Is Family Devotions Mandatory?

family-devotionsFamily devotions is one topic I take issue with, because I don’t believe it has to look a certain way. Women make themselves unlovely nags when they force their men to do family devotions. My husband, for example, leads the children with his Bible one-on-one as character issues come up, and he occasionally gathers them to read the Bible, when God is leading him to. My husband walks by the Spirit and leads our family spiritually, and he does not do family devotions.

Forcing men to do something that God has not convicted them to do can actually have the opposite effect on families, causing the children to have a negative view of reading Scripture. Truly, the man needs to go to God and have a heart for it and not just be bullied by his wife. If the man wants to lead his family one-one-one instead of as a group, that’s his prerogative, and it’s way more effective anyway. He doesn’t have to do it the way the homeschool movement has dictated for him to do it. He is free. He can rise up and do his will, and if he submits his will to God, he will be doing it right no matter what it looks like. It should look different in every family. Hearts for God is what matters, not outward form.

Men have such a wide variety of personalities, and obedience to God yields joy, not an unnecessary heavy burden that is dreaded. (Although I have to say… spiritual disciplines are often difficult to establish as habits, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do them. For a man to lead his family spiritually is a command from God that when disobeyed, causes a family to have stunted spiritual growth.)

I would like to point out that no Scripture is ever mentioned to support men doing family devotions. It is always Puritans that are quoted, as if Puritans and Scripture were identical. They are not. The general population of men in Scripture weren’t even literate. When God said for men to teach their children constantly about the things of God, it was supposed to come from their souls. God wanted them to be men of character who loved their wives and children and shepherded them in the freedom of the Lord. Yes, it’s hard work and a man has to fight against slothfulness, but a man can lead his family spiritually without doing family devotions. He can use his God-given personality, and his wife will like it. His kids will like it. There will be joy. Let’s break out of this artificial constriction and yield ourselves to God and God alone.

That said, I would like to state that when our husbands are leading our families spiritually, it is highly attractive to us as wives. Yes, I said attractive. Every Christian woman that I’ve ever mentioned this to agrees with me. When I see my husband talking to my son with his Bible open, my heart skips a beat. Even during Bible study when my husband uses his spiritual gift, my soul is uplifted and is knit to his soul in a way that makes me hunger him. I can’t explain it, but for us women, intimacy is more than the physical; it always was. During courtship there was emotional romance, which helped us to be attracted, but there is a soul attraction that is deeper than emotion and yet encompasses emotion, too. If you can align spiritual, emotional, and physical intimacy for a woman… wow is all I can say. ALL Christian marriages should be this way, incredible and beautiful.

When men take a more active role in leading their families spiritually, they are often awkward and blundering, but that vulnerability is highly appealing to a woman, just like vulnerability in a woman is appealing to a man. Better to start somewhere and blunder and do it β€œfor the wrong reasons,” and then once they get going, they get better at it and God uses them more and more effectively. If obeying out of duty is something men are reluctant to do, perhaps this highly appealing reason might do the trick. Let me tell you, obeying God yields rewards that you never dreamed were possible. At its best, it involves the crucifixion of your will and putting God’s will above your own. But until men get there, they should be allowed to blunder. It’s better than nothing, and your family needs it.

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14 Responses to “Is Family Devotions Mandatory?”

  1. Dawn says:

    You are absolutely right. Some men aren’t comfortable with leading at all. This may not be because they don’t have a heart for God, but that they are the first Christian in a long line of unbelievers. Leading spiritually doesn’t come naturally. I am married to a man who does not lead like this. He prays, he reads the Bible, and we pray as a family at bedtime, but that’s it. Sometimes he does read the Bible to the kids and we do talk of spiritual things with the kids, but I do any devotional reading/leading because that is how he prefers it. “Unlovely nags” and become that and worse! (I speak from experience.) I used to struggle terribly with envy over the way other women’s husbands lead… it was awful and I finally just had to give it to the Lord and let HIM lead the family for a time. It almost cost us our marriage, waaayyy back when and it’s not worth it. God is the only one who can make those changes. It’s not up to us as wives… so if there is a wife reading this whose husband doesn’t lead, you’re not alone. Take what God gives you and do the best you can. He’ll provide the rest. Love your husband anyway.

  2. Tracy says:

    Great post!

  3. Lori says:

    This is great and SO true ~ well written, thank you!

  4. Mandy says:

    There is more than one way for a husband to lead his family spiritually. I think a man who is faithful, adores his wife, reads stories to his kids at bedtime, and works hard to provide financially is a great way to show Christ like character qualities! Leading by practical action not just a bunch of fancy devotional words is better in my book.

  5. Heather says:

    This helped me so much. I was struggling with my husband not leading our family in a devotion. He has in the past, but I would have to say after reading your blog, he looked out of place. He ministers to our children differently and I will never make him feel like he has to follow some kind of “dad rule” of devotion time. I now see how God has used him to lead our children and I will never doubt the work he does for our family spiritually. It’s up to God and my husband, not me. Thank you for putting this spirit at peace over this subject.

  6. judi says:

    Great words! One minor disagreement, I believe that literacy was quite nearly universal among first century Jewish men. I don’t know about the Gentiles.

  7. Susan Evans says:

    Someone commented on the Homeschool Channel that her husband does family devotions. This was my answer:

    I think it’s wonderful that your husband does family devotions. I’m addressing the vast majority of Christian homeschooling moms (maybe 90%?) that don’t do family devotions. Most of them have bitterness toward their sweet husbands who lead the family spiritually in other ways and the husbands are never respected by their wives because they don’t do the conventional family devotions. My own husband did family devotions for about a year, and it just wasn’t working. My children respond way better one on one. The other thing is that you can use other materials. For example, out of the blue, my husband wanted to read Where the Red Fern Grows to the kids. So he read it, and he paused where the boy falls on the ax and spoke to our sons about anger, and how it can lead to death. (Also, don’t run with sharp objects! I said.)

  8. Samanthakay says:

    I used to fight with my husband and kids to do the monday night devotion that our Church is big on. I used to get so mad that my family did not want to do it just like we was told. Read the topic for the night play games and not fight. I would read on blogs of other mom’s in our Church going on and on about how much fun they was having. I would have anger towards my family. Now we do all this by the seat of our pants and its much more fun and full of joy.

  9. Thank you so much for writing this! I so often feel burdened by this and other mandates that come from the homeschooling community. Sometimes the “rules” that are passed around in this community are legalistic and can do more harm than good for some people.
    I’m a dyed-in-the-wool homeschooler, but I might also be considered a nonconforming homeschooler. For the most part, when I hear any kind of “It has to be done this way” advice, homeschooling or not, I usually say (to myself if no one else) “Says who?” And I really look at the situation and what God says and make my decision from there. This issue is harder, because it seems like everyone with any kind of credibility says “You have to have family Bible study, or family devotions, etc.” And so, there we go, just like you said, bullying our husbands and coercing our kids.
    Well, you have credibility in my book. I appreciate you reminding us which part of this is commanded (that a father disciple his children) and which part was not (family devotions.) I love the freedom that comes from letting go of man’s rules and holding on to God’s.

    • Susan Evans says:

      I used to feel burdened about it, too, and I naggged my husband into doing it, and he reluctantly did it, and nobody drew closer to God. If we yield to God, He will show us how we should teach our children the Word of God in our homes.

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