What is a good way to train kids for daily devotions? [How do I] develop that habit in kids? Also, what is a good devotion-time plan for them to follow?
I love your desire to teach your children this Christian discipline while they are young. As Proverbs 22:6 (NIV) teaches:
“Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
Starting your children early on a planned time of Bible reading is wise and honors the Lord. Of course, as in every area, they learn best by seeing and hearing what you gain and show through your own personal devotions. As soon as they begin reading, they can start having their own devotions. Because there are so many variables, I will not suggest a specific age. But Scripture itself teaches that getting God’s Word into your child’s heart at a young age is a mean’s of protection and spiritual preparation:
How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.
I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
—Psalm 119:9–11 (NIV)
I’d like to recommend one preliminary step to personal devotional time. When children are ready to begin kindergarten, give them an alarm clock for their birthday or Christmas. Help them learn about time and the importance of being on time. They can then wake up to their alarm, not Mom’s voice. It makes for much smoother mornings and helps develop self-confidence for your child. Then, when they are starting to have their own devotions, they can set the alarm ten minutes earlier, and it will include their personal time with the Lord to begin their day. You might need to adapt this to the time of day that is best suited to your family’s schedule.
Another thing to consider before jumping into some specific ideas is this: If your child is involved in Scripture memory through your church, AWANA program, kids’ club, or a Christian day school, it will help you determine what version of Scripture you would like to use for his or her personal devotional time. It can be very confusing for a child to have varying translations used in his or her teaching, so this is important to consider when getting started.
I spoke with a representative at Child Evangelism Fellowship Press (CEFP) this week to see what they currently have available for young children in the way of personal devotional books. They have a series, Every Day with God, for the child just learning to read. About twenty to twenty-five years ago, our own granddaughters used and loved these little books. One of the things that is best about these is that the series comes in several little booklets so that rather than being overwhelmed by a large book containing all the devotionals for the year, the child can have a sense of accomplishment after finishing each little booklet! CEFP has other devotional material available as well. You can click here to visit the CEFP website.
Check with your local Christian bookstore as well. The owner at our local store mentioned that they carry a popular devotional for children called the Adventure Bible Devotional, though I am sharing that information having not seen the material. She also mentioned the Veggie Tales books, and while I know that those are popular, I caution you about mixing the imaginary world of talking plant life with the real-life characters in the Bible. While the stories may be exciting and perhaps true to Scripture in their content, your children might have a hard time discerning the line between real and make-believe.
Another widely recommended book is The Jesus Storybook Bible. My daughter Brenda often gives this as a gift and likes how the book shows Jesus throughout the pages of the entire Bible. You can click here to learn more about The Jesus Storybook Bible.
One final source for devotional material for young children and junior-aged children is through the Wilds Christian Camp and Conference Center, the organization with which my husband and I were associated for about twenty-five years. Author Rand Hummel has a heart for youth and for the Lord, and his material reflects that. Click here to visit the bookstore on The Wilds’ website.
By talking with your child about his or her personal time with the Lord, you can help to instill the truth that this is not merely a daily “to-do list” item that makes him or her a good Christian. It is a means of learning more about God and finding out how to become more like Him. It’s a way to take His Word and put it into practice. Therefore, it should never be used as punishment or as a forced amount of time (i.e., children should not be led to believe that 20 minutes = good Christian). Be certain that you are aware of each day’s material and then chat comfortably with your child about what he or she learned that day.
May you and your children be able to rejoice in the freshness of God’s Word.
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