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Lutheran Parent Toolbox

 

Time

  • Morning: Back up your alarm clock by 15 minutes. (It’s okay to come bleary-eyed.) Gather the family together during those precious gained moments for a beautiful start to your day.
  • Crisis Management: Don’t let crises become an excuse to forego daily home worship. Learn to manage the impact of a crisis-to-crisis lifestyle by turning to God in those tense moments and seeking his strength and comfort.
  • Offhand Moments: Some of the most effective times to say a prayer, read a psalm, or recite an appropriate Bible passage are those serendipitous moments that just seem to happen—a disciplinary situation, a wonderful discovery in nature, a troubling conversation.
  • Midmorning: Do you have the rare blessing of being at home with your children? How about a midmorning snack that serves up a portion of Scripture—living bread.
  • Do Lunch: Surprise a family member with lunch out. Fast food, a picnic table, and a fitting parable or proverb can be the beginning of lifelong memories.
  • Supper: Are you an "eat and run" family? Sit down ten minutes early for supper. Turn off the TV news and share some good news from Jesus.
  • Crunch Time: Every family has occasions when time is really of the essence and there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to get in a full-length devotional activity. Read a psalm or a portion of a psalm in those urgent situations. Follow it with a brief, one-sentence prayer.
  • Bedtime: Gather in the fading light to share the still, small voice of your heavenly Father. It brings a peaceful calm to the whole family.

Materials

  • Picture books: Toddlers love pictures. Many devotional books are written in a story format—perfect for using with your little ones. Embrace them on your lap as you read.
  • Storybooks: With mixed ages you need variety. Use books with colorful illustrations, like The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes by Kenneth N. Taylor, to capture interest. Questions will flow. Let the older siblings tell the story or ask questions for the younger ones.
  • Fact Finders: Preteens like straight talk about the facts. This age group should be challenged to relate the events of Bible stories in order, use terms correctly, and even find key Bible locations on a map. Games are a great way to keep their attention. Be careful not to overlook the important truths the Bible is teaching. Spend time talking about how God’s Word applies to our lives.
  • Discussion Starters: Teens are beset with many stresses and contradictions, not to mention the temptations connected with growing up. Teen devotions should include lots of opportunity to discuss personal issues.
  • Mom and Pop Perks: Parents need to help each other apply the truths of God’s Word to themselves as well as to their children. Quiet time with an adult-level devotional book is well-spent.
  • Psalms Anyone? Designate one family member each week to pick a few psalm verses to read sometime during each devotional activity.

Readers

  • Beginners: Let your young readers have the responsibility of bringing the family Bible to the table. Help them look up the reference before the devotion. Then read that part of your devotion from Scripture.
  • Intermediates: Take turns reading. If some are hesitant, have them practice reading out loud before the devotion time begins.
  • Advanced: Have each family member bring a Bible to devotions. Everyone reads silently for awhile. Then each talks about the portions of Scripture just read. Try to find common threads that run through all the readings.

Starters

  • No Better Time: "There’s no time like the present" is an old saying that is really true when it comes to getting started doing spiritual activities in the home. Make your first attempt today.
  • Special Occasions: Seasonal celebrations, such as Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving, are great times to begin family traditions that include Bible readings and prayers. Birthday and anniversary observances can serve as springboards to more frequent spiritual activities in the home.
  • Witness Without Pressure: Some families may have members who remain outside the Christian faith. Daily devotional activities can serve as a witness to faith in Jesus as the Savior without becoming a pressure point that threatens family peace.
  • Handy Resources: If your not sure how comfortable you will be just reading directly from the Bible, look for devotional aids, such as Lutheran Parent’s Wellspring, to help you get started.
  • Where Two or Three Are Gathered: Some people get stuck on having the whole family present for family devotions. That can become an excuse at times when not everyone can be there. Jesus’ promise to be with two or three when they gather in his name holds true for your home too.
  • Atmosphere: Treat the time you devote to God each day with honor and respect. But don’t let the atmosphere become burdensome. Be prepared to laugh when something is funny. And if you are interrupted, deal with it and return to the devotion as soon as possible.
  • Guests and Visitors: Don’t skip your family Bible activity just because a visitor is spending time with your family. Your interaction during devotional times is a wonderful way to bear witness to the faith your hold so dear.

