This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Laura: Hello and welcome to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I have my sister-in-law, Emily Jensen, here with me. Today, we are diving into a frequently asked question to Emily and I. We’re talking about family devotions. What do they look like? What are your expectations? How do you do them? What resources do you use, and Emily and I love to add, why do we do family devotions? Because this is Risen Motherhood and we talk about the “why” here because there’s no reason doing something if you don’t know why you do it. Emily, what was your picture pre-mom of what family devos looked like or pre-older children when it became a reality?
Emily: Whenever I hear the word “family devotion”, my mind harkens back to like the 1800s. A family sitting in a one-room home around a fire and the father is reading out of this big old Bible for an hour.
Laura: It’s probably King James.
Emily: Yes and the children are all very well behaved and very quiet.
Laura: They are knitting and crocheting or something.
Emily: You are right there. Maybe they sing an old hymn together and they pray and it’s very picturesque. I even have a modern version of that in my mind too. That has caused a lot of issues for me because that’s completely unattainable, especially with young children. It leaves me always feeling like we are doing a really bad job at passing on our faith and our disciplines to our children. What about you Laura?
Laura: It’s similar to you and definitely the sitting still thing, I have pictured my kids sitting still, listening and obeying and gobbling up what I was saying to them, and desiring to read it so much. It’s definitely anything but we are talking about monster trucks and if Jesus rode on monster trucks. That’s a common question in our home and questions about dinosaurs and dragons. It’s all over the place. That’s the reality.
Emily: Most of our questions are, "Does Jesus love my stuffed animals?" and [laughs] stuff you just are like, “I don’t even know how to answer that question.” Whatever your expectation is that comes to your mind, picture it and we are going to hopefully encourage you today in how exercise this practice in a normal family.
Laura: We are going to shatter all your unrealistic expectations.
Emily: For the sake of today’s show, we thought we’d define what we are talking about because it may mean something different to each of you. We are saying this is a regular time when your family or most of your family sits down together and has a more intentional time of reading the scriptures, or maybe it’s a Bible storybook and learning together about the word of God. It’s an example of a time when mom and dad both act as disciplers and are showing their children, actively modeling what this practice looks like. Saying we need this daily. We rely on his word and here is what it looks like to press us through it and apply it to our lives.
Laura: The whole reason behind why we have family devotions is that if you boil it down, it says if the gospel is everything to mom and dad then wouldn’t we want to share that with our own children, with our own flesh and blood? Out of the overflow of the joy of what we’ve received from Christ and God’s wonderful, magnificent plan that flows from that joy to say, “I want my children to know this truth. I want my children to share in this joy, to share in eternity” and if we understand our need, if we understand the need that we have for God’s guidance and his intervention in our life through his word, then we want to train our children in those things. If we believe that the gospel is just critical for our children in their eternity in life and in death, then our greatest hope and our greatest desire is for them to know Christ. That’s what family devos do is that they build a very solid foundation for our children to grow and understand. Emily has said in a previous show at one point that even if we don’t see our children come to faith until they are 20, 30, maybe we never see that happen, but when they do or if they do, this provides a wonderful foundation, a platform for which they can draw on, and that they have years and years of built up of truth and of knowing that, “Hey, this was so important to my parents. This was something that they took time out every single day to do,” and now they have something to draw on when they create their own relations with Christ.
Emily: One of the things that happens sometimes, and I’ve experienced this a little bit is that, kids are going to church on Sunday or they are in Sunday school class or they are in youth group but in the home, they are not seeing mom and dad open the scriptures. They are not understanding how it’s critical to daily life and why it impacts their daily life. There can be this disconnect of thinking, church stuff is at church, and at home we can live another life. That is one of the many reasons why we want to make that connection for them, and see the home as primary spiritual training ground. We have talked in-depth about this topic a lot, in a lot of different ways and on a lot of different shows on Risen Motherhood. One thing we’ll do is, in the show notes, we are going to try to list a lot of related shows, if you want to understand this more; why parents are the primary disciplers of their children and how God has commissioned dads and moms to pass along the gospel to their children. We will just list a lot of resources there for you.
