“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
– Deuteronomy 6:5-9
Over the past few months a few friends have asked us questions regarding what Bibles and devotional tools we use and have used with our boys. I’ve only been at this mothering thing for a little shy of 7 years and I’m certainly no expert (and I screw things up a lot), but we really are passionate about seeing our boys grow in Truth, get excited about God’s Word, and want to follow Jesus. I’m writing this post as a meager attempt at sharing with you a few things that we’ve learned and what has worked for our family.
There are very few passages that are such a challenge and “mission statement” for me as a mother than Deuteronomy 6:5-9. My role as Mama and discipler of these precious boys can be wrapped up in those verses to the Israelites…
- Love God with all MY heart and all MY mind and all MY strength.
- Keep His Truth on MY heart (at the forefront of my thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors).
- Teach that same Truth to my kiddos…all day…and in many different ways.
Being on this side of God’s redemptive work on the cross in the New Testament, my charge as a parent isn’t just to teach them God’s commands or tell the stories of His faithfulness (though those things are extremely important), but also to point them to their need for rescue. Their need for the cross. Their need for continuing grace. I want my kids to be completely enamored by and live in light of the Gospel! What better news could I give them?!
I have found a few fantastic resources for learning how to communicate the Gospel and Truth to my boys (if you read nothing else, please check these out!)…
- Give Them Grace by Elyse M. Kirkpatrick and Jessica Thompson
- Big Truths for Young Hearts by Bruce A. Ware
- The Duties of Parents by J.C. Ryle
Books like these help provide a framework for which to build spiritual conversations around – whether we are disciplining, training, counseling, or just chatting with our boys. Because I’ve found many kids’ devotionals to be primarily morality or behavioral based, learning how to incorporate Gospel truth into every aspect of life has really helped when we feel like we need to “add on” to what we’re reading with them. Though I’m sure we don’t always succeed at it, we desperately want everything to point back to Jesus.
You shall talk of them when you sit in your house…
One thing that we strive for is to have family devotions at the dinner table. Because of schedules and hosting people and just the craziness of life in general, we don’t always succeed at this. But it has become such a habit for our boys that they now remember even if we forget or selfishly want to just rush on to the next thing. I love to have the Bible open and for them to hear us read it. Now it’s fun to hear Isaiah read it to us! Here are a few family devotionals that we’ve really liked…
- Whit’s End Mealtime Devotions by Crystal Bowman and Tricia Goyer
- Exploring Grace Together by Jessica Thompson
- Little Pilgrim’s Progress by Helen Taylor (We read through this book a chapter at a time after dinner and talked about its symbolism.)
- Long Story Short: 10 Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God by Marty Machowski
…and when you walk by the way…
Teaching Truth to your children doesn’t nor should it always occur just during set “devotions”. Strive to use every day moments to point your children to Truth as they begin to shape their own worldviews and character. Allow the Gospel to infiltrate every conversation (even and especially during correction and discipline). I also want my children to hide God’s Word in their hearts and have Truth memorized in their little minds. I’ve been using this resource to walk my boys through basic theology, gospel truths, and Scripture memory. I keep this printout on our fridge. Each week or so we focus on a different “gospel truth” and choose one of the verses listed to memorize together. This is something that even my toddler can understand and enjoys! And I love, love, love hearing God’s Word in their little voices…
This book has also been helpful in drawing my attention to particular needs and learning how to better pray Scripture for my boys…
- Praying For Boys by Brooke McGlothin
I also love filling my children’s minds with Truth using music! Here are some of my boys’ favorites…
- Seeds Family Worship
- Hillsong Kids
- Yancy and Friends
- Deliberate Kids
- Sonic Sing and Play Music
- Veggie Tales Hosanna!
My boys are also starting to really get into listening to the Adventures in Odyssey CDs. You can even buy CDs that that include stories that all fit a certain theme (bullying, family, humility, etc.). These are great for in the car!