Prayers

  • Join Hearts: Memorize some prayers with your family. Table prayers and Luther’s morning and evening prayers are excellent. Hymn stanzas also make great spoken prayers. Everyone should learn the Lord’s Prayer. Explain difficult phrases and talk about what these prayers mean.
  • Build a Prayer: Say a prayer from youngest to oldest, each adding some personal words. Learning to pray with your family will make you more comfortable praying spontaneously.
  • In the Morning: What a wonderful way to start the day! Pray about the plans, tasks, and tests that the family will face during that day. Then they can proceed, confident in knowing they have asked for the Lord’s blessing, guidance, and protection.
  • In the Evening: Evening is a time to thank God for the blessings of the day. You can leave troubles in the hands of your Savior. Peaceful sleep will follow.
  • Come Ready: Do you have a hard time thinking of something to pray about? Plan ahead. Come ready to praise and thank the Lord and present your requests.
  • Find a Word: A single word from a Bible text (hope, forgiveness, Jesus, for example) can be the basis of the family prayer.
  • Take Requests: Share one another’s burdens. Have a basket for family prayer requests. Take turns drawing from the basket, or have the family leader add these requests to a family prayer.
  • Pray for Others: It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own lives so much that we forget that others have special needs as well. Keep friends and even strangers in mind as you come to God’s throne with your petitions.
  • Use the Model: Jesus offered a model prayer in the Lord’s Prayer, which covers all the bases when it comes to prayer content. Talk through each petition of the Lord’s Prayer, then make up your own prayers following the perfect model.
  • Use A.C.T.S.: Acclamation is praise for God. Confession is being sorry for your sin. Thanksgiving and Supplication (asking or petitioning) follow.

Senses

  • Sight: Light a special devotion candle each time your family gathers. Close with a prayer. Blow out the candle and watch the smoke rise along with your prayers.
  • Taste: Connect your meals with Bible concepts. Talk about fruits of faith, the bread of life, wine, fields ready for the harvest, seeds that sprout, clean and unclean animals in the Old Testament, the Passover meal, manna and quail, olive trees, fish from the Sea of Galilee, the feeding of five thousand people. Look for the ways God shows us his love and his mighty power in the foods we eat.
  • Sound: Use homemade rhythm instruments. Read a psalm and let your younger children "make a joyful noise." Or close your devotions with your favorite hymns. Let family members take turns choosing.
  • Smells: Advent has the wonderful smell of the Advent wreath. Think of other seasonal smells that can be part of a centerpiece for your table. Summer flowers, autumn harvests, winter potpourri can add to the goodness the Lord gives.
  • Touch: Can you think of anything that symbolizes your family’s togetherness more than holding hands during prayers?

Passages

  • God’s Promises: Make a list of Bible passages that promise God’s blessings. Make note of how these promises are fulfilled in your daily lives.
  • Crisis Texts: Make a short list of key texts that fit at special moments of family crisis. Tucked it under the cover of your Bible, ready for those moments when you really need God’s comfort and the assurance of his love.
  • Family Passages: Each week commit a favorite passage to memory. Post the text on the refrigerator door. Use it in your everyday conversations. Say the passage as a beginning or closing to your devotions.
  • Bible Collections: Create a collection of texts from Scripture that have special meaning for your family. Allow members to add to the list anytime they find a new text with special meaning. With each new addition, include a little devotional discussion based on the new text.
  • Who Can Finish? Start a Bible passage and whoever finishes it gets to start the next passage. See if you can get all the way around the table.
  • Law or Gospel? Read a favorite text from Scripture aloud. Then spend some time deciding how this text reflects God’s law or the sweet message of the gospel.
  • The Family Bible: Purchase a Bible that can be used by the whole family. Look for a Bible that has some additional white space in the margins. Devise a system of highlighting texts that you have covered during devotions or in family discussions. Identify favorite passages. Write notes in the margin.

Memories

  • Key Events: Share times in your life when God’s love was apparent. Invite others to do the same. Let these memories become the focus of devotional activities. Find Bible texts that relate to your experiences.
  • Family Blessings: Reminisce about some unique blessings God has given to your family. Consider ways to say thank you to God by using these blessings to serve him in special ways.
  • Remember the Future: While we don’t always know the specifics of the future, there are many things about the future we can be absolutely sure about. Talk about those things we know for certain because God has told us what to expect.

Toeholds

  • Self-Evaluation: Sometime an individual member of the family can become an obstacle to smooth family worship activities. Analyze what happens during your devotional activities. Talk about the process with other members of the family. Is there someone in the family who seems to be dominating all the devotional dialog. Look for gentle, loving ways to involve everyone.
  • Less Is More: How long should devotional activities last? If you’ve experienced difficulty keeping everyone’s attention, maybe the activities are too long. Try cutting back. Start with a five minutes. See how that goes for a while. If everyone wishes to lengthen the activity time, add just a minute or two at a time.
  • In Transit: Consider your time in the car. Try taped devotions. Prayers can be said once you’ve arrived, before anyone gets out of the car.
  • Smaller Bites: Commit to having devotions once a week. Slowly build from there. Every little bit will strengthen you.
  • Persevere: If you find yourselves unable to sustain ongoing devotional activity, begin again with new resolve each time you fall by the wayside. "I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13).
  • Most Important: Make sure that even your younger children know the basics: I am a sinner. Sin is bad. God loves me. God sent his only Son, Jesus, to die for my sins. Jesus lives! Jesus is preparing a place for me in heaven.

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