how to have dinnertime family devotions that stick

family devotionsFamily dinnertime is about so much more than the food. 

It’s the only time of day when the whole family is together. Conversation, community and bonding happen around that table.

Except when it doesn’t. Not every dinner time is a glorious experience. However, the repetition of time spent together and discussing God’s Word adds up in ways we can’t always see in the day-to-day.

It’s why, even though my kids are busy teenagers, I still try to have dinnertime family devotions as often as humanly possible. 

With dueling schedules and dueling siblings, it’s not easy.

Getting everyone at the table at the same time is a Herculean feat. Having a meaningful family devotions without bloodshed sometimes seems nearly impossible.

Here’s a peek into a typical family dinnertime:

Micah: I’m done with my dinner. I’ll read the devotion.

Molly: Oh, brother, why does he always have to rush to read the devotion? Can’t we just eat and talk for five minutes?

Micah: Stop it, Molly! Be quiet!

Micah begins reading then stops.

Micah: Why is she just sitting there glaring at me?

Mom or Dad: Just keep reading.

Micah continues reading. Molly interrupts with an observation — sometimes related to the devotion and sometimes not.

Micah: Why does she always have to interrupt? I swear, I can’t ever finish without her butting in.

Molly: I thought the whole point of these family dinners is that we’re supposed to talk.

Dad: Molly, let him finish. Micah, quit whining and just read.

Eventually, the entire devotion and Scripture is read. And an amazing thing happens. A discussion begins to take place that does not end in sibling assault. They start asking insightful and challenging questions. Don’t get me wrong. This does not happen every time. (If only!) Sometimes, the victory is just getting through it.

But more often than their dad and I would predict, all the pre-devotion wrangling ends with something like this:

Molly: That was actually pretty good.

Micah: Yea, I liked that one.

And despite the resistance, we’re actually glad we persevered.

Here are a few tips we’ve found helpful over the years:

* Allow each child to choose a devotion book and take turns.

* Wait until the end of the meal. Kids need time to talk about their day and loosen up.

* Keep the devotional time short. Kids’ attention is fleeting. You only have their attention for a few precious minutes. Dragging out devotion time will usually make them dread it.

Ask a question or two to get the conversation going, but then let them carry the discussion.

Make the table a safe place. They need the freedom to talk about what’s on their minds — even if it’s disturbing for us to hear sometimes. We want them working these issues out with us — the ones who love them most and have their best interests at heart.

My kids are at ages where they question more and try to figure out what they believe. They sometimes push against our instruction – in this and other areas, as well.

It’s normal. And good. It’s how they’ll eventually — with God’s help — make their faith their own.

That doesn’t mean it’s not scary for parents. And discouraging at times. So many times we’ve wanted to say, “Forget it! This is too much of a hassle! Go do your homework!” (Okay, we’ve said that a few times.)

But I’ve learned we have to continue to persevere. To not give in to the resistance. To continue to pour God’s Word and guidance into their lives.

If we allow them the freedom to question and grapple with their faith, they are more likely to one day enthusiastically embrace their faith again.

There are no guarantees. Our job is just to keep making sure they’re well fed.

The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry.It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it. Isaiah 55:10-11

Melinda Means

kids and faith

developing conscience in kids: where do we start?

child thinkingRebellion is easy. 

A boundary is set from a parent. Then, kids push back until they decide their going to win or lose. 

But what if they came up with the boundary on their own? Seem impossible? Not really. Kids want to feel good about themselves and their behavior.

Is developing conscience in children worth it? Our job is to lead them in the direction of self-awareness–that place that reigns us in, pulls us back and makes us self-correct.

That’s where we can come in. Our influence is real. As their mothers, we can offer a path of discovering why and how they may have sinned. Why is this important? Because we ultimately want them to be asking themselves these questions on a daily basis.

What does this actually sound like?

For little kids, the conversation could start like this:

“What are you happy about that you did today?”

“What did you do today that made you sad?”

“What did you do today that made Mommy/Daddy sad?”

“What did you do today that may have made God sad?”

For older kids, it’s difficult. Their consciences are more discreet. Yes, they want to feel good about themselves, but they may have basically developed a bad habit.

You name it. From biting their fingernails, to talking back. They don’t particularly enjoy that part of themselves. They want to feel better….

And they don’t know how to stop.

Here’s a great (and yes, long) list of questions to help our kids along in this process. A few a day would be good to tackle. It would at least get them started in the right direction of examining their conscience.

An Examination of Conscience for Children

Responsibilities to God:

  • Have I prayed every day?
  • Have I prayed my morning prayers and night prayers?
  • Have I prayed with my parents and family?
  • Have I been moody and rebellious about praying and going to church on Sunday?
  • Have I asked the Holy Spirit to help me whenever I have been tempted to sin?
  • Have I asked the Holy Spirit to help me do what is right?

Responsibilities to others:

  • Have I been obedient and respectful to my parents?
  • Have I lied or been deceitful to them or to others?
  • Have I been arrogant, stubborn or rebellious?
  • Have I talked back to parents, teachers or other adults?
  • Have I pouted and been moody?
  • Have I been selfish toward my parents, brothers, and sisters, teachers, or my friends and schoolmates?
  • Have I gotten angry at them? Have I hit anyone?
  • Have I held grudges or not forgiven others?
  • Have I treated other children with respect or have I made fun of them and called them names?
  • Have I used bad language?
  • Have I stolen anything? Have I returned it?
  • Have I performed my responsibilities, such as homework and household chores?
  • Have I been helpful and affectionate toward my family?
  • HaveI been kind and generous with my friends?

