It's important that we take some time to intentionally teach our children the things of God. But let's face it, it doesn't seem as if God wired our children to sit still and absorb the brilliance of dad's lecture on the Chalcedonian Definition vs. Monophysitism. Of course God's word is serious and is worthy of respect and reverence, but that doesn't mean teaching it disallows fun. In fact, an element of creativity will likely help children retain the lesson in their memory. Here are four ideas to make family devotions something your kids will look forward to.
1.) Act It Out
Maybe David slays Goliath with a paper wad. Maybe Jonah gets swallowed by couch cushions. Maybe Noah gets into a box with stuffed animals while dad the flood gives the box a good shake. Or maybe God calls Abraham to another land (the kitchen) where he will be blessed (with a plate of chocolate chip cookies) in order to bless the nations (siblings). Tell the story and have your children participate by acting out what happens next.
2.) IllustrateWith illustrating we are following in the sandal-prints of our savior. “The kingdom of heaven is like___________.” Jesus was a master illustrator. Mustard seeds, pearls, children, something about camels and needles, all these things were in Jesus' bag of "word pictures" to use in order to make a point and reveal truth.
The Apex Parents blog has stepped a bit into that realm through science experiments (a new example is in the video below).
Let life inspire you. We are surrounded by things that could help us communicate about our Creator. One of my favorite times serving in youth ministry was a hike we took in the Clifton Gorge/John Bryan area in Greene County where there are run down buildings, bridges, caves, a well, all things us leaders were able to use in teaching a lesson.
3.) Involve the Senses
In his book Family Driven Faith, Voddie Baucham wrote about how vividly he remembers his mother's practice as a Buddhist (she has since come to Christ):
My mother's Buddhism engaged, stimulated and made a lasting impression on every one of my five senses. 1
The sight of the golden Buddha statue, sound of beads in her hands and her mantra chants, the smell of burning incense and more are etched in his memory.
Of course Buddhism doesn't have the monopoly on engaging the senses. God gave His people the Passover with built in symbols meant to be experienced (ex: the bitter herbs meant as a reminder of the bitterness of slavery). Similarly, the Lord's Supper is something to experienced: seen, held and tasted.
What are ways we can engage our children's senses as we teach them about God?
Maybe they can get a taste of Jacob's red lentil stew (Genesis 25) or unleavened bread (Exodus 12). Maybe they can see and hear a shofar like Gideon's men had (Judges 7...Youtube can be educational!). Perhaps they get a smell of perfume, like the one Mary, the sister of Martha, poured on Jesus' feet (John 12). How about they feel what it's like to get their feet washed (John 13). These are just a few of many examples.
(With the Easter season coming up, here is a resource that will give kids a sense of the resurrection)
4.) Make a Joyful Noise
I heard a story from Dr. Scott Turansky that when he was a kid his dad would get home from work he would say, “Ok kids, it's bible time! Go get your instruments!” which were really pots, pans and wooden spoons. They would march through the house reciting a scripture verse they had been working on. Sometimes at a certain word they would bang their pots and make all kinds of noise. Younger children especially love singing songs and would be happy to learn several paragraphs if it gives them a chance to bang on something.
Additional tip: Teach the Big Picture
This isn't so much about being creative as much as it is about helping your child see that the bible is not a bunch of random stories lumped together, but rather it is one big story of God rescuing the world.
I find this article to be a helpful guide Reading the Bible as One Story
1. Voddie Baucham, Family Driven Faith, (Crossway 2007) 132.