Family Bible Study: A Format For Devotional Time

I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked for ideas for devotional books: for teens, couples, singles, families, kids…the list goes on! Every time I’m asked, I come up short. I just don’t have a great answer. My dad helped me come to the realization that I just don’t like the idea of them.

A slight disclaimer: I resist things that everyone else is doing with every bone in my body. There might be great books on the shelf, but if everyone else is buying them then I’m not interested. It takes A LOT of good report to peak my interest. This may have something to do with my .

Bearing with this in mind, I still can’t help but feel like there is a certain amount of dependency developed when we have to open something besides our Bible to worship God. I think the perfect devotional book would start out looking like every other and slowly wean you, teaching you to study the Bible and pray without the words of men to guide you. I’m not here to tell you devotional books are bad, so I digress.

I AM here to share just one of many ways for going about a Family Bible Study.

Gather ’round!
Begin with Prayer. By starting this way, not only does it center everyone’s thought toward God, it’s a helpful reminder that you’re not there to memorize information or perform for anyone. You’re just there to worship. And God doesn’t judge by the outward appearance, but the heart right?


Read. We have varied between children’s storybooks, oral retellings and the Bible.

  • Storybook Bibles are NOT God’s word unless they are written word for word. They ARE however a wonderful way to share the message of God’s Word with your younger children. I believe it is monstrously valuable to help even your youngest children enjoy this time. We should not veer away from the truly inspired Word, but we should care enough to teach our littles in a way that makes sense to them. We like the Jesus Storybook Bible for the plan of redemption and the Illustrated Children’s Bible for its historically accurate illustrations.
  • On retelling: Sometimes we’ve opened to a portion of Scripture and one of our kids says “Ooh, ooh! I just learned about this one for school!” And we let them take it away. The ability to accurately communicate things from the Bible to others is so valuable! And what a better time than family worship to practice it. Alternately, there have been times when Nic or I have wanted to do the same for them. Communicate something from the Bible in a way that directly applies to our children’s lives.
  • The Bible is the only inspired Word of God and nothing can replace it as our source for truth. Reading directly from it is vital because 1) it gives life and 2) young people need to learn to understand it. The Bible can be difficult to understand. It takes some getting used to. Don’t rob your children of opportunities to mature spiritually by assuming they can’t handle Scripture.

Figure it out together. Discuss whatever it is you’ve just read. This is the perfect opportunity to both grow in understanding as well as leadership. We can all grow spiritually by learning through the Bible. But this is also a time for Godly men to lead there families and teach growing children to lead. Even an elementary age child can help a younger sibling understand something, sometimes better than an adult can simply because they know how their brother or sister ticks. Sometimes you may even get the opportunity to introduce study tools: dictionaries, concordances, interlinears etc. Also, if you’ve never done this before, prepare to be amazed at what comes out of the mouths of your children.

Praise Maybe singing isn’t your thing. If you think any one of your family members would enjoy worshiping this way, please consider doing it at least some of the time. Otherwise, share ways in which God amazes you or sit quietly with or without background music so you can each talk to God. Every family is different, so every family’s worship time will look different. Which is why I think it so helpful to put away the devotional book, at least once in a while.

Finally I suggest closing in prayer. Thank God for what He’s done and lift up one another’s needs. Often I’m amazed that the feeling of closeness as we pray together, especially after a good discussion or particularly fruitful time. The only word I can ever think to describe that moment is beautiful.


Other things you can include:

  • Meditation: quiet is not something people are used to, or comfortable with these days. Nic taught from Psalm 119 last night and I was reminded how important it is to just sit and let God’s word truly penetrate our hearts. For more suggestions you can read about Lectio Divina which we’ve used with young people to help them slow down and digest a few Bible verses.
  • Confession: God’s word is living and active. (Heb 4:12) Make a habit of being real and humble with one another. No, maybe this isn’t the time to admit a struggle with pornography, but it is a good time to say that you’ve fallen into sin. Or maybe if your youngest is a tween than maybe it is a good time to say you’ve been struggling with lust. Whatever level of detail your family is comfortable with, your children already know you sin. Seeing you repent and receive grace is the best experience with your sin they’re ever going to have.
  • Casual discussion: Sometime a nice visit about the verses or story you read (and maybe whatever else comes up) is the best thing for your growing family. Just don’t let the conversation get carried away every time.IMG_0767
  • Paper. What? Yes, paper. Trying to keep little ones quiet(ish) and still(ish) is a challenge. You can put the effort into finding appropriate coloring pages or activities to go along with what you’re discussing or you can take a lesson from my dear friend Penny and put out paper and a coloring medium. Penny would choose pencils; my kids like markers (and hate crayons). Given the choice between nothing and drawing, most children will become instant artists.

Finally a note on “littles.”

I read a descent post on the Mars Hill blog quite a while ago that had some great points regarding children. Of course I can’t find it now to share it with you, so I don’t remember how much of the following is my own and what was implanted in my brain from that article. First, making very young children sit still and remain quiet is a good way to make them hate this from the get-go. Yes, a certain amount of attention is required for it to be fruitful; but do think of it from their perspective. Second, have fun! I don’t think it’s a sin to giggle at funny-sounding names. It’s ok to giggle during Bible study. Third, be flexible. This might mean cutting it short because someone is fussy or just letting things go other than planned. Rigidity probably won’t get your kids hooked.

Also, this is probably not a good time (except on very rare occasions) to discipline. Take care of known disciplinary issues before hand. If something comes up during Bible study, (God’s Word does that you know) it’s a great time to talk through repentance and forgiveness. I suggest saving punishment for later. In fact, a mere “We’ll revisit this another time,” may be punishment in and of itself for some!

The idea of leading your family in Bible study can be daunting. But really all you need to do to start studying the Bible is read it. You can start small. Read and pray. In time things naturally morph into what works for you. You’ll slowly add and take away things until it comes easily, naturally, beautiful.


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