A friend once asked me, “Do you really do family devotions every morning . . . with teenagers? How do you get them to do that?” I understood the underlying surprise behind her question. Truthfully, I’m regularly amazed when we sit down to the table in the morning and read the Bible together. No one complains or seems to think anything unusual is happening. We read a passage or devotional together. We pray for one another and others in our community. We regularly laugh together about something. Collectively, it takes about 10 minutes.
Yet somehow it changes everything.
I know it sounds simplistic, but those family devotions are some of the most meaningful parts of our day. We talk about God, his Word, and our needs. I hear about my daughter’s math test that she’s concerned about or my son’s paper that’s due. It’s an opportunity to take the time to ask one another, “How are you doing?” We also pray for missionaries, as well as needs in our church and world. It’s our time as a family to listen to God through his Word and speak to God through prayer.
Let me be clear. We miss days. Sometimes we’re rushing around the kitchen packing lunches and running late. We’re not perfect in our family devotional times. However, it’s the pattern of our home.
I know many family routines are in the midst of upheaval right now. Sports practices are canceled. School has gone online. Rather than play in the neighborhood or gather at a coffee shop, kids are meeting up on FaceTime (and we’re actually encouraging it). In the midst of so many regular activities ending, there are new opportunities to connect with one another as a family.
There’s no better time to start family devotions together. Pick a time (there are a lot of options right now) and add it to your routine. If you have older children, I know it can feel uncomfortable to begin, and your teenagers might not love the idea. Give it a try. Start by reading a psalm and praying together. Or use a devotional of some sort to help guide you.
If you have younger children, let me encourage you, establish these routines into your home in the early years. It’s worth it! Our teenagers come to the table expecting family devotions because we’ve been doing them since they were young. It’s like brushing their teeth or taking a shower. It’s just part of our daily routine.
If you’re looking for ideas to help, here are some resources that we’ve found useful. I also asked some friends for books they’ve used and shared how we do family prayer. Don’t wait, begin today!
Toddlers and Preschoolers
- The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
- The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Voss
- The New City Catechism for Kids: Children’s Edition (Right now the first five lessons from the teaching curriculum are free! Teaching the catechism is a great way to introduce children to biblical truths and ideas.)
At this age, I’d keep it simple. Read a Bible story, ask a question or two, and pray. Work on one memory verse or catechism question for the week. Over time those small deposits will make a huge impact.
Preschool and Early Elementary
- The Big Picture Family Devotional by David R. Helm
- Big Picture Bible Crafts by Gail Schoonmaker (Right now, the PDF of this book is free from Crossway.)
- God’s Story: Bible Coloring Book (This is supposed to be a supplement to Sunday school curriculum, but it is great for Bible study at home. Each coloring page has questions, prompts, and activities on the back. You can photocopy them to reuse or just tear them out of the book. It’s designed for ages 3 to 8.)
- Line Upon Line(Volume 1) and Line Upon Line (Volume 2) by F. L. Mortimer (This is perfect for that age gap between picture-book Bible story books and older children, around 1st or 2nd grade. The stories are written in accessible language, but they are also full of biblical language and really point kids to the Bible.)
- Wondrous Works of God: A Family Bible Story Book by Starr Meade
- What Every Child Should Know about Prayer by Nancy Guthrie
- ESV Holy Bible for Kids
Elementary to Early High School
- Family Worship Bible Guide by Joel Beeke (This has family worship discussion questions for every chapter of the Bible, so it’s great for families who are simply reading the Bible together and want to extend the time with some discussion or reflection. This is good for elementary and older.)
- The Ology by Marty Machowski
- One Year of Dinner Table Devotions and Discussion Starters by Nancy Guthrie
- Training Hearts, Teaching Minds by Starr Meade
- God’s Mighty Acts in Salvation by Starr Meade
- Exploring Grace Together by Jessica Thompson
- Foundations: 12 Biblical Truths to Shape a Family by Troy and Ruth Chou Simons
Middle and High School
- Read the Bible together. (I highly recommend Jen Wilkin’s article on this topic.)
- New City Catechism Devotional
- 31-Day Devotionals for Life (These are on a variety of topics that are really helpful to discuss as a family. We are currently using Jim Newheiser’s devotional on Money and I also highly recommend Megan Hill’s devotional on Contentment.)
- Voices from the Past: Puritan Devotional Readings by Richard Rushing (These daily devotionals provide a wonderful introduction to a variety of Puritan authors.)
- New Morning Mercies by Paul Tripp
- Daily Light (This devotional is my favorite. These daily readings of Scripture were originally compiled by Samuel Bagster in the mid-1800s, Crossway offers these online for free.)
I write prayer lists on note cards for Monday through Friday that we use for the year, following this format (it helps us to purposefully pray for others):
- One family member: This person gets to share their specific requests on that day. We also pray for special needs in our community and world.
- A missionary we support.
- A ministry we’re involved in.
- One leader: We pray for our governing officials, bosses at work, church leaders, school principals and coaches.
The family member whose day it is to pray for shares, and then the person to the right of them prays for their requests, along with everything else on the card. So, over the course of the week, everyone in the family is prayed for, and everyone prays.