For almost sixty years, we've published a daily devotional booklet, first called The Family Altar and then Today. And we print hundreds of thousands of them every two months. Many on our mailing list receive the Today in bulk, for redistribution in their own congregations and neighborhoods.
Lately though, because of the economic downturn, we decided the stewardly thing to do was to print fewer of them overall. And so, having printed fewer, we had to ask our readers which of them needed them and which didn't.
It's become a fascinating journey of listening to people's stories about their ministries and devotional lives. Some have found the devotional transformational in their own lives, having been touched by the Spirit at just the right moment through these booklets.
Others have spoken passionately about their own ministries, sharing the devotionals with shut-ins, or hospital patients, or prisoners, or military personnel. I've been surprised how many have used the booklet as an opportunity to build relationships with neighbors, meeting every two months for a cup of coffee and to pass along the new devotional.
And yet others relate that these devotionals have deep roots in their families, having been used for decades as the family reading at the dinner table. They are a daily dose of family worship. In my childhood, we too ate dinner as a family most every night, ending with Bible reading, discussion, and prayer. I always took it for granted. Now I suspect many of my secular business acquaintances would call it quaint, with equal parts derision for the old-fashionedness and jealousy for the family intimacy. I consider it a rare and marvelous blessing.
Even now, with my own kids in middle and high school, we do our best to break bread each night and reflect on the Word together. Sometimes it's perfunctory. Sometimes it's rambunctious. Sometimes it's sporadic. I pray it's a spitirual discipline that somehow takes root in the next generations.
But more and more, devotions are personal, families are scattered, intimacy is mediated. As a media ministry, we're working to push our devotional content beyond paper toward electronic distribution--to email, podcasts, web syndication, an iPhone app. But these technologies are singular, not corporate. What does devotions lose when we're alone?
And so I'm curious about your experience. Did your family share meals and devotions? Is it common or rare? Do you have any kind of corporate worship outside of congrgational services? Can family devotions happen online?