How long should we spend in family devotions? Struggling with this very question over the years, I often tried the patience of my family. At times I would attempt to dig into a biblical text seeking to find out everything my children understood about it and explaining everything I thought they should know about the text. Sometimes I would spend time preparing a devotional which proved to be exhausting. If I had nothing pre-planned I feared that the time would be wasted. It seemed superficial if we didn't spend a certain quantity of time. What I was missing all along was the quality of time spent in short segments gently shepherding my family one small step at a time.
So, it was the subtitle of Machowski's family devotional guide, "Ten-Minute Devotions," that first caught my attention. On the one hand, I questioned whether it was possible to have a quality devotional time in only ten minutes. On the other hand, I figured that, if I could keep to only ten-minutes, I certainly would be able to convince my family to bear with me and allow me to review this resource with them.
I promised to keep within the ten minute plan and after only a couple of days we had a good pattern set. I am thrilled! Machowski's Old Story New is helping me keep to a manageable time frame by supplying a guide to reading scripture, meditating on the text, discussing the text and praying in light of the text. Each of these steps is purposeful and meaningful.
We are currently in week five. Old Story New is set up on a five-day pattern. This helps in at least two ways. First, the five-day pattern allows for flexibility. I decided to have our family worship time at the close of our evening meal. This is the one time of day that we are most consistently together. It has been our informal "family time" where we have learned to pray and talk together. We are not always at home for our evening meal, so the flexibility to miss two days per week alleviates the pressure of a more rigid schedule. Second, the five-day pattern follows an intentional cycle for Bible study that teaches us to imagine the biblical scene (day 1), remember it ("what will happen next?" - day 2), connect it to the gospel (day 3), remember it ("what have we been learning?" - day 4), and discover it ("what does the book of Psalms or one of the prophets say about Jesus or our salvation?" - day 5).
Each week begins with directions for an interactive activity. (Our children [12 and 10] have enjoyed each of these activities.) Each day includes a brief introduction or question, an assigned biblical text to read, a brief explanation, a few questions with suggested answers, and finally a suggestion for how to pray in light of the current lesson. At least one day each week there is an opportunity for the children to ask the parents a question. Our kids have probably enjoyed this feature the most.
Machowski has provided a wonderful, manageable and fun resource to help families worship together. This has been a wonderful blessing to our family and I know that it will be a blessing to yours, too.
On a critical note, I would like to remind parents that this devotional guide is merely an aid and should not be leaned upon as a definitive source for theology. If you have a question, I would urge parents to search the scriptures. Prayerfully compare scripture with scripture and follow the suggested cross-references in your Bible. If you still need help, run your question by an elder or pastor in your church.
NOTE: The Westminster Bookstore is currently offering a very generous discount on this book. This offer ends at the close of business on 11/3/2012. CLICK HERE.
While you're at it, you simply MUST pick up copies of Sally Lloyd-Jones's The Jesus Storybook Bible (the Deluxe Edition is worth the little bit extra!) and Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing. I cannot believe I put off purchasing the former title when it was first published. Lloyd-Jones retells the biblical story from a view of the big picture of the gospel. So many phrases are memorable throughout this book; Lloyd-Jones has a remarkable ability to cut through acres of theology and to state deep truths with profound simplicity and elegance. This book is remarkable; my family has enjoyed it, my wife has made use of it in her kindergarten class, and I have made use of it for sermon illustrations. I was so impressed with the former volume that I quickly purchased the latter which was recently published. It, too, is phenomenal!
I encourage you to look into these resources.