What if we kept doing family devotions after Advent?
Maybe you're thinking about setting a new goal for your family to keep having family worship (family devotions) throughout 2017. Or you might be considering spurring on a loved one by giving them a devotion book for Christmas. Several moms have written to say that they're loving their Advent devotions and they want to continue into the New Year. That's such wonderful news! Below are some books that I think would bless you in that endeavor.
But first, let me encourage you: no one's family worship time is pretty everyday. If your kids are poking one another with their toes and screaming out for justice, if they are picking their noses and looking at the ceiling fixture, or if they are rolling around on the floor and feigning interest, then you're doing it right (all three of these things happened in our Advent reading time during one single evening this week). Obviously, we want to remind our kids to listen and to sit still. We want to model for them deep questions and thoughtful answers. We want to set the mood in our home for peace and intentional conversation. But it's rarely picture-perfect, if ever. Keep on keepin' on. Go ahead and do it, even when it's ugly. And go ahead and do it when you've missed a day or a week or a month. Your imperfect efforts are not a lost cause.
May we toil with all of God's energy (Colossians 1:29) as we seek to answer the call of the Shema and "teach our children diligently" (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). And as we work to this end, may we trust that our "children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be [their] peace" (Isaiah 54:13). Our role is to be faithful. His role is to produce the fruit. By all means, model well and set good boundaries, but in the end, keep on keepin' on and trust the Lord with the results.
Good picks for toddlers and up (really you can't be too old for these books, I personally enjoy all of them): The Jesus Storybook Bible, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, and The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden are all chock full of substantial theology, understandable for young children, and visually pleasing to parents and children alike.
Good picks for young kids and up (again, you can't be too old for them!): The Ology: Ancient Truths, Ever New, One Year of Dinner Table Devotions and Discussion Starters: 365 Opportunities to Grow Closer to God as a Family, and Exploring Grace Together: 40 Devotionals for the Family will provide you with good theology and good discussion starters. If you struggle with transitioning from scripture to discussion, these will help especially with elementary-aged kids.
For middle school and up: Big Beliefs!: Small Devotionals Introducing Your Family to Big Truths, Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God, and Visual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth About God. With these books you can go at your own pace and read a page or two together each day--don't feel like you have to do a chapter a night or keep a crazy pace. A little a day goes a long way! I love re-reading these with my kids because they freshen my doctrine when it gets rusty.
Don't hesitate to teach very young children very big truths. It goes without saying that adjusting your language for their age is helpful. But I would encourage you not to shy away from deep truths even when they are tiny toddlers. Repeat the truth to them over and over and they will grow up into it. These books will be a helpful aid in doing just that!