of ours called the “pray and point” method of simply asking God for an applicable Word and reading whatever passage you open up to. I’ve done all of the above at one time or another, depending on time constraints, interest level, family happenings, and the like.

For us, what has been most important is that we not allow ourselves to be bound to a legalistic view of what “family devotions” should be. We let the Holy Spirit lead us and we always focus on the Bible alone. These are our only guidelines. We want to encourage in our children a love and respect for God’s Word, and we want them to know that they can and should turn to it for encouragement, guidance, and conviction—at all times! By being flexible in our family devotional time, I believe that our children will learn to listen to the Holy Spirit and trust in God for daily guidance through personal reading and application of the Word.

Edification, not entertainment

The family devotional time should be an adult-led time. This helps children develop a reverence for God’s Word and understand its importance in their lives. While it should not go on so long as to be boring for the children (they do have short attention spans!), this is a good time to encourage them to be self-controlled and put their best effort into hearing and understanding the Word. Brief discussions, occasional questions directed at the children, and the like, will make the time interactive and interesting for the whole family.

Of course, I do try to read with inflection, occasionally take turns in the reading, or even act out different verses or stories (storms are lots of fun, and there are many opportunities for drama with the parables of Jesus and the well-known Old Testament stories of Noah’s Ark, Abraham’s almost-sacrifice of Isaac, Joshua and the battle of Jericho…the possibilities are endless!) Again, however, I do believe that the focus should be on the Word itself, and not on the entertainment value it can impart. There are plenty of other opportunities to integrate this element if you so desire, but nothing compares with teaching our children to hear, obey, and revere God’s Word as the foundation for our lives. The family devotional time is a great starting point to engender a lifelong love of the Bible.

EXCERPTED FROM “VALUES-DRIVEN DISCIPLESHIP BIBLICAL INSTRUCTION AND CHARACTER TRAINING MANUAL” by Marc and Cindy Carrier, available at http://www.valuesdrivenfamily.com