Developing Devotional Habits in Children
There’s nothing quite like being tasked with writing a “how-to” article about helping your children get on track spiritually. After all, nothing guarantees a day or week of parental challenges like asserting you have the path perfectly figured out!
How to Develop Devotional Habits
I will give you some suggestions to consider, starting with you as a parent. Here we go!
The first thing to realize is that you need to come to grips with your own spiritual walk. If you will approach helping your child grow in Christ with the recognition that you neither of you are perfect, you will strengthen your relationship with God while strengthening your relationship with your child. While the first is absolutely our goal, none of us would reject the second, would we? So, approach this with humility, knowing that we are guiding our children along a path we are still walking.
It would be remarkably easier to guide our children to a solid prayer life and a deep devotional life if there was a perfect book out there for it. There really is not one—apart from the Bible itself. However, I know that is like saying the perfect meal is in your cabinet and freezer. Sometimes, recipes help! Beyond the Bible, your faith tradition may have good age-appropriate resources. I’m a fan of Lifeway Christian Resources’ I’m a Christian Now! and Starr Meade’s God’s Mighty Acts in Salvation. These may not be to your taste or your child’s needs. Additionally, they are short and can help with a launch, but are not going to be a long-term resource.
Resources that will last you as long-term, though, are out there. Your child certainly needs a Bible that is within their reading skill level. I would encourage you to aim high once you hit middle-school years and look at ESV or NASB. I would also recommend a notebook or a journal. If you’re just getting started, do not get overwrought about fancy journals. You are not looking to record the greatest theological insights of the last hundred years. If you want one additional resource to help with Scripture learning and handwriting, check out a journal like the Journibles series. These have space to copy the Bible verses and to jot down thoughts about them.
I have never met someone who just naturally knew how to have a devotional time or a prayer time. It is an acquired habit, though, more than a trained skill. As your child is younger, make space for them to join you during your daily devotional time. You can do this, even if your normal time is before wake-up or after bed. Make time in the day to take five to ten minutes, sit with your child, and read from Scripture or a Bible story book. Then, take time to pray aloud with your child. It can, and should, be simple.
As your child grows past the “read-to-me” stage, you’ll want to encourage them to develop their own habit. Start by keeping the same time in your schedule that you were reading together. This should help with consistency. Over time, your child’s attention span and ability to process spiritual ideas on their own will grow. This will take more time in the day, but as you see self-motivation, keep feeding their hunger and desire.
Overall, your goal is strengthening your child’s relationship with God. Keep your eyes on that truth. Your actions and reactions reflecting God’s grace and mercy will do much more than keeping a tight schedule would.