Friday, October 16, 2020

What I Look For In Devotionals

It would be easy to assume based on my reviews that I absolutely hate all devotionals all the time. But that just isn't the case. Today I thought I would share what I love, what I like, and what I don't like about devotionals. (I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on devotionals in the comments!)

I happen to like shorter devotionals. Not devotional entries. But shorter devotional books--28 days, 30/31 days, 40 days, 90 days etc. I don't mind yearly devotionals but the entries have to be consistently good--great even--to keep me committed all twelve months of the year.

I look for an APPETIZER and not a breath mint or after-dinner mint. I am looking for quality substance which may or may not translate into more words. I do think you can have concise and substantive (thought-provoking, engaging the mind and heart) and wordy and fluffy. I want devotional entries to leave me with a TASTE of something biblical and get me HUNGRY for the actual word of God.

I look for devotional entries SATURATED in the Word of God. Feed me from the Word. Don't feed me with stories from your life. Don't feed me with stories you've heard from other people's lives. That's not to say that entries can't be garnished with human experiences and stories. But keep the Word the main course. Unless the story relates to the Word and points me to the Word, then so what???

All entries don't have to be interconnected or build upon one another. But it's nice when they do sometimes. When the devotions from all week all fit together and connect to share some insight or celebrate some truth, there's a richness in that that can be lacking if all entries are disconnected and neither here nor there.

I don't mind longer entries. I know this might make me weird. After all, I think most devotionals are meant to be read in two or three minutes. But as crazy as this sounds, I would rather spend ten minutes and actually connect with the text and be engaged. Perhaps actually learn something and meditate on it. Texts that can be forgotten just as quickly and easily as they're read leave me disappointed. 

Devotionals are typically designed for "busy people" and "busy people" don't have time to unpack substantive theology. Or do they??? Are expectations for readers set to low by publishing companies and authors? I'd like to think that no one is too busy for theology. Because theology should impact how we're living day to day to day. Doctrines should be lived out. 

I think often the focus is on trying to make people feel good--feel warm, cozy, encouraged, uplifted--instead of being written with the focus to teach, instruct, edify, build up. We are to grow in the faith--feeding our hearts, minds, and souls. And I think often the mind part is just left out of the equation. 

Dates. I don't care if devotionals have dates attached. I'm just as happy without. 

If you are going to claim to be a devotional that works through the whole Bible or to help readers get the whole story of the whole Bible--make your entries actually about the main things in Scripture and not side-side-side-side tangents on how a passage makes you feel and reminds you of a time six years ago when you went to a Sunday School class and spilled coffee on your Bible. 

Don't give me one or two verses of Scripture and then think you've done your job of feeding me. 

If you include prayers--don't pack the prayer with ALL agenda with a tag to your heavenly father.  

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible


Kelly-Belly said...

I would love to find a family devotional that I can read in front of my two young kids. We tried one out a few months ago and I didn't like it because it used the Bible translation The Message. It just wasn't for us. I like the NIV. I'm also not a fan of the activities or crafts that they put in there.

Becky said...

The only one that I've skimmed (that is a yearly) is Jesus Wants All of Me ( It seems to use a blend of translations (HCSB, NIV, ICB, NLT, etc) it seems geared towards preschoolers. I've read many many bible story books but very few devotionals.

Kelly-Belly said...

Yay...thank you so much. I'll check it out. :)