Oct 7, 2016

Teaching the Faith at Home (even when devotions aren't going well)

By Alison Andreasen

After hearing about families who have enacted devotion time in their homes effectively, our family has attempted to do the same many times. We’ve had our plan in place and were excited about the new strategy we would employ to lead our children in the daily habit of being in the Word.

Enter real life. The time we thought would work was the toddler’s bedtime. FAIL! My husband has a job that requires him to be away from home at least two nights a week and the allotted time was in the evening. FAIL! We tried lunch time, which happens to be WAY too close to the toddler’s naptime and husband’s job often means he is away from home at lunch breaks unexpectedly . . . . FAIL again! Stomach flu wreaking havoc, unexpectedly moving houses, mom being exhausted and pregnant and doing well just to keep everyone alive. FAIL, FAIL, FAIL!  

If you are like me, you have felt the sting of failure from our struggles with the world, our sinful flesh, and Satan. If you feel that you have neglected this duty and are sorry for not implementing this in your family, my advice to you is to confess your sins to God, our Father, knowing that He is faithful and just and will forgive you your sins!  If you struggle against the world’s requests of your time and are weary from work (whether inside the home or out), tell the Lord your struggles and ask for the God of peace to grant you rest, trusting that He has and will provide that rest. We all ask that the One who conquered Satan would curb his action in our lives so he would not be granted an opportunity to tempt or prevent our being in the Word.

No matter what enemy of Christ is at work, whether our sinful nature, the cares of the world, or Satan, we know He has taken it all upon Himself and promises to forgive us, sustain us in this life, and protect us from the onslaught of the Devil.

Sometimes, when we feel beaten down by our failures, we need to hear of his unfailing love several times a day. If this is you, hear these words now:

“Behold, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.

Then later in this chapter:

Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.

The Almighty God, all powerful and all knowing cares for you because you are clothed in Christ.  He looks at you and sees His precious lamb. You are His sheep and He is your shepherd. He will tend to you--you who are with young. He leads you gently and although you may feel that your struggles are not seen by God, be assured that He does see. He promises that He will give power to the faint and will renew your strength.

Is It Really a Command?

Sometimes, when we feel beaten down by the law, it is also helpful to evaluate the commands that we feel so guilty and ashamed of breaking. Are they truly God’s commands? Sometimes the voice in our heads talks like the Pharisees who made laws stricter than God’s laws and gave very specific actions to embody the commandment. Of course we know Jesus challenged many of these man-made notions and turned things on their head.  

When you hear the term, “catechesis in the home,” what do you imagine? For many Lutherans, it looks like a time of day, every day, set aside as a family to read Scripture, pray, sing and perhaps memorize a Bible passage or a portion of Luther’s Catechism. There might be candles involved, or a family altar. Everyone is there and everyone is focused. This is good, right and salutary. God is a God of order after all. But . . . .

Are we feeling guilty because we can’t seem to teach the faith like “other” families do or how we THINK it should look? Do we think that if we do family devotions a certain way that our children will be saved? You see the tricky trap is that “teach your children” has been replaced with “open catechism at exactly 6:30 p.m.”

Scripture itself speaks of catechesis happening in a more unorganized way--a way that you might already be employing.

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” Deuteronomy (6:6-7). This passage reminds me of how teaching the faith with a preschooler might happen. As you live your life, a flower seen on a walk is an invitation to mention its Creator or tell the account of the lilies of the field. A dead bird gives testimony to the brokenness of creation and the hope in the new heaven and the new earth where we will not see those things anymore. Hearing about bullying at school offers the opportunity to discuss the soldiers who tortured the innocent Jesus who forgave all bullies who repent.  

In Deuteronomy 6 we hear, “When your son asks of you in the time to come what this means, tell him . . . .” This appears in several places such as Joshua 4 with slight variations. As we are living our lives as Christians and participating in church and activities, our children will ask us why. Opportunities will arise for discussion, and questions will come. We know this to be true from our own experience. Kids ask questions in church, at funerals, at nursing homes. Sometimes we want to hush them, but these texts invite us to answer when they arise. Guess what? Catechesis is taking place!

With the attention span of preschoolers and the constant needs of babies and toddlers, I have found that many small teaching moments throughout the day go much more smoothly than one single devotion time. A scripture reading at one part of the day, prayers said at various times, and hymns sung at another part of the day. One done as we sit at home, one done as we travel or go on a walk, another as we eat and go to bed. Catechesis is taking place. 

There will be a day when these small teaching opportunities are accompanied by a set devotion time around the table. Until then, we pray that the Shepherd would tend us, feed us and gently lead us as we seek to live out our faith and instruct our children in the joy of the Lord.  May He who has begun this good work in us bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.


Alison is a wife of one, mother of three, and teacher of many. She lives in rural South Dakota where she enjoys life on the prairie as a dual parish pastor’s wife. A trained Lutheran school teacher and homeschooling mom, she has a passion for children’s education, especially education in the Christian faith. She is a brainstormer by nature and those who are close to her never know what new idea she will think of next. Recent adventures with her family have included tapping trees to make syrup; creating, expanding, and selling her own granola business; and learning to preserve fresh garden goodness for year-round use.


  1. Thank you for this encouragement of parents of young children. I needed to hear this.
    I also just wanted bring to your attention there is an error in your your citation of Exodus 6:6-7 so you can fix it to Deuteronomy.
    God's blessings to you from a fellow Lutheran mom and pastor's wife.

  2. Thank-you for writing this article. As a mother of three young children, I was stimulated by your words and sharing of truth from Scripture to seek God in my times of struggle and failure rather than carry the burden myself or lean on my own understanding, which I tend to do. I am encouraged also by the practical examples of how we can teach our children about God and integrate catechism in the everyday. It sounds doable and practical in this season of mothering needy and wiggly little ones.

  3. I appreciate this article, Alison.

    These sentences really hit home for me: "Sometimes, when we feel beaten down by the law, it is also helpful to evaluate the commands that we feel so guilty and ashamed of breaking. Are they truly God’s commands? Sometimes the voice in our heads talks like the Pharisees who made laws stricter than God’s laws and gave very specific actions to embody the commandment."

    I tend to do this - make laws stricter than God's commands - and I am also prone to wanting to live up to other people's man-made laws to earn their approval.

    I am the more schedule/routine-oriented person and my husband has a big-picture view. Sometimes I make something into a law that isn't (we haven't reviewed catechism as a family this week!) and fail to see all the good God does through my husband for my children - the Bible stories, conversations, modeling repentance and forgiveness. Thank you for showing me this.

    When we fail in our vocations as father and mother (and we do!), God forgives us for Jesus sake, and works His word in our children's hearts and minds despite us.


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