…and when you lie down…
Bedtime can be a great way to end the day focusing on Truth. Of course, we like to read different literature and favorite stories before bed, but we also want it to be a time to lay our children down thinking about God. We LOVE and really can’t say enough about The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. We’ve read it over and over again. It really has been our kiddos’ first experience with God’s Word. Here are are a few other storybooks that we have used at either bedtime or during morning devotions. They’re great stories that also include discussion help…
- Sammy and His Shepherd by Susan Hunt
- The Prince’s Poison Cup by R.C. Sproul
- Max Lucado’s Wemmicks Collection
- Adventure Bible for Early Readers (This is Isaiah’s primary Bible that he uses now. When he first started reading we would have him read one Proverb before bed and then we’d talk about it.)
- The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (Adam and Isaiah enjoy reading through these before bed and talking about the allegories available throughout.)
…and when you rise.
Morning devotions became particularly important to me when Isaiah started school. I wanted the last part of our morning routine before he walked out the door for school to be reading and praying together. I also wanted to make sure that we weren’t just rushing out the door for church on a Sunday morning without focusing, praying, and both searching and preparing our hearts for worship. I’m hoping that it becomes something that will become important to my boys as they become men. Here are a few books that we have used for morning devotions…
- The One Year Devotional for Preschoolers (I didn’t love this one and feel like I often need to “add” to it, but it is good for starting a routine, Scripture reading, and discussion with teeny guys.)
- God’s Mighty Warrior Devotional Bible by Sheila Walsh (This one had some neat activities to go along with the reading. I also liked that it used bigger chunks of Scripture.)
- God’s Armor for Me by Amelia Shearer (We used this to talk through the Armor of God when Isaiah started kindergarten and then focused on memorizing those verses from Ephesians 6.)
- Thoughts To Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd-Jones (We’ve gone through this one multiple times. I even like it for myself! There is also a section in the back with help for further study.)
- The Kids Devotional Bible (We just got this one for Isaiah for Easter. I’m not super crazy about it yet as I think the devotions often miss the point or the “big picture” of the passage leaving us to often have to modify or add to it, BUT it does have a devotional reading for each day of the year and is helping Isaiah read through an overview of the whole Bible, which I really do like.)
- Cubbies (Because we’re in the midst of a church plant that is only in the beginning stages of developing a children’s ministry, I’ve been going through the AWANA Cubbies handbook with Toby on our own at home.)
- My ABC Bible Verses: Hiding God’s Word in Little Hearts by Susan Hunt (I started using this one with Toby at about 3 1/2 years old and he really likes it. He had just learned all of his letters and was excited to have a verse for every one. Each time he learns a verse, we add it to our Bible verse alphabet wall in our basement.)
Because I want God’s words to be the first words my boys (and I) hear every morning, we have started reading and praying a Psalm or part of a Psalm together as soon as they get out of bed. I can tell you it’s helped make a big difference in our mornings!
Here are a few books that I haven’t gotten to try yet, but would like to look into…
- The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm
- The Big Picture Family Devotional by David Helm
- The Gospel Project’s Big Picture Bible Series for Kids
- Get Wisdom! 23 Lessons for Children About Living for Jesus by Ruth Younts
- One Year of Dinner Devotions and Discussion Starters: 365 Opportunities to Grow Closer to God as a Family by Nancy Guthrie (for when the kids are a little older)
- Big Truths for Little Kids: Teaching Your Children to Live for God by Ritchie and Susan Hunt
- God’s Love For You Storybook by Richard Stearns (This one is written by the president of World Vision and includes stores of God working in countries all over the world. A neat way to raise globally minded kiddos! All of the proceeds also go toward World Vision.)
I should also mention that our devotional times as a family aren’t always, calm, quiet and focused. My boys are active, noisy, typical kids. My baby sometimes cries, my toddler sometimes whines, and my 1st grader sometimes gets distracted. Don’t be discouraged if your time doesn’t always look or feel picture perfect. Though we do our best to keep it consistent and focused and encourage good conversation and meaningful prayer time, it doesn’t always go that way every time. Remember to show yourself (and your little ones!) some grace.
I don’t want our time together to be a legalistic list of things that we have to do to win God’s approval, but rather a time to create a hunger and thirst in our kids that it becomes something that they want to do because, as God’s children, we already have God’s approval through Christ. I want them to want to do it because they’re tasting and seeing God’s beauty and goodness as they only thing that will truly satisfy and the thing they treasure most!
I hope that something here has been helpful to you and your family. Are there certain books or resources or ideas that have worked well for you? Please share!