We desire to make talking about the Word of God normal in our home. We don’t want a reference to spiritual things to feel like someone just got out a big dusty KJV and slammed it on the table. We want the conversations to flow naturally from casual topics towards spiritual comforts. As we continue this journey of creating consistent family devotional habits, I thought I would share some of what has worked for us. (They may or may not work for you, but at least they can spur on some creative thinking.) As we are in the early childhood development years of parenting, many of these are geared for young kids. However, they are adaptable to a variety of seasons in parenting. Most of these are hybrids from the influence and suggestions of others, so we are not taking any credit.
Constancy Over Consistency
Over the years, our “family nights” have changed. First Leo was teaching full time, then teaching and serving as a bi-vocational pastor, then being a full-time student at the pastor’s college, then moving on to his current job as a full-time pastor. It would have been laughable to try and commit to one specific day or time that was reserved for us as a family during these transitions. Instead, we look at each week. What blocks of time this week can we set aside to spend together? For some, this can be done a month at a time, or a semester at a time. Our goal is to make these times together seem normal; not a break from reality, but a primary part of it.
One of our favorite family habits is treating the kids to a “surprise time.” This is as elaborate as coordinating with other families or something as simple as leaving the house spontaneously for a special meal. The key is to do it when it isn’t expected and have a silly or memorable way of sharing it. One time Leo made a video that the kids watched. One time we just took a “wrong turn” and landed in the parking lot of a familiar favorite spot. We use these nights to remind our kids of how much we delight in them, and how much we enjoy thinking of ways to bless them. We want to point them to the fact that our love is an extension of God’s own delight in them and His own desire to bless them.
Highs And Lows
One family favorite is “What’s your high/low?” Each member of the family shares one high (something they enjoyed) and one low (something they didn’t like). We try to use words like “I’m grateful for” to remind us that every good thing in our life is a gift. We also work through the “whys” of our lows so we can know our hearts, and what generates feelings of happiness and sadness. Many good gospel conversations have come from simply reflecting on things we love and don’t love in our day, as it reveals the desires of our hearts.
Communion Over Correction
Our family times are not primarily used for correction. We make time to do that outside our family nights. For example, we would not take the time on a surprise night to tell our son that we have seen a growing pattern of ungratefulness in recent weeks. That would be a conversation for the next day, perhaps. Just like a deep discussion of the calendar on a date night probably won’t increase feelings of romance, we don’t want our kids to dread possibilities of what could happen when we start doing stuff as a family. We want them to know that those hours are precious, set aside to grow us in our love for the Lord primarily, and our love for one another as well.
I don’t know where you are on your own family-devotional journey. Maybe you have thrown in the towel. Maybe you haven’t even started. Maybe it’s been a rollercoaster of success and failures. Wherever you are in your journey, take time to pray and pray again for God to meet you, to prosper your labors, and for the Holy Spirit to fill your times together with sweet unity and refreshment. Let us encourage one another to keep fighting the good fight for family night (1 Timothy 6:11-20)!