Way of Life Literature
Publisher of Bible Study Materials
Way of Life Literature
Publisher of Bible Study Materials
Enlarged February 7, 2024 (first published September 6, 2022) (David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, email@example.com; for instructions about subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the information paragraph at the end of the article)
For more on this subject see Keeping the Kids in the Social Media Age, a new course for 2023.
The daily family altar (family devotion) is very important. It is a time when the family can meet regularly and consistently to worship God and study His Word. It is a time to read the Bible and discuss it. It is a time to memorize Scripture. It is a time to pray together.
Pastor Gene Haymaker says,
“The day of family altars is disappearing as quickly as our youth. Families have relegated the teaching of biblical truth to their church and to their Christian schools. It is my belief that the number of homes having a family altar, where the entire family is involved, would directly correspond to the percentage of young people leaving the church. The primary agency for teaching children biblical truth is the home.”
Decide on the best time. Mornings work best for some families. Evenings work best for others. There is no one right time. The time might need to change as the family circumstances change.
Keep it fairly short. We recommend a half hour.
The father should lead (Eph. 6:4). The family needs to see the father taking the spiritual leadership of the home. The mother should lead only if the father is unsaved or absent. The leader should try to encourage everyone to participate.
The fundamental elements of family devotions are as follows:
- Read and study the Bible together. Don’t preach a message. Read a few verses. Make your own comments. Ask the family for their comments or questions. Following are suggestions for Bible reading and study: (1) Read through a book of the Bible, passage by passage. (2) Read the Psalms. For short Psalms, read the entire psalm. For long Psalms, pick out some of the verses and focus on those. You can read in the Psalms for awhile and then read from other parts of the Bible. (3) Read from Proverbs for a month. Each day choose a verse or more from that chapter (first day, from Proverbs 1, second day, from Proverbs 2, etc.). (4) Study Bible doctrines. Choose a doctrine or topic and find some major verses on it and read some of the verses every day as you learn together what the Bible says about that topic. Examples are man’s sinful nature, angels, Satan, Holy Spirit’s work in the believer, heaven, hell, modesty, drinking, etc. The major verses for these studies can be found the Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible & Christianity. (5) Study God’s character (God’s power, wisdom, holiness, justice, sovereignty, mercy, love, longsuffering, kindness, etc.). A book on theology will help you find the major verses. An example is The Doctrine Which Ye Have Learned or Highlights in Bible Doctrine, from www.wayoflife.org. (6) Study Bible prophecies that were fulfilled in Christ’s first coming. See the study on “Prophecy” in the Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible and Christianity. (7) Study the main events of Bible prophecy. See the study on “Prophecy” in the Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible and Christianity. (8) Study the Gospel using the Seeker’s Bible Study, www.wayoflife.org. (9) With older children, go through a Bible survey such as Bird’s Eye View of the Bible from Way of Life or Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible or Wilmington’s Bible Handbook. Build a library for family devotions. These are resources to provide answers to questions such as the Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible and Christianity, Things Hard to Be Understood, the Believer’s Bible Commentary, Nave’s Topical Bible, Wilmington’s Bible Handbook, the New Moody Bible Atlas, the Rose Then and Now Bible Map Atlas, the Satellite Bible Atlas.
- Memorize Scripture. Missionary Bob Nichols says “I try to lead my family to memorize 14 verses a month. We’ll go over the verses as a family, and what a tremendous help that’s been.”
- Sing hymns. Choose a hymn and teach the meaning of it and sing it. That hymn can be used more than one time, as the leader sees fit. Then choose another hymn. Hymn writer Elisha Hoffman was first educated in hymns during family devotions. They sang one or two hymns morning and evening. “At an early age, the children became familiar with these hymns and learned to love them and to feel their hallowing and refining power. Their lives were marvelously influenced by this little service of song in the home. A taste for sacred music was created and developed, and song became as natural a function of the soul as breathing was a function of the body” (WholesomeWords.org).
- Pray together. Keep a prayer list. Don’t go through the church’s entire prayer list. That would take up too much of your time. Have a list of prayers that are associated with your own family, such as special family needs and unsaved family members. Add any very special prayers from the church family. Write down answered prayers.
- There are many things that can be done during family devotions when time permits. The family can read Christian biographies together and discuss them. They can study issues such as friends, clothing, entertainment, wise use of time, etc. They can read material pertaining to creation science. The book A Closer Look at the Evidence by Richard and Tina Kleiss contains 365 interesting brief studies on fascinating facts of life that support creation. It is available in a KJV edition from Bethel Baptist Print Ministry, London, Ontario. https://bethelbaptist.ca/bookstore/. Nothing, though, should take the place of studying the Bible itself. The main goal is to obey Deuteronomy 6:5-9.
