Our family is just over two weeks into our COVID-19 informal quarantine, and now three days into our state’s mandated stay-at-home order. We are homeschoolers, but life has not been normal. We have experienced losses, griefs, anxieties. Yet, there have been bright spots. One that has shone radiantly in our home has been a revitalization of our devotional life. Suddenly time is not a scarce resource, and our family devotions are not getting lost in the shuffle. God’s Word is such an important comfort in uncertain times (in more certain ones too!), and so there is no better time than now for us to immerse ourselves and our children in it. Our family’s difficulties and discomforts certainly pale in comparison to those of some of you, but our need for the Gospel is the same. I hope your family, like mine, can use this time at home to engage with God’s Word together. How will you do so? I’ve asked several mothers to briefly share what their family devotions look like. If you have not had a regular routine of family devotions, perhaps some ideas shared here will be useful to you.
I’ll start us off. Every morning the kids and I gather at the table to sing a hymn, a child reads a chapter of the Bible to us (right now we are working through John’s gospel), and we close with Luther’s Morning Prayer. Sometimes my husband can join us, but often he is working. For a variety of reasons, these past weeks have not been the most productive in terms of schooling, and some mornings that devotion has been the only structured thing that happened. It’s the most important one that could have. After supper, my husband leads us through our Bible and catechism memory work and then reads us a Bible story or a devotion. Right now we are reading A Few Minutes with Jesus by Joslyn Moldstad. Yes, that’s my mother-in-law. I am continually impressed with the Law and Gospel quality of her devotions, and the way that she does not shy away from the real and the raw in the topics she handles.
Our bedtime routine has changed in these last weeks. Our normal has been to simply say bedtime prayers, but now that we have more time and an abundance of sermon, devotion, and Bible study videos available online from all of the pastors in our lives (those who serve our church and those who we know and love as friends and family members), we have gotten in the habit of watching some pastoral message before our bedtime prayers each night. It occurs to me that this would have been a possibility before, and will remain a possibility after life returns to normal as well. We may try to keep this change, at least a couple of days each week. It has really enriched our evenings and sent us all to bed with peace in our hearts.
None of these devotional times are perfectly executed. Our kids are squirrely, and bad attitudes happen at our house just as I’m sure they happen at yours, both in kids and adults. We try to just press through it because we know that God’s Word is living and active and does not return empty.
Amanda Moldstad, wife to John, mother to five children ages 3-11
Our morning devotions mark the beginning of the school day. Several years ago, my husband and I sat down and picked seventy hymns that we believed offered the best comfort of the Gospel and instruction in the faith. We chose the number seventy because it allowed for a two-year rotation through the school years. My husband organized the hymns to fit within the school year, matching them to the church year when possible. Each month I make a laminated placemat that contains the hymns for that month. It also contains a psalm that corresponds to the church year. After breakfast prayers (Luther’s Morning Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer), we distribute the placemats and sing the hymn of the week together. Dad reads a Bible story (this year we’re using the blue NPH Bible History). The kids recite any memory work they have ready. We say the psalm responsively. Our goal is that the repetition of the hymns and psalms will encourage memorization of them, even though we don’t “require” the kids to recite them. By the end of the month, they often don’t need the placemats any more.
Evening devotions consist of Dad reading from a devotion book after supper. Right now we are reading Praise and Honor: Hymn-Inspired Devotions by Timothy J. Shoup (CPH, 2019). After he reads, we close by singing the Lord’s Prayer.
At bedtime we gather together once more as a family to pray our nightly prayers. We use Luther’s Evening Prayer, Now I Lay Me, and a simple prayer asking God to bless each person in our family and in the world. We close with a hymn and the Apostolic Benediction.
Kristin Faugstad, wife to Peter, mother to five children ages 2-11
Our family’s normal pattern for devotions is in the evening before bed. We start with the invocation followed by Luther’s evening prayer. Next we read a devotion. Sometimes it’s from My Devotions, put out by CPH 4x/year. Sometimes we read from another devotional book such as At Home with Jesus by Joslyn Moldstad. During the last several years during Advent, and last year during Lent, we read some books put out by an author named Arnold Ytreeide. I highly recommend all his books, but especially the Lenten book, called Amon’s Adventure. Our family loved it! (In fact, I’m not sure why I didn’t start it this year again.) We close with a hymn the children are working on in Sunday School, followed by the Lord’s Prayer and Benediction which are both sung. We also sing them another hymn of their choice when they are in their beds.
Megan Merseth, wife to Jeffery, mother to seven children ages 1-12
I will follow up this post with several more mothers’ descriptions of their family devotions next week. In the meantime, I want to welcome you to share about your family’s devotional life in the comments section! When do you like to gather your family around God’s Word, what materials have you used, how do you train up your children in the Christian faith?