Letter from Gerard O’Brien

Dear Friends,

A couple of Sundays ago I reminded the dads that we have primary responsibility for the spiritual growth of our children (Eph. 6:4). And we are very blessed here at St Thomas’ to have many dads who take that responsibility seriously. There are many hard things about this period of lockdown, but one bonus for many of us is extra time with our children. And it presents an opportunity to grow in family spiritual disciplines. I thought I’d share some ideas for a simple family devotional:

  1. Pick a time. When our children were younger, just before bed worked best. Now they’re a bit older, we do it straight after dinner. The time might change as they grow, but you need to pick a time that will work well with your family schedule. You can do a simple family devotional in 5-15 minutes.
  2. Find an age-appropriate resource. I’ve listed some good children’s Bibles and family devotionals below with links to where you can buy them.
  3. Decide what you will do. In our family we keep it very simple: read a bit of Bible, have a short discussion, pray. But you could do more if you wanted to, including singing together, doing children’s catechism questions, keeping a family prayer journal, etc.
  4. Start. So much of doing this as a family is just starting. You don’t need to make a big deal of it. You could just say after dinner one night, ‘let’s read the Bible together for a few minutes as a family.’ And sometimes we let things slip and don’t do it for a few weeks. That’s OK – just re-start.
  5. Keep it regular. We aim to read the Bible after dinner most nights of the week. Sometimes I have a meeting to go to or we have something else on that prevents it. But we try to make it as regular as possible so it’s just what the children expect. Then it becomes a part of your normal family routine. It’s easier if you get in this routine when children are young, but you can still start it when they’re older.
  6. Enjoy it. God’s word is wonderful and children are a joy to read it with. Yes – sometimes you need to discipline them to stay still. But sometimes our children are moving because they want to act out the Bible story or draw it. It’s great to enjoy their creativity and it can help everyone engage better. It’s a joy to have this regular time as a family and it’s a joy to see your children growing in their understanding of the gospel and appreciation of Jesus. They might even teach you something!

Of course, there is much more to leading our families spiritually than family devotions. We want to make prayer and conversation about God a regular part of our family lives. Christ is present in every interaction we have. I’m praying for the fathers in our church: that God would enable you to lead your families well.

In Christ,
Gerard O’Brien

Some resources you could use in family devotions: