Overcoming four challenges in family devotions

Committing to the hard work of discipleship

December 15, 2022

My mom was the queen of routines, and suppertime at our house in the 80s and 90s was on a pretty strict schedule. My dad went to bed shortly after 5 p.m. so he could get up in the middle of the night to head off to work. This meant our family ate dinner at 4 p.m., with devotions immediately following. 

We all adjusted our schedules to accommodate this important family mealtime and worship. As a kid I knew we were a little abnormal, since I was the only kid running home from the pool at 3:45, but it was routine enough that I never questioned it, and it was clear this time was important to my parents and to our family. We never skipped reading the Bible (always straight through, unless we skipped a few passages in Leviticus or Numbers, which I’m sure other parents did too!). 

Now that I’m a parent myself, and juggling an often too-full schedule, I realize how remarkable this was for my parents to pull off for so many years. They could have easily decided we could all eat at different times or skip devotions, but my parents knew this time around the table was important, and therefore they found a way to make it work.

Too many families today, I believe, are slaves to their jam-packed schedules and don’t prioritize devotions as much as families in previous generations. Many other parents didn’t grow up with family devotions themselves, so they aren’t in the routine or just don’t know how to start. 

I believe we need a revival of family worship in our homes, creating space to disciple our kids, teach them the Bible and doctrine, and have tough conversations about how to live as Christ-followers in our ever-changing culture. Some of the best conversations we’ve had with our kids have happened during this set-aside time.

In talking with other families and trying to encourage them to build a family devotional habit, there are four challenges that often come up.

The challenge of time

The first obstacle is finding the time. Like my parents did in my home growing up, I encourage families to pick a time and just be as consistent as you can. You can choose breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even bedtime. It just needs to be a time when the whole family can be present. This gets harder for families as kids get older and involved in more activities, and that’s often when many families give up. 

Our family has been intentional about what we commit to, trying to preserve our family dinner time as much as possible, but I’ll admit it can be really tough So there may come a day when we switch to breakfast devotions instead of dinner.

The challenge of plan 

The second difficulty deals with choosing a format and resources. The simplest plan is often the best, and you can always switch it up. But the most basic elements are reading, praying, and singing. Donald Whitney has a great little book titled Family Worship if you want to dig a little deeper into these specifics. 

If you’re wondering what to read, the easiest and most obvious answer is the Bible. You honestly don’t need other resources, but they certainly can be helpful. I’ll admit that I’m a lover and hoarder of Bible storybooks, and we’ve read many. Yet we made the mistake of waiting too long to just simply read an entire book of the Bible straight through as a family, as my dad always did. 

The first time we read the book of John together as a family the kids were on the edge of their seats the whole time, excited to hear pieces of the story that they hadn’t heard in Sunday School or from a Bible storybook. And every night they begged for more. It wasn’t above their heads, but rather spoke directly to their hearts. Let’s not forget the power of the Word itself.

The challenge of age-appropriateness

The third obstacle can be keeping everyone’s attention, especially in a big family with a variety of ages. With little ones, it’s often best to keep the reading short, and you can always lengthen the singing or prayer time if everyone is really engaged. Still, if attention spans are short, you can sing while you clean the dinner table or simply listen to a worship song on YouTube. 

To help your kids pay attention during the Bible reading, allow them to keep eating, or even draw the story to keep their hands busy if that helps them. If you’re snuggling on the couch before bedtime, some kids like being wrapped tightly in a blanket, while others prefer to have their personal space. 

My point is to let kids be kids during this time, as long as they’re being respectful and listening. Allowing a little movement is a great alternative to everyone tuning out. You can also ask simple questions after reading to check how they’ve been paying attention, and most kids will love beating a sibling to the answer. We also try to switch up our materials every once in a while, so we’re not always catering to the youngest child or the oldest. And if what we’re studying that week is mostly over the 5-year-old’s head, that’s okay. He’s still absorbing a little knowledge, bonding with our family, and learning the importance of spending time with God on a regular basis.

The challenge of consistency

Lastly, many families struggle to simply stick with it. I think the biggest problem we as American Christians face is our busy schedules. However, since we can also face laziness, bad attitudes, and apathy, let me encourage you with verses from Psalm 78:

“We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders he has done. He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children.” (Psa. 78:4-6)

I love this verse because it reminds me that the habits our family creates today will not only impact our kids’ souls and their spiritual lives, but also our grandkids too. What an amazing thought and encouragement. For the sake of generations to come, let’s make family devotions a priority in our homes this next year and encourage other families to do the same.

Kate Hox

Kate Hox has a deep desire to see her four children know and love Jesus Christ. She has always enjoyed finding gospel-centered resources, and now she has the joy of creating them as well. Kate is a graduate of Dordt University, where she received her degree in elementary education. She … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24