This is a post from Stacey Blevins of Abiding Woman
No matter how big or small your family is in size, navigating the logistics of a family Bible time can be challenging. When my older children were in their toddler years, I told myself a lie that we didn’t need family Bible time yet. I didn’t think they understood, I thought it was too difficult to get them to sit still, and I didn’t feel that it had any real benefit to me or my husband to try and do it all together with the children. I was wrong. The Lord graciously brought some other families into my life that had daily time together reading God’s Word, and my husband and I finally asked them one day, “how does this work? how do you do it with all of these age ranges, babies and toddlers too? and why include them… they’re so young?” They gave us some tips and thoughts, we tried them, and were amazed at the fruit we saw from this time. We now have daily family Bible time and it’s a special time that we dearly love. This is what works for us, maybe it can work for your family as well!
Around the Table
We have found that the easiest place to have our family devotions is around the kitchen table, usually before a meal. This works wonderfully because babies and toddlers are buckled into highchairs (we often let them eat a little snack) and our preschool and elementary aged girls have a seat and the empty table in front of them which keeps down distraction. Babies and toddlers do benefit from this time as well because they are watching and learning the structure of family activities. By seeing the older children participate in this time, they are learning how as well. Also, it is good for them to be exposed to God’s Word early so that their little minds can begin to understand it. We like to do it before the meal because by the end of the meal toddlers and babies are usually over being in the seat and tend to be more fussy.
We read from God’s Word, not story book Bibles or devotionals. Those things are good tools, and we do use them at other times, but for this time we want to read them God’s inspired Word. We have been amazed at how much they understand! Children are much smarter than you may think; they don’t need everything “dumbed down” for them. If this is new to you, start by choosing one of the Gospels and read through small parts each night. Read a parable and discuss what it means. Psalms and Proverbs are also great places to read and teach from. Let conversation flow naturally, and if the children don’t engage in conversation that is okay too, they are listening and we know that God’s Word does not return empty (Isaiah 55:11). Let all the children ask their questions and answer as best you can, and it is okay if you don’t know the answer, just be honest with them and say, “we will have to pray and search God’s Word for the answer to that.”
Scripture Memory Sharing
We do Scripture memory in our homeschool time, but we allow the children to share the Bible verses out loud with the whole family during this time. It gives them an opportunity to participate in proclaiming God’s truth. My children love this part! However, I wouldn’t force it if they didn’t. We really want family Bible time to be enjoyable and not stressful. We simply ask, “who wants to share one of their memory verses?”, and they volunteer, we don’t make them. My children are currently memorizing the Scriptures from The Truth and Grace Memory Book (this book is fairly cheap and comes in three levels) It has recommended Bible verses and hymns to memorize with each age as well as a children’s catechism. We love it! Here is a little peak inside of our book (book 1).
We do not always incorporate catechism into this time because we do it during our homeschool Bible time, however sometimes we do this corporately as a family and find it very enjoyable to discuss the questions and what they mean for our life. A quick explanation of catechisms for those who may not know: it is simply a series of fixed questions and answers that are used for instruction and fully supported by Scripture. We memorize them together and allow this to build a solid foundation of truth in our hearts. Below is a peak at a portion of the children’s catechism found in The Truth and Grace Memory Book. However, there are many great catechisms that you can use, here is a free children’s catechism that I really like as well called The Children’s Prove It Catechism.
This is a very important part of our time! Often my husband will open the Bible time with a prayer, but at the end we allow for a time of “popcorn prayer” where anyone even the little ones can pray to the Lord. We simply take turns praying aloud while the others pray silently agreeing in their hearts. We sometimes have to instruct during this time about what is appropriate behavior for praying together and about right attitudes and heart postures. I think it is important that the children hear both mom and dad pray, and know that they can talk to God too! This is not just something daddy does for us!
We do not always do this part, but many times we do sing a hymn or praise song before or after to worship together. This does not have to be super formal, you don’t have to be musical or have a musical instrument (although that is great if you do!), and you don’t even have to sing all of the verses. Sometimes we just do a chorus of something everyone knows and can sing together as a response to the Lord and what He has taught us during that time.
Be Flexible and Patient
It is important to be flexible and patient when it comes to family Bible time. Some days it may only last 5 minutes because the children are getting antsy and everyone is “starving”. Other days you may be able to spend 30 minutes or more learning and worshiping together. It doesn’t always have to look and go the same every single time; just try to do it every day and you are sure to be blessed by that time and you will begin to see your children engage in and enjoy Bible time as well.
What if your husband isn’t on board with leading family Bible time?
You can’t force your husband to lead family Bible time. If he is not interested in doing this as a family, then you lead it at a different time during the day, maybe before lunch or breakfast while your husband is at work. And never slander your husband in front of your children for not being willing to lead it! Just do it with a joyful heart and count it a privilege to get to lead your children to the Lord each day through His Word. Continue to pray for your husband diligently. Don’t nag him, pray for him! Win him without a word! (1 Peter 3:1)