Nearly every parent with young children can attest to the importance of regular rhythms and routines for little ones. Particularly early in a child’s development, routines are both stabilizing and comforting. Of course there is value in spontaneity, but predictable patterns provide a valuable foundation for children.
Like many other parents, one of the places we’ve sought to develop intentional routines with our three kids is at bedtime. After the traditional activities (teeth brushing, potty, PJs, stories), we begin our “bedtime liturgy.” This includes: (1) prayer time, (2) special words, and (3) family commitments.
- Prayer time. My wife prays with the children. In addition to praying for them, we’ve committed to praying for a different family from our church each week. It’s been neat to see the kids latch onto this concept and get excited about the families we’re praying for throughout the year.
- Special words. Each night, I speak “special words” over each child. This is a personalized reminder of who they are, what we see in them, and how deeply they are loved by us and by God. Genesis 1 reveals that words create worlds (notice that God speaks creation into existence – Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 24, 26). In the same way, we want to use our words to create a world where our children hear every day the deepest truths about who they are and who God is.
- Family commitments. We end the “bedtime liturgy” by saying our family commitments together (right). These are rooted in Matthew 23:23, where Jesus identifies certain parts of the Law as being more important than others. As a family, we want to be committed to the things Jesus says are most important: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. This is a newer practice for us, but within a few months the kids have memorized and internalized these key values.
To be clear, I don’t share this to brag or to puff ourselves up. I realize a post like this runs the risk of appearing pretentious or self-righteous. That’s not my intent. Rather, I simply want to share a practical example of what’s been working for us right now, one way among many to intentionally develop godly routines in the lives of our children.
Maybe something like this can be useful to those of you with young kids; maybe it won’t. But I’m hoping all of us with children – whatever age they may be – are thinking intentionally about how our life rhythms are forming and shaping them. And more broadly, that every one of us is committed to regular practices that develop and sustain our faith in and relationship with God.