I have three girls – ages 12, 10, and 5. This fall all three were in a sport. The oldest made a high school jv volleyball team, the middle child is obsessed with softball, and the baby finally got to start t-ball. Between practices, games, homework, and church we are constantly on the go. When you add in the fact that we are a blended family and my kids spend several hours a week in another home, free time has been sparse.
In this craziness, I felt a strong conviction that I wasn’t making time for devotional time with them. I believe strongly in spending time as a family looking at God’s word and praying together. Family worship is a great concept, but man, is it hard to pull off when schedules are non-stop. I recognize that some families choose not to be involved in extracurricular activities, and I fully agree with keeping life simple. However, my very sporty, very sociable girls need an outlet outside of school and many times those sports fields and bleachers end up being our local mission field.
I had a choice to make. I could ether keep lamenting that we didn’t have time or I could be intentional about making opportunities. I decided to evaluate where in our lives we were consistently in one place and sitting still. I quickly realized that I personally am on some level of flustered from wake up time until everyone actually gets out the door with all of the things they need. I didn’t do a great job of focusing my own attention on anything, much less the kids.
Dinnertime and bedtime seems like viable options on the surface. Dinner is a little sporadic based on game schedules and quite honestly, by bedtime we are all just ready to be done.
Then I had an a-ha moment. I realized that every morning I have all of the children in the car, strapped in, with no escapes and relative few distractions. I declared that our drive to school would be our family devotional time. We keep it simple. We read either a chapter or half of a chapter of Scripture. We pick a book and walk our way through it. Last spring we made it through most of the epistles. We just finished Proverbs and started Esther this week. I ask each kid to share what they heard, what jumped out to them, or what was most interesting to them. I try to point each passage towards the gospel. I throw in theology or encouragement as it applies, and encourage them to think about how God wants to use that passage in their life that day. We all pray. Sometimes we finish the ride with worship music.
Some days are deep and meaningful and beautiful. Some days we just get through it in the midst of breaking up arguments.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
- Just do something. It is so easy for me to just feel bad and wish I was more consistent, more devoted, more fill-in-the-blank. If this is an area your family needs to work on, just figure out a small step. I sometimes get paralyzed by trying to make everything perfectly structured.
- Fight discouragement. There are days that are particularly rough getting out the door. I am tempted to skip our devotional time for the day because I don’t really want to speak to anyone in the car. But I say through gritted teeth, “Who is reading our passage today?” I don’t need to paint the picture for my kids that time with God is only for when we have our act together. We need it most on the days when we are gritting our teeth.
- It won’t be perfect. The days are rare that all conversation is free of preteen sass, kindergarten whines, or sibling squabbles. That’s ok. We are still talking about God’s word. We are still leaning into God and He promises that His word doesn’t return void.
- Figure out what works for your family. My plan may not work for everyone. That’s ok. But something will. Figure out what works for your people in this season.
- Consistency and authenticity matter. Consistency means conversations will pop up you never envisioned. That’s such a good thing. Consistency means your kids have a part of their day that is dependable and focused on the Lord. You might be helping develop a habit in them (and yourself) that will forever influence their spiritual life. When authenticity corresponds with that consistency, kids get to see that our walk with God is not dependent on how we feel or what happened on the way out the door. You don’t have to be the super theologian who knows all the answers. Just be real. If you don’t know something, work together to look it up. There’s also some great resources out there. Two I’ve started utilizing this year are Family Worship Bible Guide and Cornerstones.
My prayer for you is that if busy-ness has kept you feeling guilty for not spending time in the Bible with your kids, that you will be encouraged that it is worth it to fight to make a plan. Start small. Start simple. Don’t set high expectations that will be hard to achieve. But do it. Give your kids (and yourself) the gift of consistently walking together through God’s Word.