3 Reasons I Stink at Family Devotions (and what we're doing about it)

I have been in ministry, vocational and bi-vocational, for right at 25 years. I served as a senior pastor in the same church for 10 of the last 11 years. I’ve taught classes to one man and spoken in foreign countries to hundreds. I’ve read the Bible through multiple times and I love the nectar from its pages.

I can tell you how to win a soul to Christ and have walked that road with many myself. I can teach you how to disciple someone, lead a church, or build up believers. I can even play three cords on the guitar and eek out a simple tune if the worship leader gets the flu … and yet … and yet, I absolutely stink at family devotions.

Throughout my entire adult life as a devoted follower of Jesus, I’ve been an all-in sort of guy. Go big or go home, right? I’ve been willing to pick up my family and move away, live on beans in stinky parsonages where real mushrooms grew out of the floor from time to time (true story). We’ve been so poor we shared a box of macaroni as the last meal in the house in the name of service to Jesus … and yet … and yet I absolutely stink at family devotions.

I’ve seen miracles happen in front of me when our church prayed James 5 style for a sister and saw her healed of a tumor, I’ve seen my daughter time and time again be saved through illness and teach me about Jesus, I’ve seen someone show up the very day I mentioned above when we ran out of food to bring us meals for the week … and yet … and yet I absolutely stink at family devotions.

I love Jesus, I really do. I love making disciples, I really do .. and yet … and yet I absolutely stink at family devotions. Anyone else?

We try. We have good plans … and yet … and yet I absolutely stink at family devotions and here are a few reasons why:

1 - I haven’t given them their proper place of importance. I’ve been lazy. It’s true and I believe it is sin. We always find time to do what we value. I rarely skip a meal, I rarely miss a night’s sleep, I almost always go to work, we never miss ball games, school events, or team practice, but when it comes time to study and teach our family the Word of God, we just don’t have time because it isn’t high enough on our priority list.

2 - I’ve pawned it off on others. Don’t get me wrong, I love youth group, Sunday School, Awanas, and Children’s Church, but the discipleship of my family isn’t their responsibility, it’s mine. Now, in our defense, our kids have turned out pretty good and with a fairly robust grasp on the faith, but I can’t help but wonder how much deeper their faith would be if I had lead them as effectively at home as I lead others from the pulpit.

I’m grateful for people who have stepped in and filled in gaps in the spiritual teaching of our family, and truly, they did get a fair amount of teaching from Dad as I stood in the pulpit every Sunday of their lives, but somehow it isn’t the same. We also are very intentional to take every moment we can and make it a teaching moment centered around the Word. So much so, the kids have often chided me in fun that I think everything is a “heart issue!” And maybe we’ve all gotten more than I think out of this intentional life application approach, but it isn’t the all-important one-on-one time they need to figure out how to read the Book, how to feed themselves on the splendor of the Word, and learn to live for Him wherever they go.

3 - I’ve been afraid. Afraid of what? Failure. Embarrassment. There is something pastors may never tell you and it is that we are sometimes afraid of people knowing we have doubts or there are things we don’t know. Honestly, this is the most irrational reason I absolutely stink at family devotions. I really have nothing to fear. How could I possibly go wrong with reading the Bible? Seriously!

How many of you reading this blog right now also stink at family devotions because you are afraid your kids might find out you don’t know nearly as much as they think you do? How many of you right now are guilty, like me, of hoping the youth pastor or children’s teacher will fill in the gaps? If that’s you, then it’s time you join us on this quest and let’s do something about it.

The last thing Jesus told us before He left was to go and make disciples. That starts at home. Francis Chan says we need to remember this is a battle we are in and we need to raise up our families as soldiers for the Kingdom to join us in the days that are coming where standing on His Truth will be harder than we could possibly imagine.

This year I started my Bible Reading journey all over again as I’ve done many times. This time, though, it has been different. I can’t explain it, but it is. The Word is fresh and penetrating in a way I haven’t felt in a good while.

To top it off, my oldest is moving away, my second oldest is getting married, my third oldest will be moving away shortly, my next one is only a year out from college, and the twins are just now seeing Jesus for the very first time … and now I am realizing I can no longer stink at family devotions! It is not an option. So, we have decided to take some corrective measures. Here they are:

1 - I repented and asked for mercy. Yep, that’s it. I repented of being a poor leader at home though I was a decent leader at church. The responsibility for this duty falls squarely on my shoulders and any shirking of that duty will go no further than my lap for attention. My wife may be great at it, my kids may actually be better off than I know, and my household may actually have picked up on more Truth than I realize, but it is high time that we men repent of our laziness before God and teach our families to be disciples of Jesus. Period.

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2 - We started. This one was simple. We just did it. The twins are preparing for baptism and we wanted to make sure they were ready, understood what was happening since they weren’t raised in church, and they could at least sort of articulate the gospel. There are so many gaps I didn’t know where to begin and I agonized over it for too long.

Finally, in talking it over with my wife (a process that gleans much wisdom I might add), we decided just to start with the Romans Road. The older I get and the closer I walk with the Lord, the more I realize how effective these simple sets of verses are at communicating the gospel and the Truths of Scripture. They are tried and true. Many a soul has been won because of this simple set of verses. So, that’s where we began tonight. Romans 3:10, everyone is a sinner and we all deserve death. How’s that for a warm and fuzzy bedtime story?

But that’s when some of the glory began to roll! We’ve tried various things in the past, but I just decided to scrap the devotionals, materials, and lists and sat down with my boys and started walking down The Road. We didn’t get past the universal nature of sin and depravity of man before I had to field some really great questions from inquiring minds. All of the sudden I felt like a Bible teacher again to this Colosseum of two, three if you count the schnoodle. What a sweet drop of rain from the Master on a dry and thirsty soul!

I heard a story told once of an old Navigator who would say, “You haven’t lived ‘till you’ve exploded the Word of God in the heart of another man!” Truly, he couldn’t have been more right, and I should know. I’ve been blessed to see this phenomenon over and over again from the pulpit leading a small band of believers, but how sweet it is to see that explosion of His Grace in the eyes of your own child! The English language fails me even an attempt to explain.

3 - We set a time. This is very practical. There is a saying in management: “You cannot expect what you do not inspect.” In fact, this is true in all of life. But when it comes to family devotions, it is just something you have to make time for. So, we set 8:00pm as our devotional time. If you are in the house, you come to family devotion, period.

I’m firmly convinced that if we don’t get serious about discipling our families, they will not have what it takes to survive and continue to make disciples in this Babylonian culture they are growing up in, much less be able to stand and suffer for the cause of Christ so they may know Him fully.

It is time to stop playing around, stop abdicating our call before God, and put as much effort and energy into training soldiers of the cross as we do in training players for the court. Our priorities, my priorities, have been out of whack for far too long. Join me … today … in committing to having a family devotion, if you don’t already, and if you do, keep up the good work!

He is coming. He expects us to be ready. We have work to do.