Seven-thirty in the evening has arrived in the Rothwell household. Three children—ages six, four, and two—are in their pajamas, sitting in the living room. The dog sits quietly in the corner. Their mother opens the Bible and reads to them while they listen attentively. I then ask questions from the Children’s Catechism, and the three respectfully answer them in unison. Then, they trot off to bed happily.
Many nights, that is more or less what our family worship looks like. Other nights, however, things are different. The kids will all be in their pajamas when we start our evening devotions, but nobody is sitting still. During the Bible reading, the six-year-old might do an impromptu jig. The two-year-old may start running laps around the coffee table. It is possible that the four-year-old will be riling up the dog.
While answering the catechism questions, there might be a fit of giggles. One of them may be staring off into space. My wife might have to separate the other two. Finally, we end in prayer and put the kids to bed. On such nights, my wife and I will ask each other if what we’re doing is making any difference, if the kids are even paying attention.
It would be easy to give up this ritual. Honestly, some nights it’s exhausting. Occasionally, things are so crazy or we are running so late that we just have a quick prayer and then send the kids to bed. We do not want to become legalistic about this practice by believing that the salvation and piety of our children relies exclusively on this daily devotional period.
Yet, despite our failings, our inconsistencies, and our periodic doubts that it is having an effect, we press on. Strangely enough, and I’m not sure I can explain it, the consistency does pay off over time. It is a little like the far more important and biblically mandated discipline of weekly corporate worship. Even as adults, we do not listen to the sermon as well as we could. We start thinking about lunch during the second hymn. During the offering, we remember the project that is due tomorrow. Our minds wander during the preaching. We wonder if our participation in worship is actually growing us as Christians. If we measure it week by week, we may think nothing is happening. But month by month, year by year, we see ourselves growing in the knowledge and grace of Christ. The truths really do soak in if we’re faithful to attend to God’s means of grace in worship.
Something similar happens as we press on to teach our kids about God, not only in our regular devotional times but as opportunities present themselves throughout the day. They’re hearing and absorbing things even when we think they’re not. My encouragement to you is to press on teaching your children. It is having an effect.
How do I know? Just the other day, the six-year-old asked her two-year-old sister, “What are the names of the persons in God?” From the backseat came this answer: “The Father, the Son, and the ’oly ’pirit.”