An Experiment in Family Devotions

By Kim Longden

For many years we wanted to have a family devotion time, but didn’t know where to start. Was there a specific format for family devotions? What resources should we use? Would we be able to squeeze devotion time into our busy schedule? These questions and the desire to get it “right” stalled us from trying until we eventually realized that we had to just start somewhere

For our family, that first experiment with devotions was rounding everyone up just a couple times a week, for only a few minutes each time. Starting somewhere was the first step, and God has faithfully been guiding us to resources and multiplying our available time step-by-step over the years.

Most recently, our family has been experimenting with Come Holy Spirit, A daily travel log for Easter to Pentecost from Next Step Press. I have seen an abundance of devotional resources available for certain times in the church year, like Advent and Lent. But a devotional for the time between Easter and Pentecost when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit? I had never heard of such a thing! Taking time to focus on the coming and work of the Holy Spirit would be new for our family, so I was excited to check out this new resource.

I wasn’t sure if this “travel log” format would lend itself to family devotions, but we decided to jump in and give it a try. Here’s the way we’re using it: The kids who are old enough take turns reading the Scripture verses listed each day. Then my husband or I read the devotion and prayer. Finally, if there is a “Faith Experiment” for that day, we go through it as a family.

The Faith Experiments are a unique part of this travel log making it unlike other devotionals we have used in the past. The first day we set a timer and were quiet-(ish!) for seven whole minutes. Afterward we talked about rest and being still in the presence of God. Another day we did an experiment that focused on breathing and prayer with an awareness of the Holy Spirit, the Breath of God, present and active in our lives. We had an interesting discussion about what baptism would have looked like in the Early Church, and another day we listened to Veni, Creator Spiritus (“Come, Creator Spirit”), a Gregorian chant we found online.

We opted not to light anything on fire for the Faith Experiment on Day 6, but I bookmarked that page to come back to. Maybe this summer when we’re having a bonfire in the backyard, we’ll write down the imperfections and impurities in our lives that burden us and toss them into the flames. I think burning these papers will be an excellent visual reminder of committing our sins to the Spirit of Jesus.

I’m looking forward to continuing with Come, Holy Spirit—we are currently on Day 8. I’m not sure what day we’re “supposed” to be on to complete it by Pentecost, but we’ll take it at our own pace. We’re rarely on schedule, and have been known to still be working our way through Advent devotionals throughout the month of January. (I’ve found it’s actually a blessing to be lingering over the beauty of Christmas after the hubbub of the holiday season has passed!)

I’m learning to let go of trying to stay on schedule; Jesus loves to spend time with us no matter what the date on the calendar says!

Our six kids range in age from fifteen down to two years old, so they’re all processing things at different levels. The depth of the devotions and the family engagement in the Faith Experiments have made me glad that we’re giving Come, Holy Spirit a try with this varied crew.

Our devotion time during breakfast is filled with all the antics that a big family can bring—many reminders to keep our hands to ourselves, requests for refills on bowls of cereal, pauses to wipe up spilled milk, and endless reminders not to interrupt.

It’s definitely not a time of complete peace and harmony; more of a slightly chaotic time of sitting (let’s be honest, most of the kids are squirming) at the feet of Jesus as a family and learning from Him.

I often think about Jesus saying, “Let the little children come to me…” and think that He’s probably looking at our little circus with a twinkle in His eye. This helps me let go of my expectations of having the perfect format where a perfect lesson is presented to perfectly listening ears. God is at work despite our disorganization and on-the-fly methods, so the pressure is off to try to make things perfect!

It’s not always obvious what God is doing, especially on Monday mornings, but looking back over the years I can see the that the blessings of this time together far outweigh the challenges. Finding the time and the right resource isn’t always easy, and we don’t do it perfectly, but the Spirit is still at work in our time in the Word.

Taking that first step and experimenting with family devotions has brought us closer to Jesus and I look forward to what He will teach us as we continue on this journey with Him!

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