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FIRST-PERSON: Tips for planning a family devotional for the New Year

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The New Year brings the opportunity to start fresh and create a plan for the months ahead. It gives us each a chance to look at our past year and see what worked, what didn’t, where God showed up, and what He spoke to us in our struggles, strengths, losses and victories.

As adults, we each get the opportunity to do this personally and gain wisdom and vision for our year. In addition, it’s extremely enjoyable to chart a course for our families through devotional reading together. A special grace abides in us when we jump into God’s Word as a family, and January is a perfect time to do so. Here are a few tips for choosing a devotional for your New Year and utilizing it in a way that encourages, nourishes and helps your family love God’s Word and His wisdom.

  1. Choose a devotional that suits the age ranges and interests of your children. If you have littles, it might be as easy as reading through a children’s Bible or teaching them how to repeat after you in prayer. If you have older kids, you might find it beneficial to grab a devotional that relates to topics they are dealing with in everyday life like friendships, self-confidence, growing up in a saturated world or other important conversations. Whatever you choose, try to find something that generally takes 10 minutes or less per day. This helps everyone gather before bed or at the dinner table with consistency. A little bit each day makes a huge difference!
  2. Give everyone a chance to read out loud (if reading age). This gives kids confidence, helps aid in reading skills and allows each child a chance to lead. Hearing from each person at one time or another gives the devotional the avenue of teamwork and less the sense of being taught by a teacher in a class.
  3. Be honest. Allow this time with your kids to be an opportunity to share candidly, to ask questions and to be very relational. Kids love connection, and they enjoy hearing what adults believe and why we believe it. Hearing stories from when their mom and dad were kids or teenagers encourages them to feel connected and understood by their parents. This is a great time to dig a little deeper than surface conversations.
  4. Encourage questions. Kids will always ask questions, and sometimes adults can be too tired, busy or distracted to answer. Use this time to give your children the freedom to find out what they want to know about God’s Word, you and how to react in certain situations. This can be a precious time of laughter, wisdom and peace.
  5. Keep a short diary of what you talked about, or date each page of the devotional and write margin notes. It’s nice to have a keepsake at the end of the year or even during the year when someone needs a review or reminder of what was learned.
  6. Zoom in Grandma and Grandpa, or have them join you at the dinner table on Sunday afternoon for some of the devotionals. It’s an added joy to have additional family members or family friends participate in this time together.
  7. Write down your favorite Bible verses from your devotional and post them around the house where you’ll easily see them and can be reminded about what you’re learning together. This can help you remember to keep up with one another, encourage one another, and always be mindful of what God is doing for you as a family.
  8. Don’t worry if you miss a day here or there. Life happens, and there is no need to stress out.
  9. On the other hand, try to be as consistent as possible so your daily devotional truly falls into your family rhythm for the year.
  10. Pray for your time and for your family regularly. As you hear the needs, concerns, Bible verses and lessons your family is working through, you’ll find key points where you can lift their lives and thoughts up to God. Allow Him the opportunity to answer your prayers, provide for you and bless you with His presence.

Starting a devotional at the beginning of your New Year can be one of the most practical, special and fun things you do. It’s never a waste of time to connect with the ones you love over bits of Scripture and everyday happenings. Having a book, reading plan or written prayers can give you a guide when you most need one, a plan when things can seem busy, grace for tough times and joy when things get difficult.

Enjoy the journey!

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