Doing Family Devotions

30 08 2006

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

The Scripture is pretty clear on the fact that we have a responsibility to be training our children in the truth. Christian fathers in particular have a responsibility to be leading and training their families in the Revelation of God.

Many men struggle in the area of family devotions. It is kind of like evangelism, we know we have to do it but it is the doing it that is the problem.

Because I have echoed the Scriptures command for you and me to act like men and because some folks have requested that I talk about it, this is a quick guide to doing family devotions.

What follows is not an exhaustive how-to manual but rather some things that we do in trying to “teach them diligently” (Duet. 6.4) as God has commanded. Most of these things are things that we do, I am not saying that everyone has to do them, but rather supply suggestions in effort to be helpful.

-1- Be in the Word yourself

If you are going to teach your family to love the Word of God you better love the Word of God yourself. God’s design in commanding men to lead their families in the truth is to be preserving faithfulness throughout generations not modeling self-dependence and hypocrisy.

If you have not gone to the well of truth to draw fresh water from heaven than do not pretend to have something to say to your family. Instead, retire to a place where you can open up the Bible and drink from the fountain of grace that you might be fueled to speak of how impressed you are with Christ. You must know the Jesus you speak of, and not just know him but love him; this love is birthed by divine grace through the word of God and sustained by the same means.

-2- Choosing a Topic

In our family we usually go through books or sections of books of the Bible. We have been most recently going through Mark’s gospel, but I felt the need to work on teaching my family to pray more biblically, so we have been working on the Lord’s prayer in Matt. 6.

I have found that narratives are great for our family due to their ages. This also forces me to continually explain the context and themes of the book. I am learning too!!

You may have something that needs to be dealt with in your family. Family devotions are a great place to do this. Study as the leader and communicate what the Bible says and apply it to specific circumstances.

-3- Open the Bible

This is always a good thing! When you as the leader open the Bible you show your submission to what God says and you are modeling faithfulness to the Word. You may have the text memorized, it doesn’t matter, open the book and read it. Show your family you love the Bible.

Your own handling of the Scriptures expresses your view of the Scripture. Is it authoritative? Then you must open it up, interact with it and submit to it as you endeavor to apply it.

-4- Have a set time

It is good to set a routine for when you will read together. We like to read in the evening after dinner or before bed. I have brought the Bible out to eat with us to read and talk while we wait for the food. This encourages your family not to fear man and shows them that their Dad/husband loves the Bible.

-5- Talk about the Word all the time

As a family we may not sit down every single night and do a devotion, however, there is not a day that goes by that I do not speak to my kids about God. I want to make sure that the climate in my home is Christ centered therefore everything is a sign to point to Jesus. With little children their discipline is within the context of the gospel, for we are not trying to teach morality but Christianity! Their framework for obedience must be a holy and righteous creator and an accountable humanity. The only way to have this work right is within the context of the gospel.

My wife is a great help here. She talks about the Bible all the time with our kids during the day and we talk about it at night. It is important to create a climate that supports the sufficiency of Scripture and our dependence upon God.

-6- Make it fun

Family devotions should not be like doing chores. We don’t want to be all cantankerous and mean hitting our kids with a 45 minute running commentary on the book. Instead I have found it helpful to use a lot of illustrations that apply to my children’s lives. I have used action figures to explain a narrative, made up rhymes about “Elijah who likes to play with fy-ahh!” And “Ehud was a tough dude” …kids remember stuff like this.

I have also found it helpful to pause a lot and ask question of individuals. My 11 year old son could sit and listen to a sermon but my 4 year old girl will listen for 4 minutes and then start day-dreaming about a pink Pegasus. I have to reel here in frequently and ask her a question. Sometimes it is as simple as, “What did Jesus say to the woman?” Other times I’ll make a statement like, “Jesus heals people to show that he is the King, he is God, and he has power” then I’ll ask Alaynah (4), “why does Jesus heal people?” It is good to keep asking questions.

-7- Make application

After teaching the passage to your own heart make specific applications to your family’s. You may ask them questions like, “What can we do tonight, tomorrow or this week to live this scripture out?” and then being sure to follow up on that.

The time you spend in the word will serve to be a great resource for instruction in the days and years ahead.

-8- Addressing your wife

Your wife is your helpmate but she is also your responsibility as the husband. You are to lead her and teach her as well (Eph. 5.25-29). Sometimes the tendency is to spend so much time on the kids that you forget about your wife. It is good to involve your wife by asking her questions. The kids get to see that Mom knows and loves the Word too.

One thing to consider is that simply being a leader is a huge edifying factor for your wife. During devotions your wife gets to see first hand that her husband is a man! It shows that you love God and your family.

Something else to consider: more than likely, your wife rarely gets to sit down during the day. So, to sit with the kids and rub their hair or scratch their back while you do a devotion has several effects: your wife gets to hear God’s word, to learn something, to get time to be with the kids, to rest and to see you lead. How edifying is that?

-9- Teaching Prayer

Devotions are a great time to teach prayer. You as the leader can model biblical prayer. However, this is not the only time. I try to pray whenever I feel compelled to. This may be driving or some odd time during the day. It is good to teach your kids dependence upon God throughout the day not just during “quiet time”.

This is also a great opportunity to teach. Sometimes one of our kids will get loose with an unbiblical prayer and I often stop them and instruct them biblically and help them to think and pray in a way that God has prescribed. What do you do if your 5 year old prays for Satan to be saved? This is a great time to make personal application based upon what God has prescribed. Our recent study in Matt. 6 has really helped this.

