The first thing I had to overcome was my...
In my mind I had built up an idea that "family devotions" looked like... fill in the blank.
Because I was not raised having this experience with my parents, I didn't know what it was suppose to look like. My mind was left to wonder, dream, and fantasize that I was sitting on the couch with my husband and all our little obedient children were gathered at our feet while our "rabbi-ish" leader father would educate us in the ways of God. Realizing that picture was not reality when I have four children under five, we set out to try to read together at night, but then one needed to nurse while another needed a diaper change, while yet another ran and hid from us. The pictures in my mind started to fade, as did my will to have them all sit in a room together.
The second obstacle I had to overcome was...
When is the best time to have devotions with the whole family? Our five children range in age from 4 to 12, and they pretty much are on the same schedule, which should be to our advantage, yet it has been a struggle to nail down a time that we can all sit down together. Mealtimes seemed good in theory, and worked on occasion, but because we are usually eating right before we leave somewhere, I am brushing someones hair, finding someone's socks, or getting myself ready during those few minutes of shoveling a meal down. Not every meal is on the run, but they are not consistent, so it is hard to plan.
Here is what I have been learning and some decisions we have made regarding having family devotions to keep the integrity of our mission statement in the midst of our home.
Successful Family Devotions Mean the Family is Connecting.I have deciding that it doesn't matter what book or curriculum I am using, success is when my family is sitting in a circle and talking to each other. When we are asking questions, and they are answering them, we are connecting. When they are sharing what is on their hearts, we are connecting. When we go around the circle and give a word of encouragement to one another, we are connecting. When we are praying for each other, we are connecting. It might not be a pretty perfect picture, but I believe that if we keep at it, when they grow up they will love and values these times together.
Successful Family Devotions Mean we are Growing Together.Don't get me wrong, I love to study and go deep in the Word all alone, and frankly, that is why it has been so hard for me to take the time in the Word with my children. I have a very limited amount of time and I have always struggled having time with God and my family. Sometimes I feel like II have so little time that its Him or them, can you relate? But I have realized that I cannot grow deep in God only to wake up 50 one day with my children all grown up and out of the house and them not knowing or loving God because I took all my time to be alone with God and left them out of it.
You know I am being general and frank here for the purpose of the point I am trying to make, of course they are going to church and learning the Bible, etc. But I believe that if we are growing together in God than my personal life in God will be blessed. I have to believe that if I sacrifice my "alone" time here and there, the Lord will fill me just the same by sitting with my kids.
A good friend of ours once told us that, "whether I am mowing the lawn, at a baseball game with my family, or in a prayer meeting for hours, it all pays the same." What that means is that whatever grace, mercy, revelation, or encounter God has for me, He will give me. If I could rest in Him and set my priorities straight, then I'll be alright.
Successful Family Devotions Mean I Need to Stop Striving.I have decided to do the best I can each day and embrace His mercies that are new each morning. (Lam. 3:22-23) If our devotion time flops, we'll try again tomorrow. I am pressing into grace and not perfection. Whew! what a load off my back!
The book we are using right now is wonderful because Johnny or I just read a little and stop when the kids get restless and then dialog together. It's called "Eyes & Ears" by Jennifer Toledo and its about how to hear God's voice. For us, being more laid back is what we need in this season of our lives to connect with our children and meet our goals of loving each other and laughing together.
For you, maybe a rigid routine works best, maybe a Bible layout or curriculum. I'd love to hear what works best for your family devotions, or what you have tried that you like. Hope to hear from you!