(reprinted with permission)

The most important question we can ask, however, is “What can I do as your mom to encourage you?”

Ultimately, what we all want for our kids is to have well developed consciences…

that listen to God’s lead…

that heeds the conviction in their hearts…

that asks for forgiveness

and that live in a state of grace.

What can we do to help kids develop their consciences?

How can we encourage them when they recognize a bad habit that they want to change?


Kathy Helgemo



one mom’s regret: kids and media boundaries

kids and media boundariesIt can consume every moment of the day.

It has the potential to sap every creative impulse in our heads.

It can destroy relationships.

It can easily become more important than God in our lives.

Given it’s power, it only makes sense to limit our kids’ exposure — and our own — to media of all types.

I’ll admit I’ve failed at this — badly.

When my daughter was entering middle school, MySpace was just gaining popularity. Facebook was not well-known or widely used. Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram didn’t exist.

Plus, I was incredibly naive. I had limits on television for the kids, but I had no plan for social media. I grew up as a “good” girl. I didn’t appreciate the scope and potential of unwise uses for social media. I didn’t consider how this relatively new form of communication might mesh badly with my daughter’s more adventurous personality and tendencies.

I’m not even sure I knew the term “social media” at the time.

By the time I realized it’s destructive potential, the genie was already out of the bottle. She was hooked. It was incredibly difficult — although not impossible —  to set new boundaries.

I have regrets. Perhaps it may help you to know a few things I would do differently if I knew then what I know now:

Delay allowing them to have their own accounts. My daughter had a MySpace in 6th grade. I didn’t make the same mistake twice. My son wasn’t allowed on Facebook or Twitter until he was several years older. Every child is different, but I think the more you can delay access to social media accounts, the better. I think this is especially important for girls. Most girls are drama-prone by nature. Social media multiplies the potential for drama 100 fold.

Don’t bury your head in the sand.  Although I wish I’d delayed allowing my daughter to set up social media accounts, I know that I wouldn’t have been able to completely shut down all of her access to social media. You probably can’t either. All their friends have it. Whether they have their own accounts or not, you can nearly guarantee that they are being exposed to social media at school and/or at their friends’ houses. It’s literally everywhere.

That’s the reality. So, it’s important to teach your kids about the dangers and responsibilities of social media. Those include sexting, predators online, substituting “virtual” relationships for real communication, saying things online that you’d never say in person … the list goes on. Talking about these dangers and their consequences regularly is vital. Show them examples of social media’s potential destructiveness in the news among kids their age. Also, be open and prepared to talk with them about how they see social media negatively affecting their own lives and their friends’.

Put filtering software on their computers and handheld devices. Do this from Day One if possible. I didn’t. And she was exposed to things that I naively didn’t even realize existed. Kids are curious about a lot of things that they aren’t ready to handle. There are things they never need to be exposed to. Ever. I wish I had been a better gatekeeper — at least to the extent that I could exercise control. Covenant Eyes is a great accountability and filtering program.

Set a good example. As a writer and blogger, sitting in front of a screen is how I make my living. But I still need to put limits on it. I haven’t always been good at doing this. A few months ago, I started taking Sunday off. No computer, very limited television, if at all. I’ve also been trying to close the computer in the evenings or limit it to very short blocks of time.

We can’t credibly tell our kids to limit their time on social media if we’re not doing the same.

It’s hard for our kids to hear God speak to their hearts when it is being cluttered with so many other voices.

And His voice is the only one that will never lead them down a dangerous path.


Today’s Challenge: Our kids have to hear God’s voice in order to have bold faith. Reevaluate the media boundaries you have for your kids. Make adjustments if necessary.

Melinda Means

kids and faith

how to teach kids about tithing

teaching kids about tithingIf someone walked up to us and said, “Give me 10% of everything you have,” we’d probably either laugh or call the cops if they were armed.

Yet, the Christian tradition of tithing is exactly what this can feel like.

For kids, they especially don’t like it when someone tells them to give something up or let someone else have it.

But tithing is a habit. Just like brushing our teeth. If we get used to it being a “non-choice”, then we see why God has instructed us so clearly in giving back to Him just a small portion of what we has given to us.

Kids really have to see things sometimes to believe it. Teaching kids about tithing isn’t as difficult as it seems when we put it in physical forms they can see and touch. 

Here are 5 ways to show our kids what 10% really looks like:

1. 10 one dollar bills. Cold hard cash. Let them decide which charity the one goes.

2. Cut a pizza cut into 10 slices. Place 1 on a plate. Wait until they ask, “Who’s that for?” Well, funny you should ask…..

3. Gather 168 pennies. one for each hour of the week. Take out 16 of those. This is a good illustration of how much of our time should be given back to God in one capacity or another.

4. Bake 1o biscuits. Show them that God only wants one of those fluffy, little tidbits.

5. Get 1o flowers for the house. 9 of one color and 1 of another. Arrange them together and put the single color in the middle. That single flower stands out! Our giving to God should stand out in our hears as well.

These are just a few exercises in showing your children the principle of tithing. It’s a concept. It’s a habit. It’s really a way of viewing life, as a good steward of everything God has given us from time, to talent and treasure.

What have you done with your kids to encourage tithing?

Would you let your kids help you decide where and to whom family tithing money will be given?

How can we creatively illustrate to our children the habit/concept of tithing?