I have been asked many times what we do and what we use with the children for their devotional times with the Lord. Ahhh! Doing devotionals with the children can be very, very trying!
Family Devotions – Fail!
We used to do our Family Devotions once a week. Honestly, it was a t-o-r-t-u-r-e! Why? Well, firstly, it is just not in our natural inclination to want to pray and worship God. And then to rally small, young children to do it with joy was stretching it a long bit! So we had long faces, bored faces and stressed faces instead of joyful faces, worshipful faces! And this was for a 15 minute session. So guess what? We gave up.
Then, prompted by the Holy Spirit, we would re-start and then give up, re-start and then give up. It was awful and we felt guilty that we just couldn’t get it to work.
For the Older Children
– Student of the Word Curriculum
To encourage you, the good news is that we are now doing our devotions much more consistently and with a purpose! But it only started and clicked together when we started using our Student of the Word (SOW) curriculum in our Homeschool. This may sound like a plug for the curriculum but we ought to give credit where credit is due. 🙂
So now, we start our school day with a session on the assigned chapters for the week, learning to outline the main topics covered, then studying the chosen topic, character and end with a commentary and summary of what we had learn. These are laid out in SOW’s Scope & Sequence.
We used SOW for our older children when they were 5.5 and 7.5 years old. It really has been a God-send because not only are we (the parents!) forced to be consistent when we link it to school, but more importantly, the children are learning how to dig into the Bible on their own from a very early age. They don’t just sit there and listen to us read something from a devotional and space out. They are required to think.
No more sour faces?
Do we still have sulky faces and bored faces? Of course! 😀
But the fruit we reap is wonderful especially when you read what they had written. They often surprise us with their understanding and perception of what is covered in the Bible. Many who have used SOW also have said the same thing of their children so I know this is true not just for our family.
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For the Younger Children
Now what about the younger children? Do we ignore them until they are able to join in the older ones? Not at all. They can actually join the SOW programme from Kindergarten age (6 years old) but I have found that it is more effective for me to take them through the Bible by concentrating on the Bible stories first. To get them familiar with the stories.
– From toddler age and above
Currently, we use Bible Story Coloring Pages by Gospel Light. What I like is that it allows you to legally reproduce the pages for personal use. No violation of copyright laws here! I have also used Shirley Dobson’s My Bible Colouring Book at this stage. A free downloadable resource are pages from Calvary Chapel.
To start out, I would tell the story and then give them the relevant pages to colour. Like everything else in this stage, we keep the lesson short and sweet. I’d rather they clamour for more than force them to sit through a Bible session. Then we file the pages and review them at the end of the year. This yearly refreshing of their memory of the Bible stories is helpful and lays the foundation for later on when we take them through the whys and hows of the stories. They are also thrilled to see the improvement in their colouring skills! 🙂
– From age 5 and above
I used The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Vos which I feel is a good balance between a child’s and an adult’s Bible which can go way above their heads. Sadly, most children’s Bibles are either inaccurate or are dumbed down. This book does neither.
At this young age, since most children would not be able to apply the lesson or draw any lesson from the stories read, we concentrate on familiarising them with Bible stories and characters (are they godly or ungodly? Why?). Of course there are always exceptions. Some kids just get it. But do bear this in mind so that you will not tear your hair out trying to make them apply the story to their own lives.
Some of the other devotionals we used include :
One Year Bible For Children by V. Gilbert Beers which has lovely, lovely illustrations!
I have also used a free online devotional from Keys For Kids.
Personally, I find that those that take the child through the Bible are more effective than those that just use a verse and tell a story around the verse. Yet I know many who have found what I described effective for their families. So really, your mileage may vary. What I didn’t like was that the children learn “stock answers”. Eg. All questions are answered with “God”, “Jesus” “Pray”.
Don’t be legalistic
The key to doing devotions with the children, as my husband likes to remind ourselves, as well as other parents, is not to be legalistic about it. There is no fixed rule that we must do it everyday or once a week and that the format must include worship, prayer, bible study. There is no harm in following this format but you don’t need to feel like a failure should you not be able to follow it to a T. Remember, we want to do it everyday because we want to please God not so that we can then just tick it off our To-Do list.
This motivation is important because our children can sense it and they can see through our reluctance and legalism when we just go through the motions. We need to pass on our passion and love for the Lord, not a set of rules to win brownie points with God. Consistency is good (so is discipline!) but to do it everyday but with a sour face (ours!) or with a resigned attitude (ours again!) is not what we want to model for our children. Right???
Also, it is no point doing devotionals everyday if we are not modelling Christ in our lives the rest of the day! Children are very perceptive. They know if we are being hypocrites or not. So it’s not the “Do what I say” that is important but the “Do what I do”!
While doing devotionals with the children has been a challenge for us, I am glad we persisted. I am well aware that things will probably change as they mature and their needs change. But for now, this is what has been working for us.
What have you used in your family that you have found helpful or unhelpful? Do share your experience!