My kids are “tweens” – that’s short for tweenager which describes kids between the ages of 10 and 14. We never used to have tweenagers. Well, we did have kids aged 10-14, but they were either kids, or teenagers. But fun fact – “tweenager” it was used as early as the 1940s apparently.
Anyway, my boys are at that age where they are too old for a lot of kids devotions, but not yet old enough for teenage type devotions. But I really want them to have good habits (and good parenting habits for me too!) and, as a single mum, making sure they are spiritually led is important to me. Not that their faith decisions will be anything to do with me – God will do that – but as a parent, I have one goal for their spiritual life:
Create the space for God to do his work in them.
So, after stopping and starting, and flip-flopping through various resources, I’ve gradually hit on a system that works for us. It took a while but I started with one thing and then gradually added to it as each step was bedded down:
Step 1: We’ve always said grace before dinner but we have moved now to one of the boys saying grace. After a couple of weeks, I don’t need to prompt them but they now take responsibility for prayers.
Step 2: Devotions during dinner. I could never find the right time to do a devotion with the boys but I figured that since dinner happens every day, that’s the time to do it. I found eventually a devotional series from Zondervan Kidz: Devotions to take you Deeper ($9 on Kindle). Its developed for boys and is n a series of 3 but Zonderkidz have a broad range of devotions. I read the Bible verse and the devotion. This takes about 3 minutes. Sometimes the boys have no questions (and they’re too hungry to care) but sometimes they have lots and the devotion is a spur to some really amazing conversations.
Step 3: I started changing how I did my own devotions. I used to do my Bible reading at night when the house was quiet. I switched to doing it in the morning so the boys can see me reading the Bible and praying every day. It’s not easy – I have to be OK with noise in the background – but listening to the audio on speaker while I read discourages them (a bit) from asking for breakfast snacks and they are gradually getting more used to it. I don’t want them to think that daily devotions are so serious that they are not allowed to intrude, but I do want them to recognise that devotions need focus.
Step 4: With dinnertime devotions bedded down well in our routine, I added reading the book of Mark. They are old enough now to start piecing together the broader arc of the Bible and will soon be in youth groups where they will be exposed to youth preaching (rather than stories from kids church) and part of small groups. They also need to start being comfortable reading through the Bible (or a book of it) for themselves. So as soon as we’ve done the devotion at dinner, I read a little chunk – just 6-8 verses in a translation that’s easier for their age range (I use the NLT). It only takes a couple of minutes but now they’re hearing a gospel from beginning to end.
Step 5: I have recently added this as I realised that as a child I knew the Lord’s prayer from very early on. This was from the days when we said it every day in school assembly back in the 70s. So I’ve decided to teach it to the boys in a way that will help them pray it for themselves. First, during my morning devotion, before I pray anything else, I pray the Lords prayer so the boys can join me. The next step was to ask a beautiful arty friend to draw a pretty picture with the words so we can have it up on the wall to say during our dinner prayers. The step after that will be to take the prayer one line at a time to talk through with them so that as we pray it, they understand it.
I realise I focus a lot of our activity at dinnertime which might make it sound like our dinners are very dour and prim. In actual fact, when you put it all together, we spend 5-10 minutes on our devotions, prayers and Bible reading and the rest of the time we chat and joke around as normal.
Everyone’s routines will look different but I hope this gives you a few ideas. The main thing is not to give up – I have tried and failed at many different ways of doing this. The way it works in my mind is never how it works in practise! But this latest system finally seems to be working and we’ve been doing this for some months now. I notice the difference in the boys. They randomly pray for more things (like when they’ve lost a library book or when my back is hurting) and their questions are really interesting. So I know its going in somewhere – because whatever works for our different families, its about staying focused on the long game:
Create the space for God to do his work in them.
Re-published with permission from Ruth Baker from Meet Me Where I Am.