-10- Gospelize your family

Remember that the whole point in doing this is to point your family to Jesus. Therefore, it is right to continue to explain and apply the gospel. Talk about the gospel all the time. Remember that your kids are young, they have not been dwelling upon the gospel for years, they probably don’t understand it like you do and they need to hear it! For we learn in Romans that “faith comes by hearing and hearing from the word of Christ” (Rom. 10.17). So since the gospel “is the power of God for salvation” (Rom. 1.15) and we want our kids to be saved, then what should we be telling them?

-11- Remember that this is a command

God does not ask us to lead and teach our families, he commands it. This is a regal decree from the King of heaven to us as his followers and leaders of our families. Therefore we must be good stewards of our time, pouring into our kid’s hearts and lives the unsearchable riches of Christ.

If you are struggling with this discipline then resolve today to get started; and the best way to get started is to get started. Open up your Bible read it and apply it to your life. Go home tonight and tell your family that you want to read the Word of God to them. And then do it again tomorrow, praying that God would water his word.

Hopefully this proves helpful.





14 responses

30 08 2006
Men, Teach Your Families! « The Foolish Preacher

[…] One specific application that I find particularly tough is family devotions.  I’ve struggled with how, where when and a hundred other questions (excuses, more likely).  Some of the best advice came from a blogger who calls himself the ”Irish Calvinist.”  His thoughts are on his blog … here’s the link: […]

31 08 2006

This is something that I have struggled with for quite some time. We just had our first child and I keep thinking that my procrastination will be the detriment of my family. I do understand that I need to just “get started”, but in the midst I am often unsure of best method of study since I often read the Word, but don’t always understand it.

Any suggestions/encouragment for someone caught in the middle of a southern baptist legacy and an unsure view of reformed theology?

31 08 2006


I appreciate your honesty. I really believe the most simple advice is to just read the Bible, praying that God would impress you with himself (knowing that the word exists to exalt God’s person and work) and then simply share this with your family. Family devotions spring out of personal devotions.

As far as leading just be the man. Let your wife know that you want to do this, open up the book and read to her and your child. Obviously with a new baby the interaction/understanding is quite limited, but it sets the precedent for the child as he/she grows: my family valued God’s word, they read it regularly and taught it to me.

As far as the sbc legacy // reformed theology I would suggest reading Zuck’s book> “Basic Bible Intepretation” to help you read/study/interpret/teach the Bible. I really believe that if you approach the Bible as the Word of God and read it literally then you will be ‘reformed’ in much of your theology.

One thing that may really help you is picking up a MacArthur study Bible. The NASB just came out this year. This is great because it does not shy away from difficult passages, preserves context, and gives you ample notes on various passages.

hopefull this is helpful. God has enabled you to lead and he has given you his word which is entirely sufficient for you to do every good work (2 Tim. 3.17).


31 08 2006


I appreciate your suggestions and encouragement!

I was actually thinking that I needed to pick an NASB Bible to transition from my current NIV and I have been looking at some of MacArthur’s writings as well. I will also pick up Basic Bible Interpretation — it sounds like just the starting point I might need.

Thanks again.

1 09 2006 » Blog Archive » doing family devotions

[…] Some advice on how to go about doing family devotions. […]

1 09 2006

Family Devotions

Here’s another good post on the wisdom of family devotions with some practical pointers.
(HT: Justin Taylor)

1 09 2006
part of the story

[…] Family Devotions? […]

1 09 2006
The Sweet Dropper :: Family Devotions

[…] As we heard from Phillip two weeks ago on the 5th Commandment, husbands have a responsibility to their families and children to bring them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  I just read a helpful blog post on how to practically conduct family worship.  I hope you men will find it edifying. […]

1 09 2006

Dan: I second Eric’s suggestion to just get started.

It’s been a couple years now, but I still remember it. We were meeting in a men’s small group and the pastor was talking about the importance of family devotions, and I thought to myself “I need to start these.” It wasn’t easy, because I’m the kind of guy that wants to have everything planned out before I get started.

Not that planning is bad, mind you, but don’t feel like you have to go to seminary before you can lead devotions. If you get started, the Lord will honor that. There are some very good and practical suggestions here, but even if you use none of them, and do your own thing, doing something will be better than doing nothing.

It’s probably also a good thing to ask what others in your church are doing, but don’t be suprised if you don’t find many doing it. You could end up being the catalyst for others as well.

1 09 2006

Dad, You need to lead

Dad, you need to lead. Your kids need you to lead. Your wife needs you to lead. And for the Godly father, leading begins with teaching your family God’s Word. But for some that seems like a daunting task. You might be thinking, “How do I te…

2 09 2006
Family Devotions « poikilos

[…] Erik Raymond (aka the Irish Calvinist) provides some good tips for men on how to lead their family in the Word. (HT:JT) Posted by pw Filed in Blogs, Worship, Bible, Marriage/Family […]

4 09 2006
Samshua » Blog Archive » Doing Family Devotions

[…] IrishCalvinist has some great ideas for family devotions. As one who wants my family to grow in this way (and yet struggles as well to lead my family in this way), every bit of advice and wisdom helps. Because his advice is so well-spoken, I’ll quote him at length here: […]

17 09 2006
Fill Up » How to Have Family Devotions

[…] Erik Raymond, pastor of Omaha Bible Church, has some helpful advice on how to have family devotions. (HT: Between Two Worlds) […]

14 11 2006

Your strength-of-message is refreshing. By that I mean your words are bold and frank and your goal, ‘becoming ever more impressed with Jesus’ is a good one. Your blog continually reminds me of that; thank you.

“The best way to get started is to get started”- I have found that concept to hold true when writing papers as well. 🙂 It probably applies to any worthwhile endeavor.

Thank you again for the d’varim tovim– good words. 🙂

to God be glory.

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