[NOTE: This post is a couple of years old but continues to receive a large number of visitors from Google searches on devotional time ideas. A lot has happened here on the blog since I wrote this–including having the opportunity to write a book that was released in March 2016 by Harvest House Publishers: Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith! If you’re here because you’re looking for resources to help you grow together spiritually as a family, please take a moment to check it out!]
Every night, we do a simple family worship time. It’s usually about 20 minutes and consists of Bible study, songs and group prayer. We’ve spent the better part of three years of family worship time going through various children’s Bibles. Lately, however, I’ve been feeling bored by the continual loop of children’s material, and I can tell my kids are feeling it too.
I decided to brainstorm some alternative ways to spend devotional time. Here are 25 ideas I want to share with you!
1. Read through a children’s Bible.
This is what we’ve been doing since we first started having worship time. If you’re just starting out with a family time, this is honestly the easiest way to go. There are many children’s Bibles available – pick one and read a story each night. We recently finished The Jesus Storybook Bible (ages 4-8) and thought it was great for the most part. We’re now doing the God’s Love For You Bible Storybook (ages 4-9) and love it (more on that in number 5).
2. Use a devotional book for kids.
Search “devotional books for kids” on Amazon and you’ll see a vast array of options.
3. Act out a Bible story.
Choose a night each week to act out a Bible story instead of reading a new one. My kids especially loved this at Christmas time. Several nights in a row, we acted out Jesus’ birth and it really helped the kids remember the details of the story. Parables are also great for acting out.
4. Break down the meaning of worship songs.
Have you ever thought about how hard worship songs are for kids to understand? There’s a lot of “Christian speak” going on. Your kids are probably used to singing all kinds of lyrics they’re clueless about. We had been singing “Open the Eyes of My Heart” for more than a year before I realized my kids couldn’t tell me what it means to “open the eyes of their heart.” Periodically, we go line by line through a song now to discuss what it means.
5. Learn about needs in other countries.
The “God’s Love For You Bible Storybook” I mentioned in number 1 is unique in that it has stories about world needs in between the Bible stories (the author is the President of World Vision). My kids LOVE, love, love the stories about these needs and anxiously throw open the Bible each night to see if we “get” to learn about a country. You could use this Bible or simply research a world need together on a given night (e.g., clean water in Zambia). If you can find a video to go with it, it’s a powerful lesson. For example, here is a video we watched with our kids about the need for clean water in Zambia: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bg1iLMnKD-4
6. Work on a service project.
Pick a project meaningful to your family and prepare to serve others. For some examples, here’s a post I wrote about how to serve the homeless (my husband leads a homeless ministry).
7. Have open question time.
Simply have a night where your kids get to ask any questions about faith they want. Encourage them to ask tough questions and see if they can “stump mommy and daddy.”
8. Watch a faith-related movie together.
Pick a movie appropriate for the age range of your kids, then the next night have a discussion about it.
9. Watch a secular movie together.
Alternatively, watch a secular movie together and discuss the next night. This can lead to some great discussion, as you can analyze the worldview portrayed and how it’s different from or consistent with Christianity. Talk about the characters’ choices and what they could have done differently.
10. Play a Bible game.
There are many board and card games to help kids learn about the Bible. Search for “Bible games” on Amazon and you’ll see many possibilities.
11. Pick a “Christian” word to explain.
We use a lot of words that aren’t necessarily fully understood by our kids. Pick words or phrases like holy, sin, grace, redemption, reconciliation, trinity, “relationship with Jesus,” justification, etc. Instead of launching into an explanation, ask your kids first what they think the word means so you can correct their understanding if needed.
12. Pick an apologetics question to discuss.
Study the answer to one of these 65 apologetics questions and discuss with your kids.
13. Choose a news story to discuss.
Read a selection of news stories from the week and discuss the faith-related aspects. For younger kids, this could be something simple like talking about how the person in the news story made bad choices. For older kids, try stories from The Christian Post to get them immersed in questions of culture and faith.
14. Take a family spiritual inventory.
Have each family member write down what they feel is good about your family’s spiritual life and what could use improvement. Get everyone thinking by identifying categories like prayer, Bible study, church attendance, service, and conversations. Take action on areas for improvement!
15. Take a personal spiritual inventory.
Alternatively, have each family member write down what they feel is good about their personal spiritual life and what could use improvement. Invite each person to share at least one thing they wrote.
16. Pick a country and study evangelism needed there.
The Joshua Project is an amazing site where you can learn about the “status” of Christianity in any country. You could spend hours going through this site as a family and learning about the need to evangelize in other countries.
17. Learn new ways to pray.
It’s easy to get stuck in a prayer rut, where all prayers sound alike. Identify and talk about new ways your family can pray. For example, if you rarely pray for needs around the world, try doing that for a while. If your family never prays out loud together, give it a try. If you’re scared of praying out loud, here are 9 ways to get over that fear.
18. Talk about another religion.
All Christian parents should teach their kids about other religions. Use occasional family times to pick another religion and discuss the fundamentals of what that religion believes (and how those beliefs compare to Christianity).
19. Do the “5 As” as a family.
I’m not sure where this originated, but my husband and I learned the “5 As” in a church marriage class years ago and have done them together ever since: Affirmation (say something you appreciate about the person), Apology (apologize to the person for something), Affection (hug or kiss the person), Ask (ask, “Is there anything I can do for you?”), Amen (pray for the person). Have each family member do these 5 As for one other family member.
20. Write letters to God.
Have each family member take 10 minutes to write a letter to God. Pick a topic that is relevant at a given time for your family – it could be something light-hearted like complaints you’d “like to file” or something more serious like expressing disappointment about unanswered prayer. Share your letters.
21. Learn about a charity.
Select a need of interest to your family (e.g., hunger, the foster system, homelessness, etc.) and learn about local charities that serve that need. Make a contribution together and/or consider how you could help one.
22. Learn how to compare charities.
Teach older kids how to compare charities when considering where to give money. Go to charitynavigator.org and use their many resources for evaluating non-profits.
23. Memorize verses together.
Choose a verse to memorize together as a family. Quiz each other throughout the week.
24. Discuss what was learned at church Sunday.
This works best on Mondays, of course, when Sunday is still fresh in mind. Ask your kids to teach you what they learned, then explain what you learned in an age-appropriate way for your kids..
25. Ask, when was the last time you _____ ?
Fill in the blank with something a Christian shouldn’t be doing, discuss how you could have made a better choice and why you didn’t. For example, fill in the blank with lied, cheated, lost your patience, or acted selfishly. Have each family member answer and use the circumstances as a learning opportunity for all.
Help me add to this list! What other ideas do you have for using your family devotional time?