Pastor Dad: How to Lead a Family Devotion

By Jason Hayes

Each evening at exactly 7:00 pm, my wife and I call our children downstairs for a family devotion. All 3 of our boys (ages 7, 4, 2) hurry down adorning fresh pajamas and neatly combed hair. Each one of them undoubtedly smells terrific. They’ve just meticulously bathed themselves in all-natural soaps and shampoos. Carrie and I are eager for their arrival as we’ve spent the previous 30 minutes in a series of marriage-building exercises and writing love notes to one another. This is always done while holding hands. Interlocked, of course.

Once the kids join us, they get along perfectly. There is never pestering, arguing, or crying. Each of the boys gently situate themselves at the table, being careful not to knock over the illustrative popsicle stick Noah’s arc that I made during my lunch break. They then begin nibbling (without making a mess) on the fresh scones that Carrie had baked for them that afternoon. After participating in a fun and hilarious ice breaker together, we all settle in for an extensive time of Bible study. We conclude after one hour with a family cheer and our kids excitedly hurry to bed.

This is what family devotions look like at your house too, right?

OK. I possibly may have deviated from the truth just a little bit in my account. Or maybe I deviated quite a bit.

The reality

In reality, it just doesn’t look like this at our home. Our schedule is ever-changing and our routine is fluid.

We’re not anywhere close to that regimented, organized, or polished. Our kids have never eaten a snack without a decent portion of it ending up on the floor and baths look more like a “hosing down” at times. And, finally, our devotions feel much less like a scene from Leave It To Beaver and sometimes much more like a scene from Dukes of Hazzard. (minus Boss Hogg and The Boar’s Nest)

Maybe things feel like this for you at times also. But, let me encourage you today.

Let it go. (cue the Frozen soundtrack)

Persistence over perfection

But, don’t let go of the idea of gathering your family regularly for time with each other and the Lord. Rather, let go of the idea that it has to be perfect.

We’re not perfect. Nor will our family devotions be perfect. But, we can rest in a perfect God who honors our efforts. Thus, if you aren’t leading a family devotion, get started! If you are, keep going!

Family devotion tips

1. Put down the phone. Don’t expect your family to be focused if you aren’t either. The email, text, or call can wait.

2. Set some goals. Whether it’s a commitment to giving, Bible reading, or memorizing Scripture; a common goal provides a tangible gauge for growth. Sojourn’s, A Catechism for Boys and Girls is a favorite resource in our home.

3. Ask good questions. Me: “Did you have a good day?” My kids: “Yes!” Next: crickets. Try something like “what was the hardest part of your day?” or “what did you learn about God today?” and keep the dialogue going.

4. Make Jesus the hero. Matt Chandler powerfully makes the point in this video.
Jesus is the hero. Let’s remind our families of this truth daily. The Jesus Storybook Bible does this well also.

5. Pray for one another aloud. Don’t just pray in abstracts or about distant matters. Make sure your family members hear the rest of the family praying for them specifically.

Of course, this list isn’t comprehensive. Let’s encourage one another. What tips would add?

Published May 18, 2015

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Jason Hayes

Jason Hayes and his wife, Carrie, have three sons. Jason is the planter and lead pastor of Shoreline Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. He's the author of Blemished and Follow Me (LifeWay) and the co-author of Lost and Found (B&H).