Have the children participate as much as possible. They can read the Bible, ask questions, try to answer questions, comment on the Bible reading, memorize verses, and pray. The children should look forward to the family devotions.
The children must be taught to sit still and listen and participate. This is a matter of discipline. It must be taught this when they are very small. A proper use of spanking can teach them this fairly quickly. They need to learn that there are times when they must sit still and be quiet and listen. This teaches them to honor authority and not to be self-centered. But the atmosphere of the family devotion should not be severe and angry. The children need to learn that God is good and kind and His Word is interesting and valuable.
Dave Sorenson gives this following advice for family altars,
Every family’s schedule will be different, but we found doing so at the breakfast table to work well. Let us consider several pointers for establishing a simple, but ongoing family devotions.
HAVE A PURPOSE. Over the years we focused on primarily two areas in our family devotions. One was to explain the matter of salvation to our children. They needed to understand the need for it, what Christ did for us on the cross, and the way to be saved. When our children were young and before they were saved, we often focused our daily devotions on this crucial topic. The other major matter we focused on was Christian and godly character. Because the practice of righteousness is at the heart of Christian character, all throughout their formative years, we repeatedly discussed the principle of righteousness, the practice thereof, and verses which illustrated these.
HAVE A PLAN. One route to success for a family devotion time is having a simple operational plan which does not require a great deal of preparation. One method we have used over the years, particularly in teaching godliness and righteousness, is to take one chapter of Proverbs a day according to the days of the month. For example, if the day of the month is the 29th, I would go to Proverbs 29. There I would seek out a verse or two which stood out and go over it very briefly. Once we had gone through Proverbs, we might then go to Psalms and look for an appropriate verse in a three chapter sequence. For example, if the day of the month was the 15th, I might peruse Psalm 45-47 for a verse to dwell upon. (There are 150 Psalms and seeking a good verse over three chapters was simple and always worked.) Of course, we might go elsewhere to deal with specific problems. Having a well-marked Bible wherein verses which have blessed us or otherwise stood out were underlined made it very easy to conduct family devotions this way. That underlining was done during personal Bible reading times. We then had a season of prayer wherein various members of the family took turns praying.
KEEP IT SIMPLE. One of the great hindrances to family devotions is that most people do not have a long-term method of sustaining a day-after-day and year-after-year devotional plan. The plan mentioned above is simple and eminently Scriptural. It is virtually inexhaustible. Most parents are very busy with the affairs of life and don’t have time to prepare extensive family devotions. Pre-planned devotional guides cost money and usually run out after a month or two. However you do it, have a simple plan of teaching your children the things of God. God has given that charge to the parents in general and to the father in particular (Sorenson, Training Your Children to Turn Out Right).
Pastor Ken Shaver describes his family’s devotions as follows,
“In the Shaver family, devotions consist of a moment of Scripture memorization, a time of singing, a time of Bible reading (sometimes we also read a Christian biography or story like Pilgrim’s Progress), and a short period of prayer. We always have tried to include all the family, maybe one reading, one picking out a song, one praying, and everyone quoting Scripture. We also do not try to make it an in depth Bible Study, although as our children grew older, we would spend a few weeks on issues like modesty, biblical principles for entertainment, and other relevant things. Additionally, we would work very hard at keeping it light, and upbeat. In our home, we just tried to take a few minutes to focus on the things of God and, as I mentioned earlier, draw closer together. There are many good family devotion books available, but most of the time we would just take a different chapter of the Bible and take turns reading it.”
Pastor Bobby Mitchell, Jr. -
Our family devotions are usually at the dinner table following the eating. I start with the youngest and we each give thanks to the Lord for some thing. We work on the passage that our church is memorizing. I often teach through that passage over a period of several days or a few weeks. If not teaching through a passage we are memorizing I am teaching through a book. I have taught Matthew through Colossians to them. I am currently teaching them through second Peter.
I like to read the verse or verses and ask what they think the Bible is saying there. It makes them think. It reveals a lot of their understanding or lack there of.
We share prayer requests and I lead in prayer. Sometimes I have one or two others pray out loud too. I’ve found it best to not have a long meeting. Some men have what amounts to another church service for family devotions. I intentionally don’t allow myself to say too much. We all have private devotions too, of course. The Lord seems to be blessing all of this. I’m thankful.
Pastor Chris Starr -
Thank you for your burden to write on the Keeping the Kids. Below are few things that may be helpful. I by no means am an expert. Yet, I believe God led me on many fronts in those times we had.
