I never touched an iPad until I was 31 years old, and yet my 3, 5, & 7 year old children have never known life without one. Smart phones and tablets are nearly famous for inflicting families with a host of distractions, dangers, and temptations, and certainly, families need to continue these conversations, seeking ways to protect their hearts and homes.
To that end, I recommend a few blogs written by Tim Challies. Here is one on "Parenting Well in a Digital World," one on using your smartphone for God's glory, and his review on "A Device to Protect your Family Online."
The common theme in most of what we read today is that embracing all of this technology in ignorance, with no filters, no accountability, no Gospel-centered conversations, no restraint, and with no difference than how the rest of the world engages these things, will find sin entering the home, upsetting the spiritual health of our families. On the other hand, perhaps if we can apply biblical wisdom to the use of smartphones, internet, and tablets, we can discover ways to redeem this technology and bless our families.
My family has been experimenting with this since the beginning of the year, exploring various apps that could actually encourage our family worship and personal devotions. So here's a list of:
10 Apps that Encourage Family Worship (when used with accountability, wisdom, and in moderation):
- ESV Bible: A Bible app is a must-have, and the ESV Bible app is my favorite. This offers reading plans, your personal library, and, of course, the ability to highlight, bookmark, and share (on social media) Bible verses. Having Scripture in your pocket will hopefully encourage your family to hide God's Word in your heart (Psalm 119:11).
- New City Catechism: This is a newer app that helps families (great for adults & children) learn Christian truths through 52 questions and answers. Parents can teach these to their children so that when the parents ask the questions, the children are able to recite the answer from memory. This is very user friendly, broken into three sections: (1) "God, Creation & Fall, Law;" (2) "Christ, Redemption, Grace;" (3) "Spirit, Restoration, Growing in Grace." Along with the questions and answers, the app provides Scripture, commentary, and prayers.
- The Beginner's Bible: With 94 Bible stories and activities for every story (coloring sheets, puzzles, & games), this is one of my kids' favorite apps. It's free, but you have to pay to unlock all of the stories. Available on iPad.
- Solid Joys Daily Bible Devotional: Desiring God presents these devotions from John Piper's ministry, including Scripture and a short devotion for everyday. As you gather for family worship, you can open this app and lead your family through the Scripture and application.
- Bible App for Kids: This is a YouVersion app that presents Bible stories chronologically, including an activity with each story. Children can read along or simply listen to the story. This is a free app available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.
- RightNow Media: Both adults and children will find a rich library of videos, music, devotionals, and Bible studies through this resource. The kids zone includes episodes like Boz, VeggieTales, and What's in the Bible, while adults will recognize many of the contributors, including Matt Chandler, Kevin DeYoung, Beth Moore, Voddie Baucham, Christy Nickels, and J.D. Greear. A subscription is required, but churches often purchase this in order to provide the content to their church members at no cost. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.
- iTunes Music: Just about every device already has iTunes or another music media player. The way we use this to encourage family worship in our house is simple. We create a worship playlist and we allow it to play through the house when we're getting ready in the morning, cooking dinner, or even while we're playing outside. This is just one way to begin leading your family to enjoy the heart of Ephesians 5:18-20: "Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
- FaceTime: Here's another standard app that can become a part of your next Family Devotion. As we seek to be Great Commission Families who share God's heart for the nations, let us encourage our families to know and pray for missionaries around the world. Try calling one of these missionaries on FaceTime and allow your family to hear testimonies of what the Lord is doing among the nations. "We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done" (Psalm 78:4).
- Kids Bible Coloring Book: This can be especially helpful for toddlers and children who do not read yet. It offers coloring sheets for a host of Bible stories, including Scripture at the top of each page. Parents can read the Bible verses to their children while the kids color the picture of the Bible story they're learning.
- IMB Pray: The International Mission Board, a missionary sending nonprofit, has put out this app that you can use in Family Worship to open up your eyes and hearts to the spiritual needs of the nations. It includes a Kids on Mission Pray section, information on unreached people groups, and videos. Begin leading your family to pray for the lost.
Jonathan Williams is the founder of Gospel Family Ministries. He is also the author of Gospel Family. Jonathan enjoys this ministry alongside his wife, Jessica, and their three children, Gracie, Silas & Elijah. With a heart for families and the church, Jonathan also serves as the pastor of Wilcrest Baptist Church in Houston, Texas.