Unless one has been exiled on Mars or has just awakened from a Rip Van Winkle sleep, he realizes the family in our country is in deep trouble and its growing deeper. Yes, and even families which claim to be Christians and “churchgoers.” One teenager said, “I’m sitting on the edge of the pew waiting to graduate from high school, reach my 18th birthday, and quit this forced on me church going.”
Surveys and polls continually reveal that we, across all religious lines, lose approximately 85 percent of our members between 18 to 25. We have watched the divorce rate maintain a 50 percent average each year relative to the number of couples married each year. The breakdown in the family is seen in the violence, abuse, crimes, and unhappiness behind four walls in most neighborhoods.
The social and psychological Einstein’s of the 21st Century continually drum beat the causes and effects with very few sustainable solutions. Whatever the solutions might be, I personally believe they must start by affirming and putting into practice the words of one of the greatest leaders whose words we read in Joshua 24:14,15: “Now, therefore, fear the Lord, and serve Him in sincerity and in truth: …And if it seems evil unto to you to serve the Lord, CHOOSE you THIS DAY whom you will serve; …but as for me and MY HOUSE, we will SERVE THE LORD.”
Wouldn’t it be great if the fathers in our congregations as well as in our nations would take a stand with Joshua and say AMEN? Sadly in our day, the proverb which was circulated in Israel applies to our day: “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Ezekiel 18:2). Even worse are those fathers who have followed in the steps of Eli. God informed Samuel about the judgment He was going to bring on Eli’s house and family; one reason was the failure of Eli to discipline his sons: ”For I have told him that I will judge forever for the iniquity which he KNOWS, because his sons make themselves vile, and he DID NOT RESTRAIN THEM” (1 Samuel 3:13).
Most of us have heard these two sayings: “The family that prays together stays together” and “As the family goes so goes the nation.” Whatever we do as a nation or church begins in our homes. We leave the house to go to work and to attend the assemblies of the church. It is in our homes where we, for the most part, determine what we will do once we exit the door. This brings up the once popular subject and practice of Christian families engaging in “Family Devotions” or “Family Worship Time.”
When was the last time you heard an emphasis from the pulpit, classroom, or in the bulletin about family devotions? When was the last time, if ever, your family engaged in planned family devotions? I can remember when seminars, workshops, and lectures were popular subjects, as well as articles and bulletin articles.
Whatever happened to family devotions? One preacher answered, “They were never started.” It is worthy to be noted, because it was written for our learning (Cf. Romans 15:4), that God instituted family devotions for the Nation of Israel: “And these words, which I have commanded thee this day, shall be in thine HEART: and thou shall TEACH them diligently unto thy CHILDREN, and shall TALK of them when thou SITES IN THINE HOUSE, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou LIEST DOWN, and when thou RISEST up” (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7). What do you suppose would happen if every Christian family started practicing this command every day?
OBSTACLES TO FAMILY DEVOTIONS
I doubt if a Christian family would come right out and express their disapproval of having a family devotional; perhaps a few would but they would be the exception and not the rule. As I observe, read, and am challenged in my own life, I have observed various obstacles which stand in the way of families, even those with good intention, having planned family devotions. Here are some of those obstacles:
- The number one obstacle is the claim of not having enough time. However, upon casual these families seem to have time for TV watching, Facebook, and recreation. Surely out of 168 hours each week 30 to 60 minutes can be dedicated to family devotion.
- There is an attitude which is expressed in “We get what we need when we go to church on Sunday.” We need to ask, “What do you need and how do you use it?”
- There are some families which once had family devotions but they, according to their observations, stopped because the devotions became too much like church services or rake ‘em over the coals sessions.”
- Some families don’t have family devotions because the father isn’t a Christians or if he is he doesn’t feel qualified to conduct the devotion. Another family member may not be Christians—this is a popular excuse.
- Some families would like to start family devotions but don’t know how or where to start. This points out the need for teaching and training.
- Some families have stayed away from having family devotions because they have heard negative things about them, such as they create confusion, negative and legalistic attitudes, and some church leaders are opposed to them.
- There isn’t a realization that every opportunity to study and share God’s word contributes to growth in Christ-likeness.
Can you think of additional reasons why some families don’t have family devotions? How about your family?
SUGGESTIONS FOR CONDUCTING FAMILY DEVOTIONS
Here are a few suggestions for starting and conducting family devotions;
- As a family spends some quality time together discussing what the Bible says about studying God’s word and worshipping Him in spirit and in truth (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15; John 4:23, 24). Try to generate excitement and commitment.
- Determine if your devotion will be every day, five days, or one day each week. Have it Monday through Friday is a popular routine.
- Father should be in charge of the devotional, not as a dictator but as a spiritual guide.
- Never forget the Bible is your major source for family devotionals; other materials may help but used sparingly.
- Remember the goal is not to fill up a certain number of minutes which may lead to rambling, when 5 to 10 minutes may be more beneficial. One intentional point with the planned application would be a successful devotional.
- Try not to have one person dominate the devotional; having a leader is essential but it belongs to everyone, and everyone has something to contribute.
- Remember it isn’t a time to debate, argue, or push an agenda. It is time to encourage each other.
- The core of the family devotion should be prayer, read, and discuss; then pray again and each participant determine what one intentional thing they will take away from the devotional.
- Remember there will be slow times which seem mechanical or your children may seem bored; even adults. Let children be children. You do not determine the success of your devotional by one or two sessions.
- If there are other families conducting family devotional ask them for suggestions. There is wisdom in learning from the successes and failure of others. You may even look into forming a study group, etc. of families conducting devotions.
- Never forget the overall goal of the devotional is not only to gain knowledge of God and His word but to share with one another as a family. While it’s not a fun and games time, it must not be a sober-faced and sad-sack time. It’s a time to “rejoice and be glad because it is a gift from God” (Psalm 118:24).
- Keep in mind that a major key to a successful family devotional is commitment and variety. Continually share and discuss with the family how things are going and how to improve, as well as things which need to be adjusted or stopped.
- Choose familiar Scriptures and Bible stories to discuss and apply in your devotional. Psalm 119 would be a great portion as well as selections from Proverbs; don’t neglect the Gospels.
The strength and ministry of the local congregation are the results of what each family brings to the church. Positive and biblical family devotionals will make positive contributions to the Lord’s church.