On one occasion we dealt with how to handle a situation where a friend tries to swear you to secrecy and the next day it happened and two of my kids said, Dad, you won't believe what happened. We had to put into practice what you taught us last night. God reminded me of the great value of time with God as a family.
Our family devotions over the years has included
Training focuses (over 100 of them)
Reading and discussing a chapter of Proverbs
Learning how to study the Bible in different ways
Acting out Bible stories when they were younger
Practicing good manners
Reading books together when they were teens
Teaching series like What If they Say - Defending your beliefs and standards with others
Writing and praying for missionaries
Memorizing chapter themes and portions of Scripture
Creating scenarios that they may face and how to react Biblically
Times of tightening things up
Dealing with sloppy speech
Teaching when to use the church altar
Times where we go around and let each one compliment another for something they appreciate about them
Teaching and talking through how courtship works
Developing your own guard rails and safeguards.
Prayer times consisted of praying for church needs, missionaries, tender hearts for all of us, family needs, extended family members lost neighbors.
We have seen three lost neighbors come to Christ, the most recent being a drunk who lives across the street. All of whom we prayed for!
These are just a few things we have implemented over the years.
Pastor Simeon Western -
1. Aim for something that is realistic and doable on a day to day basis time wise rather than aiming for something idealistic which may lead to discouragement and ultimately giving up when it is not attained. I have said for some time now that it is better to do a little each day and maintain it in the long term than to be hit and miss. Training children is a day after day, week after week and year after year exercise. Home schooling presents the opportunity for constant training and discipleship of our children so the devotions, while important, are only one facet of the overall picture. Even if the devotional times are brief but done consistently, over time there is a cumulative benefit. I am not at all suggesting we shouldn't aim to have quality devotions as families and give the time to it that it deserves. Some days the devotion time will be longer and other times it will need to be shorter, depending on the family schedule and what is happening. Flexibility is important but the critical thing is to MAINTAIN devotions each day as consistently as possible. Obviously on a Sunday devotions are not often possible due to being at church for morning and evening services but other than that, devotions can be done the other days of the week.
2. Try to be creative and use a variety of devotional resources. This helps to keep the children's interest. It also can help cater for the different ages of the children. For example:
- Read straight out of the Bible. We have read whole Books together this way. This should be the primary method. I have always tried to encourage the children to ask as many questions as they desire, even if some of the questions can be childish at times. This is because I don't want our children to just put their minds in neutral when it comes time for Bible reading. I want them engaged and interested. We have often been surprised at the insightful and interesting questions children ask! Sometimes they require real thought on the part of the parent to answer. I will also often take the initiative to explain the meaning of a word or make brief comments as I read.
- Read Bible story books with visuals. This is great for the younger children and often helps them be more engaged. Our favourite Bible story book so far is called 101 Favourite Stories from the Bible by Ura Miller. It is one of the rare Bible story books that has Jesus with short hair. Apart from a few places, we have found it is pretty accurate to the Scriptures. It also contains a verse for parents at the end and several review questions. The children love answering the questions and they listen carefully when they know questions will be asked at the end. We have even done small rewards (e.g., a small chocolate) at the end if they can answer the questions. I will often add questions of my own.
- Read other devotional books with short stories and Bible applications. We enjoyed the two volumes entitled From Grandpa with Love available from Bible Truth Publishers. They contain short stories from the farm with Gospel applications.
- The Daily Light (KJV). This contains a daily reading of Scripture under a certain theme. Sometimes we use this if we are pressed for time.
3. Aim for devotions both morning and evening.
- Morning Devotions: In our case, my wife usually does the morning devotion with the children before they start their schooling for the day. Also, I am usually gone for the day by then to the office for study so it works best for my wife to do it. A major emphasis of our morning devotions is Scripture memory with the children. Our children have learned multiple chapters of the Bible during these morning devotional times. One of the best resources we came across as a family about 7-8 years ago was a DVD called Scripture Talk. In this DVD, they put hand actions to memory verses and teach the children whole passages of Scripture that way. Children love doing actions to things. This resource has had a huge impact on our family in the area of Scripture memorization. Not only did our children watch the DVD repeatedly and learn the passages of Scripture on the DVD, we took the idea and started learning our own chapters of the Bible, making up our own hand actions as we go. The children LOVE suggesting different hand actions for the verses which makes it a fun, creative and enjoyable exercise. My wife also has a prize box with small items in it and when they complete a certain number of verses and can recite them on their own, they get to choose something from the prize box. To us, there is no greater investment than having our children memorize the Word of God at a young age so we are more than happy to give them small rewards to encourage them along the way. We have been amazed how even the youngest members of the family (e.g., age 3-4 years) also learn the verses! The minds of young children are like sponges that soak in information and that period of their lives presents a unique opportunity to fill their hearts and minds with God's truth. [This DVD might be available through Amazon.]
