(I’m moving some of my writing over to my new blog, so some of this has been seen before… and sometimes more than once. This one is several years old now, but is still mostly accurate. I’ll add some new things on family worship once I get this blog up and running.)
What is family worship? What does it look like in practice? I’m often asked these, and other questions like them. But that’s OK, because Family Worship is one of my favorite things to talk about. And yet, there’s a danger in writing on topics like this one… or parenting… or marriage… or any other topic in the same neighborhood. The danger is that the reader might think the writer has: 1.) Figured all this stuff out and, 2.) Is executing it perfectly. Both assumptions would be a mistake. I’m learning with each and every new day. But I feel I have learned enough to add value to others. And so I prayerfully pass it along. So here goes nothing.
The puritans used to distinguish three forms of worship: Private, Family, and Corporate. Private worship would include your “alone time” with God – in prayer, reading his Word, reading devotional literature, singing hymns, etc. Corporate worship takes place when a local congregation gathers together (usually on the Lord’s Day…or perhaps a Wednesday evening) to sing, pray, receive the sacraments, hear God’s Word read and exposited, etc. Family worship, as you have no doubt guessed by now, is a combination of the two (minus the sacraments).
My family typically has “family worship” during our breakfast time together. It’s a process that seems to be ever-evolving, but I’ll give you a sample of what we typically do. Usually I open in prayer, thanking God for blessing us through the night, giving us life for another day, and bringing us together to worship him. We are presently reading through the Gospel of John, so I will read about half a chapter of that. John’s chapters are pretty long, so I have been hesitant to attempt to take on a whole chapter. When we have read Paul’s epistles, a whole chapter isn’t as demanding. An accompanying reason I don’t read a whole chapter at a time, is because there’s so much rich content in each chapter. Just like a sermon, each chapter needs to be broken down into smaller bite-sized portions so that the family can talk in greater depth about what has just been read.
As I alluded, after I read the text, I try to lift one or two thoughts from it and share those with the children. Or, more often than not, I’ll ask them questions to make sure they got the key points. I once heard R.C. Sproul, Jr. say he always preached sermons to his children during their family worship time and that his sermons were generally 30…(long pause for effect)…seconds. Our “sermon” is not much longer.
After our Bible reading we move to a catechism. A catechism is simply a way to learn the Christian faith in a question-and-answer format. For example, the first question of our catechism asks, “What’s our primary purpose for being here?” Answer: “To glorify God and enjoy him forever.” The catechism devotional guide we’re using right now is Star Meade’s “Training Hearts, Teaching Minds.” We spend one week (in theory) on each question. There is a very brief devotional explanation of the question and answer for each day of the week. Before I ask the current catechism question, I review the last few questions…just to make sure the kids (and mom and dad) remember what we’ve already learned.
After our catechism question, we move to a devotion that “hits the kids where they live” in a more obvious way. I qualified that statement the way I did because I believe reading Scripture and studying catechism questions are essential for discipling our children. But in our day and age, those two things are often seen as “irrelevant for life.” I think it’s all in the delivery. Two resources we rotate between are “Little Visits With God” and “Josh McDowell’s Family Devotions.” Both of those have questions at the end to ask your children.
After that, depending on our time, we may sing a hymn or the Gloria Patria, recite the Apostles’ Creed and Lord’s Prayer, and lastly, pray for our day…and for any prayer concerns that we know about.
That may sound like a lot, but actually 15 minutes would be our absolute longest. And even that would have sporadic intermissions of telling Jake to get back in his chair or to quit stealing Dylan’s and Natalie’s bacon.
When you first begin family worship, it may be a little mechanical and awkward. Trying new things usually feels that way. But trust me, you do get into the groove after a while. And what’s best of all, the kids love doing it. Ours even remind us if we forget. You can’t beat that!
If we want to take the Bible’s admonition seriously to disciple your children, then I believe this is a wonderful and effective way to do it. It’s the best investment you can make.
Other resources we have used, are using, or plan to use, are:
21 Rules of This House. You’ll have to ask Suzanne where she found this, but it’s a great way to spend some time on the rules of your home. It covers everything from common courtesy to obeying God.
Character First Education. This is a neat curriculum that, as the name suggests, focuses on character. The company that produces this is not necessarily religious in emphasis. However, the people who sold this to us also included Bible verses to go with each character trait.
United Methodist Hymnal. Mommy or Daddy usually lead the family in singing. It’s great fun, but until everyone is able to read, singing new songs is something of a challenge.
Here are some great resources on family worship if you would like to learn more about it.
SermonAudio.com has some great sermons on family worship.
Ligonier Ministries has some very helpful resources for aiding family worship.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me. (DaleTedder@yahoo.com) I truly enjoy talking about this and would love to help you and your family worship together.