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