A Guide to Family Time

Bear and Bible

The minute I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I starting buying my arsenal of books.  Books on baby-raising, potty-training, child-training…the list goes on and on….and on.  Yes, I am one of those people.  The people who feel the need to be ultra-prepared for everything.  I mean, I sometimes even read up on the Revenue Office procedures.  Seriously.  So, parenting was no different.  And once that little guy got old enough to start formally teaching him God’s Word, well, that just meant more books to me!  So I searched, and I bought, and I read over and over again.  Some books suggested spending hours planning for your family time, cutting out little paper figures for every character in the story.  Others used ridiculous comparisons and illustrations.  Nothing that I ever found seemed to teach my child the things I wanted him to know.

It was only a couple of years ago (after several measly tries) that we began to find what works for our “Family Time”.  For us, simple is key.  We won’t do something if it’s not simple.  And what it boiled down to truly was incredibly simple.  We need to be together with a Bible, and that’s it.  In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, God’s Word says,

 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

We can’t neglect the fact that our kids need to see us treasure God’s words.  They need to see us talk about it, ponder it, and internalize it.  They need to see us think about it.  They need to see God’s Word transforming us. They need to talk about it with us. These words from this Old Testament book still ring true today…I think even truer.  But, for those of us like me, teaching our kids about God can be daunting to do on your own.  So, I wanted to share a little bit of our journey to “Family Time”. ** I want to note here that I don’t have everything figured out…far from it.  (The appearance of having everything figured out is something I strongly dislike about blogging, so please don’t take anything I say as if I have a corner on this parenting thing…trust me-I don’t!) But we have been so blessed by our Family Time that it is my hope and my prayer that sharing about our successes…and failures…may encourage others to not be intimidated by it, but to embrace it as the blessing that it is.

1.  Gather your family together at the best time for you.  Some families get together at breakfast…not us!  We are not perky enough in the morning for a family time early enough to get Dad out the door to work on time.  We do ours in the evenings just before bed time.  Sometimes this requires shutting off the TV (like last night when the kiddos really wanted to watch American “Ninjan” Warrior as Hannah calls it), but it’s always worth it.  Others do their family time around the dinner table.  Whatever works-do it!

2.  Pick a passage.  This is the part I used to feel really intimidated about, but my sweet husband is so laid back, and one night, he looked at our oldest and said, “What do you want to read tonight?  Old Testament or New? What book?”  We’ve even done the flip the book open and point to a passage method.  It’s very technical!  🙂  Sometimes, like right now, we are reading through the book of John at our own pace, just one section at a time.  We’ve also had nights where we’ve chosen a Psalm or a few Proverbs.  Sometimes Tim or I will choose one of our favorite verses and read that.  (Yes, just one verse!)

3.  Talk about it.  Who’s speaking?  Who wrote the passage?  What do you think this passage means?  Sometimes, this takes some guidance, but it’s okay.  Talking is the key.  We’ve had nights where Tim and I start talking about the meaning of a verse and we finish the conversation and realize the kids didn’t say a word!  But that’s okay too…we are modeling what we want them to do!  Besides, I’m sure they learned a lot just from listening!  Also, if your kids are young, no matter what you read, their answer will be like Lydia (age 2) who says “God” or “Jesus” for every question we ask.  Or Hannah (age 4) who says, “Jesus died on the cross for our sins” for everything we ask her.  Those answers are great!  Accept them and realize that everything you talk about they are learning!  It just takes a while to gather in their mind before they can begin making sense of it.  It’ll happen!  Keep going!  As they get older, the rewards are so great!  Isaac is now 8, and I love having conversations about God with him.

4.  Pray.  We do the circle prayer at our house.  Usually we will ask the kids what they want to pray about.  If they are having trouble thinking of something, we might help them or suggest that they thank God.  They will each take their turn (after the girls argue over who prays first *sigh)  Then, usually Tim or I will close out our time with prayer.

5.  Keep going.  It is SO tempting to quit family time.  We just went through a two week spell where we had VBS and then we all got sick and family time went to the back burner.  I felt terrible.  But, the worst thing we can do is have a couple of bad weeks and let that discourage us enough to quit.  Life happens.  Kids get sick, there are late nights at church.  Give yourself grace and know that even on the days that you don’t get to formally have family time, you’re still showing your kids Christ through your actions and the words you spoke to them in the car and during that fight they were having with their sister, and when you needed to ask their forgiveness for snapping at them.  The worst thing to do would be to continue the pattern.  Have family time, even if you can only get together to study once a week.  That is GREAT!  Do it!  It’s SO worth it!  I promise!

6.  Keep going even if your kids don’t like it.  I’m adding on this point because I think it’s so important to know that if this is new for your bunch, it may not necessarily be accepted with excitement.  Keep in mind, you’ll probably be breaking already established routines, and that doesn’t go over too well (believe me, I know!).  So, if your kids don’t like it, it’s ok.  Keep going.  Give them time and they will change.  God’s Word has a way of transforming us.  No matter what, keep going.

7.  Make it work for your family.  Family time was hard when our girls were babies.  VERY HARD!  They didn’t sit still, they screamed and talked, and honestly, we didn’t do it as much during that season of life, but as they got older, they’ve gradually gotten better.  We started slow (5 minute family time) and increased it over time.  We now do about 15 minutes-unless we really get going on a topic!  Our girls have finally learned to sit still (relatively) and listen.  It will happen.  Don’t be discouraged, just keep going.  Try different things until you find what works.  Give the baby a quiet toy or a picture book about Jesus, try sitting on the floor with the youngest in your lap.  Let them help.

Once again, I am no expert.  I fall short every single day.  I just know that this was a struggle for me, and we found that, for us, the best answer was the simple one.  Just a Bible and our family.  And oh, the blessings!  The world problems we have solved during our family time sessions….(ha!).  The fruit we’ve seen.  Good stuff.  The best!

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