- Evening devotions. I usually lead this one at the end of the
day after the evening meal. This is usually when we do our readings as per the list above. Sometimes the children will recite their memory verses to me at this time also. It is important that the father, as head of the home, leads at least one of the devotions for the day.
More Tips for Fruitful Family Prayers
- As a minimum, the father needs to lead the family in prayer at the end of family devotions. Sometimes there will only be time for the father to pray, depending on how the day has worked out. This is especially true in a pastor's home where ministry sometimes brings variations into the daily routine.
- Often we pray around the table and encourage even the youngest members of the family to pray. Even if they aren't saved yet, we want to cultivate prayer as a pattern and habit of life in their hearts and minds.
- One tool we have found that has really helped us with family prayers is a prayer box. The children love it! Basically it is comprised of a cardboard box with a square hole in the top. My wife made ours with the children, including decorating the outside with a nice paper. We then write prayer points/needs on small cards and put them in the box. Prayer needs include family members, church folk, missionaries as well as other specific needs. At family prayer time at the end of family devotions, one of the children takes the box around the table and each child draws out 2-3 cards (They love volunteering to be the box carrier!!!). We then pray around the table with each member of the family praying through his/her prayer cards. We have found this helps keep the family prayer time fresh. Otherwise children tend to end up praying for the same things each day (e.g., bless my teddy, mummy and daddy!). Again, variation and creativity are important and help maintain the children's interest. It also teaches the children that God answers prayers as cards with specific needs get supplied. For example, about 5 years ago we wrote a prayer card that God would provide us with our own home. We prayed about this as a family for some time and the Lord provided. We were able to rejoice as a family that God had answered that prayer card!
Pastor Nathan Searle -
I certainly see family devotions as a very crucial component to any spiritual success of our family. It is one of the key recommendations that I make to our church and school families who are desiring to honour the Lord and train up godly children. I encourage our school students to be ever so thankful if the Lord has placed them in a family where there is a faithful family altar and to do all they can to encourage their parents in that endeavour.
Our devotions consist of time in the Word, family prayer and hymn singing. I either use a suitable book as our focus on the Word or we read through some Scripture. We are currently working through The Teenage Years of Christ by Pastor Jerry Ross which has been a great challenge. I ask the Lord to help me make our family devotion time alive, helpful, reverent and honouring to the Lord. Our time together commences as we briefly ask the Lord to speak to our hearts and prepare us for what He has for us to learn from Him. We begin our time in the Word by briefly reviewing where we have been in the section that we are studying which I find also helps us all to remember what the Lord has been speaking to us about over the previous days. I seek to engage the children and ask questions as we go along to help them remain engaged and also remember what they have learned. Our devotion times become quite extended sometimes when they start asking further questions around the theme of whatever we are studying. These are times that I really cherish as we are able to discuss issues and questions that are on their heart giving me opportunity to point them to the Scriptures for the answers. Our prayer time consists of discussing points of prayer to petition, thank and praise the Lord. We have a copy of our midweek church meeting prayer points which we also refer to. Each child prays and I finish off at the end. Our devotion time concludes with the singing of three hymns which are chosen by anyone in the family...first in, best dressed. Although there are a few of us that play piano, we sing acapella, as it enables all of us to sing and the children sing harmony. Our devotion time usually goes for about 45min.
I asked my children if they would like to write something about how they view our family devotion time together, and they have replied as follows:
I look forward to devotions because I want to learn about the Lord. I love what we do in our devotions. I love how we sing together.
Family devotions, it’s a time that we as a family spend each night in the Word and with each other (excluding Sundays and Tuesdays because we have church or prayer meeting on those days). I think family devotions is a great blessing to our family and a real reminder to us of how good, mighty, loving, and real our God is. Family devotions for me is a great encouragement and a tool that God can use if I (and any of the rest of the family) am downhearted, scared, or tempted. I am thankful that my dad takes time off his busy schedule and reads us the Bible, prays, and sings with us each night.
Every night I look forward to our family devotions. I really value being able to spend time with my family in praying, singing, and reading the Bible. I enjoy hearing my dad expand on God’s Word which is very helpful as he brings the scripture to life and makes it more relatable to everyday life. I have learned in devotions how important it is to have integrity and always tell the truth. This study has helped me to overcome many temptations in my life and live a more successful life.
For more on this subject see Keeping the Kids in the Social Media Age, a new course for 2023.
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