We have three kids, two of them teenagers, and I have a deep conviction that we should be doing family devotions as our kids grow and mature into young adults. Lest you think my convictions are coming from a parent who’s got it all figured out, allow me to paint a picture of our family devotions from a few weeks back:
We had just finished a Norman Rockwell dinner scene: a little sibling arguing and a whole lot of convincing the children that my homemade meal was not made for torture. You would not have been convinced by their vocal and bodily reactions.
Our youngest is nine, and when my husband opened the Bible to the intended passage for devotions, she eyed her older siblings and said very mischievously, “Mom and dad told me where babies come from.”
Responding maturely, my middle child ducked under the table, and my oldest put her hands over her face while yelling, “stop!” because my nine-year old started into some of the details of her newfound understanding of the world. I laughed, kind of uncontrollably, and my husband just shook his head.
In an attempt to reign us back into devotion mode, my husband again recited the passage and this time began reading…for about one minute.
Because at about the one minute mark, I started laughing. I felt like a Junior High kid, trying to control my inappropriate laughter by thinking sad thoughts. But alas, it was too late. My laughter led all of us into a fit of laughter, which led my youngest to spit out the food that was in her mouth.
So, that’s how well our family devotions went the other night.
Folks, I am no expert, and frankly, no one is. But the Lord isn’t looking for us to guide our children in perfection – that’s not possible. He is, however, looking for us as parents to be faithful in teaching the Scripture diligently to our children, and in particular, He’s looking to fathers to lead with spiritual vigor. Ephesians 6:4 reminds fathers to not provoke their children to anger, “but to bring them up discipline an instruction of the Lord.” And while this is a clear charge given to fathers, both parents need to recognize the spiritual influence they have on their children. I’m deeply grateful for a mom and dad who opened the Word regularly, and I’m equally thankful for a husband who engages our family through Scripture.
Instead of focusing on the “How” to do devotions with our teenagers, it’s first important to dig into the “Why” we should be doing them with our growing kids.
Because Scripture commands it.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” From infancy to adulthood, we have been given a charge as parents to train up our children in the way they should go. This isn’t a formula – we can’t assume that if we train our children in the Scriptures, they will automatically accept the truth for themselves. It’s the Lord who works in the hearts of our children at different times and in unique ways. However, this truth does not discount the clear influence we have on our kids, and modeling a love for Scripture is of utmost importance.
The teen years are exactly the reason some families say, “Forget it!” Once a kid enters high school, the schedules become busier than ever and time together seems nearly impossible. These are certainly full years, but this is exactly why we should make devotions a priority for our teenagers. We can’t neglect investing in what has eternal value in exchange for the various activities that fill their calendars. Not opening the Scripture together because of the business of life is training them up to think that everything else takes priority over time in God’s Word. If we are going to train them up to have an eternal perspective, then we have to do the hard work of creating time together in the Word.
Because Scripture daily sustains.
As a teen, I would often eat dinner quickly in order to retreat to the quiet of my room. So, when dad pulled out the Bible following our meal, I know he heard an audible “ugh” more than once. But He would faithfully read, and I would listen. My body language may not have portrayed my interest, but I heard the Word read, and I saw that it was a priority. And I learned it was important not only through family devotions, but through the ways my dad used his Bible throughout the week. I learned that Scripture formed His beliefs and strengthened His relationship with Jesus. As our kids grow and mature, they will see whether or not we truly value the sustenance the Bible gives. Do we open it together merely to check off our “to do” list? Or do we open the Bible because we believe it’s a spring of life-giving water?
Because it doesn’t require a Masters of Divinity
In reflecting on why he doesn’t do devotions with his teens, one parent said, “I’m intimidated to lead devotions– I’m afraid my kids will discover I don’t know enough about the Bible!” But this is the beauty of studying Scripture with young adults. Your teens aren’t looking to see how much you know about the Bible; they’re looking at your relationship with Jesus and your hunger for His Word. If your kids are asking tough questions, open the Bible together and seek guidance.
When we were older, my dad used to read a Proverb and ask us to reflect on the meaning, and sometimes, dad would respond to our confusion with, “I don’t know either. Let’s figure it out.” His answer showed me that my own pastor-father had to study the Scripture for answers and that I needed to do the same.
The Lord isn’t looking for Normal Rockwell scenes in our families. He’s looking for faithful followers who desire to study His Word and teach the next generation what it looks like to love Scripture and drink from its springs of living water.