(Note: I also wrote a shorter guide for family worship here.)
Family worship is a precious opportunity that many of us do not utilize. For some of us, family worship was not a part of our daily routine as we grew up. Maybe you grew up in a Christian home that did not learn or see the importance of family worship. Maybe you grew up in a home with unbelieving parents. Either way, there are many of us who did not grow up with family worship. We see the importance of family worship, want to begin family worship, but do not know how.
I will give some things that our family does as an example (certainly not as law!).
Set Aside a Time or Event
It is important to designate times for family worship. Dynamics in different homes vary. Some folks have a “normal” 9-5 job. Others work in shifts that are not consistent. You will need to think through your personal dynamics as you set aside time for family worship.
This is not done as a legalistic regiment, but for the sake of discipline. For most people, leaving family worship for “whenever” leaves it permanently “undone.”
For our family we have designated after breakfast and after dinner as family worship times. I am incredibly blessed to work in a situation where I determine my own schedule most of the time. For your family, you may need to designate before breakfast, lunchtime, before bedtime. You may need to plan for three days out of the week at the start. Schedules may only allow for two days each week. Either way, designating a sacred (set apart) time for family worship is essential.
There is no right or wrong time to have family worship. Choose what works best for your family.
Make the Purpose Clear
It will be important to state, restate, and restate the purpose of family worship. We are learning about God together as a family and responding to Him in worship. We are not doing this to earn His favor or be better Christians than everyone else. We are also not doing this as the checklist to be sure we are doing what we should. We are setting this time aside to learn about God then respond to God in worship. It is a nearly daily occurrence that I must remind one of our children that family worship is not playtime or silly time. It is time to learn about, think about, enjoy, and honor God. It is also a good time to train children that formal worship is a time to listen and grow, not goof off and distract. This is good training for sitting in the worship gatherings of the church.
Even if you do not have children in the home, knowing the purpose of family worship is helpful to maintain focus.
KISS – Keep It Simple Sam!
Remember, the KISS acronym from school? While it is not quoted in the Bible it is helpful. Keep It Simple Sam! When my wife and I were newlyweds, I had unrealistic expectations for our family worship. As I turned our family worship into seminary classes, she and I quickly burned out.
Plan on a simple and short layout for family devotions. If this gets longer due to family involvement that is great, but keep the expectation lower. Overly complicated plans tend to fall apart. Short, sweet, and to the point aids perseverance.
I was recently reminded by a friend that we overestimate what we can accomplish in a day and underestimate what we can accomplish in five years. We do the same with family worship. We overestimate what we can do in a day (have a long discussion on election or penal substitutionary atonement). We underestimate what we can accomplish in a lifetime (create a daily five-fifteen minute habit of family worship). The long term accomplishment of five-fifteen minutes of daily worship will far outweigh the short-lived but long seminary lectures for family worship.
Read the Bible
Yeah! That seems a bit obvious, doesn’t it? I hope it is obvious. I hope that it is so obvious that you feel like chuckling. However, I find the most obvious things are the things we need to be reminded of the most. I will stick with Paul, “To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you” (Philippians 3:1b).
Take time to read the Bible together. Again,keep it simple. It is probably not realistic to try to read through the Bible in six months or one year. So, maybe you should try to do it in three years. Maybe you would like to try to read through the New Testament in one year. You can do that by reading one chapter each day for five days each week.
If you have small children in your home, you may need to begin with a Gospel-centered storybook Bible that has depth. I don’t mean use any storybook Bible. Guard your children from looking at the Bible as a book of character studies. “We read about Moses, tonight. Let’s be like Moses!” A short look at Moses’ life will tell you that your children should not imitate Moses or any other Bible character. Certainly, we can learn some good things from their lives. However, the Bible is a true story that points to Jesus (Luke 24:44-45). So, choose a storybook Bible that points your children to Jesus, their only hope. Some storybook Bibles and children’s books we have used and I recommend are:
- The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Jago
- The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm
- The Big Picture Interactive Bible Storybook by the Gospel Project
- The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New by Marty Machowski
We want to hide God’s Word in our hearts and our children’s hearts. What a gift of grace the Bible is to us! The Lord of Creation has told us who He is and what He is doing in the Bible. Treasuring it in our hearts is not only a duty, but it truly is a delight.
Again, having a plan is helpful in this pursuit. Our family has found The New City Catechism by The Gospel Coalition very helpful for our Bible memory. We take one question each week and memorize the verse that goes with it. As we progress, we will add verses related to the same topic.
We have also picked out a section of Scripture to memorize. We will memorize one verse each week. We have memorized Psalm 100 this way.
We have really enjoyed singing as a family. You can be regimented with a songbook if you like. This is an area I need to develop in our family worship. Typically, I pick a song that relates to our Bible reading for the day. It is usually picked on the spot. We sing at least one verse. Our children love to sing, so we often sing the same song more than once or sing multiple songs.
This is another thing that goes without saying. However, the obvious things are the things we take for granted or forget. So, I will say it again, “Pray!” Prayer is another wonderful gift of grace. Believers can lead their families to talk to God, because Jesus has given us access to God as our Father (Ephesians 2:18).
This is another area I need to develop in our family worship. Often, my wife or I will lead in prayer that is based on our Bible reading. We will pick one or two things for our children to pray for, like a specific church family prayer request. I would eventually like to add missionaries and local churches to our daily worship. However, I would rather keep it simple to maintain the discipline than overcomplicate it and lose it.
Involve Other Family Members
Include your family members in the experience of family worship. Let them participate in age and ability appropriate ways. Encourage them to read the Bible passage. Let them pick out a song. Ask them questions and let them ask questions. (Don’t panic if you don’t know the answer!) Family worship is not a lecture. It is an experience of God’s grace and response of love and worship.
A word to parents: if your child is not a believer, don’t expect them to participate in everything. Allow them to respectfully wrestle and keep pointing them to the Savior.
God Is Gracious – Be Gracious to Yourself and Family
Newsflash! – You and I will fail at this.
We will miss designated times. We will have periods of time that we skip family worship. Don’t respond to failure with despair. Respond to failure with confidence of Jesus’ forgiveness and move forward with love for the One who loves You. Jesus’ love for you will not diminish one speck if you miss family worship. It will not grow one speck when you are consistent. If you belong to Jesus, He loves you with an everlasting love, so much that He has given Himself to die for your sins (Titus 3:3-7).
So many give up due to despair. Don’t fall into the performance trap. Instead, bring your failure to Jesus, knowing He loves you and has died for you. Then move forward in grace, renewed with love for the Lord who loves you (1 John 3:1-3). A right understanding of God’s love will not lead to complacency with family worship; it will fuel your desire for God.
- Set Aside a Time or Event
- Make the Purpose Clear
- KISS: Keep It Simple Sam!
- Read the Bible
- Memorize Scripture
- Involve Other Family Members
- God Is Gracious – Be Gracious to Yourself and Family
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.