Laura: While we don’t see the specific example, proper example of family devos in scripture, we do see in scripture, a lot of examples of parents passing on their faith to their children. You can look at Deuteronomy. It’s very explicit where the Lord says, “Teach these things to your children, talk to them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise.” That’s a big one in Deuteronomy 6. We can even see a lot of common examples with Timothy, learning about these things from when he was young from his grandmother. The Proverbs 31 woman. No matter what, it’s important to remember that family devotions are family worship, and we see families practicing that all over the Bible especially even large communities at a time, practicing worship. That’s basically what you are doing in a family devotion. You are having family worship together. You are singing songs. You are reading the Bible. You are talking about God. All of those things honor him and worship him.
Emily: Our goal today, like we said at the beginning, isn’t to put another burden on you. We want to encourage you that this is a great thing that you can start, in the season of young children and basically, though the main thing is we have to adjust our expectations and understand that doing a little bit or getting started on this habit is worthwhile in the season of young children. Laura and I thought we’d go through and share some our expectations and how we’ve managed them and learned to think more rightly about them.
Laura: One of my biggest difficulties was learning how to talk to a two-year-old about Jesus. I felt I have never done that before. I’m not a big kid person. I didn’t babysit growing up and it was tough for me to learn how to bring down these big truths that I was barely even understanding in some ways, and be able to talk to a child about those things, especially with interruptions and distractions and things like that. One thing I want to encourage everybody in too is if that’s something that’s hard for you, your children are the best training ground ever. I feel they don’t remember the little nuances and theological errors that you might have, and they are not going to pick up on if one day you said something, and the next day you slightly correct that or change it to be more understandable and bring it down to their level. This is the time to do it when they are really, really young and they are soaking everything up and they trust you and you are diligently bringing these truths to them and this is a time where you can learn how to share the gospel in a very, very simple way. Because that’s one beautiful thing about the gospel, is it can be like that.
Emily: One of the things my husband and I have been saying recently, because we have a kid who will ask endless questions before bed about the Bible and about God—some valid, some not. We’ll say we should have patience for these questions while he is still excited to ask them. Exactly like Laura said, you don’t have to have a perfect answer but that desire to engage our children spiritually is what draws them into relationship with us so that there is that trust there. Another expectation with young children to be aware of is the amount time. You are not going to wake up tomorrow morning, if you haven’t been having a quiet time or prayer time and you are going to start two hours a day, every day. You have to build up to it, especially if you have kids under three. This may be five minutes or seven minutes or three minutes a night. If you have kids a little bit older than that, maybe it’s 15 minutes. Maybe you have a good night and it’s 20 but I don’t know many families with young children who are doing 30-minute to an hour long quiet time. If you are able to do that, that is wonderful but that that’s something we have to train our kids in. Speaking of other families, that’s another thing we have to careful of is remembering that there is freedom in Christ, like Laura and I say on every show. The way families are going to pass along their faith to their children is going to look different. There may be some families where there’s a guitar involved in the family worship time.
Laura: I know a family that’s got dress up clothes. It is awesome but that isn’t us.
Emily: That is okay and it’s okay to look at where your family is at and say, “Hey, we want to be faithful to tell our children about Jesus. What does that look like for us in this season and go do it?"
Laura: What about dads’ involvement? Ideally, dad would lead this time but I can speak to the fact that my husband often sometimes doesn’t see my kids during the day at all. A lot of this does ride on me and when he’s home he does lead but we also keep it very simple for his days. We do little bit different things when he’s home, and if your husband is maybe in not interested in doing this or maybe he’s not a believer, or maybe he’s still growing in knowing how to be the spiritual leader of the family, we have shows on that. If you have more questions on what dad’s involvement looks like, we will link those up on the show notes.
Emily: Yes because that can be a hard question and it can feel like you are doing it alone.
Laura: Emily and I are going to talk through a little bit about some of our favorite resources, what we are each doing for quiet times, and what it looks like to give you that practical stuff we know all of you guys love. Em, do you want to go first?
Emily: Sure and especially in the season of young kids, I feel it’s changed for us. Every few months I feel family devos starts to look different. Things we’ve done in the past, when we’ve done it in the morning have been … I had this little gospel book that I created where we talked about the 10 points of the gospel and literally the kids memorized it. I’ve done a book called Leading Little Ones to God, which I’ll link to and it’s old school. It maybe was published in the 60s as a theological lesson and something to help get conversations started. More recently we’ve been doing things before bed. In December, we sat down and read through most of the Gospel of Luke and we’d read a chapter or a section at a time, and then I would generally give a principle from it, if my kids would ask a question that didn’t make any sense, they would go to bed. My husband’s family, Laura’s family, did Pilgrim's Progress every January growing up. We got a kid’s version of that called Dangerous Journey that we read through and the boys loved it because it was scary.
Laura: This book we will show it to you on show notes, but it’s really good but it is a little bit scary, right Em?
Emily: It is scary but they loved it and they were so engaged with the story. It’s a metaphor for the Christian life and it’s a great conversation starter. Recently, we’ve also done The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung, which we’ll link to and that was good to talk through the main message of the Bible and weaving Jesus in there. Right now, we are going through The Jesus Storybook Bible and I know that’s something a lot of people around us have gone through with their kids. I feel until now our kids haven’t been able to grasp it. I will read that one little section at a time and then everybody gets to ask a question and we pray and we go to bed. Go to bed kids. Go to bed now.[laughter]
Laura: We tend to do something in the morning over breakfast with me and the kids every day-ish. We are going to give a nice caveat on there. It doesn’t happen every day.
Emily: Not every day-ish.
Laura: Then also at the end of the day, we always read the Bible before bed and the two that we tend to read are Jesus Storybook Bible and The Big Picture Bible. I think that’s what it’s called, and The Greatest Story, that Emily mentioned. We have a few like that and Pilgrim’s Progress. My son calls it the dragon book and he loves it. He’s super into the skulls and scary parts of it. Anyway, we rotate on those before bed and then in the mornings, I switch it up a lot. We memorize scripture typically, at some point and we tend to do longer passages. I find it a lot easier with references, and my kids can get into it with a lot of actions and it’s just amazing what a three-year-old can soak up. Don’t underestimate your kids moms because I am amazed all the time by what they can take in, what they can process and what they can spit back out. We usually do that. We’ve done New City Catechisms. There’s also a CD that has all the catechisms to song. It’s called Songs for Saplings.
That’s not part of our quiet time but we play that throughout the day, to reinforce what a catechism means and remember the catechism. We will work through different theology books. I’ll link to two of them that we use in the show notes. That basically frames up a theological question or truth and then as Emily said, we always leave time for questions. A lot of times I’m saying, “What do you think about this? Why did God do that?” making up questions on the fly. I can’t think of how I do it now but if you’ve never done this before, it’s practicing and talking about the pictures and talking about what images the kids are seeing, and why didn’t Sally want to share with Suzie and what does God think about that? Basic stuff but a lot of it is on the fly, asking questions and giving that opportunity for your kids to ask any question, and to let them know we love talking about God, and we love and value the Bible and God’s truth and all those things. If you want to do this, we want to talk about a couple, practical next steps.
Emily: All of that can sound like there’s a hundred things to do but Laura and I are not doing all these things at one time. I feel at least for us these change every week or every couple of months. Just think about one thing and add into your routine, something that you are already doing. At breakfast, like Laura said. We are going to do this while we are already all here or do something in the car, if you have a long commute somewhere or right before bed. That’s something our kids remind us of every day, even if we don’t want or we are ready for them to go to sleep. It’s in the routine and start small. Do one little thing even if it’s just reading two pages out of The Jesus Storybook Bible. We are not even going to get through the whole section. Start somewhere and then know that you can add to it, you can change it, you can let it evolve for your family and don’t forget to be in the word yourself. It’s hard to insert this into your kids’ life or to your family’s life if this isn’t something that’s important in our own life. That’s definitely important too.
Laura: The main idea is we want you guys to all be encouraged to spend a certain time in your day, where you communicate to your kids how much mom and dad love and value the Bible, how you can learn from the Bible, how we want to think about what the Bible says, apply it to our lives and to show them that prayer is important. That is a key way to commune with God and a key part of the Christian life. It looks so many different ways and there are lots of different things that you can do. We hope that you leave this show, not feeling overwhelmed but instead equipped to be able to take just a piece of something that we shared today and apply it to your own life.
Emily: If you go to our show notes at RisenMotherhood.com, we will have links to all of these resources in detail, plus things that we didn’t remember to mention on the show. Then you can also find links to some of the other shows we mentioned that give other background into this conversation. Thanks for joining us. You can find us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter at Risen Motherhood and thanks for joining us.