Ok. So…what is Family Worship?
Let me say from the very outset, Family Worship is messy. For that matter, everything with young kids is messy. Can I get an ‘amen’?
My wife and I have three children under the age of nine years old and we’re so grateful for the gifts that they are to us; precious children that have been entrusted to us by our Father to love and to train in the way of discipleship to Jesus.
3 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one's youth.
5 Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
About four years ago we felt challenged by the Lord to spend intentional time with our children before bedtime, teaching them the ways of God. A friend of ours recommended a simple book of scripture memory verses and a series of catechism questions that form a concrete foundation for gospel understanding. (Resource link at the bottom of the post.)
As our family has grown, we have moved our time around the dinner table and morphed it into a simpler pattern; one that Donald Whitney put forth in his aptly titled book, “Family Worship”. The pattern goes like this. Read, Pray, Sing. (Resource link at bottom of the post.)
1.) Read Scripture together.
It doesn’t have to be a lot. When your kids are young, sometimes shorter is better. Know what I mean? But don’t be afraid to ask for their attention. Chances are if you’re enthusiastic about what you’re reading, your children will be as well. We just finished reading through the book of Ruth and my kids were begging me to keep reading the next chapter to see what happened. Once we finish reading we take 2 minutes to make observations about what God might be saying to us about himself and what the gospel connection is in the passage. And that’s basically it. No long, drawn out teaching. Just daily sitting under the authority of the Word of God together as a family.
2.) Pray together.
We take turns praying. Sometimes it’s a couple of short one-liners from the younger kids and we’re done. As they pray, you’ll be surprised what they’re picking up from God’s Word! Sometimes we pray in an intercessory way for friends, or nations or ministries. This usually takes just a couple of minutes. As a side note, I once I heard a reference to Tinkerbell artfully woven into my 5-year-old daughter’s prayer about kindness. The best part was that it made actual sense and tied into our conversation. She was contextualizing her world after our Bible reading!
3.) Sing together.
For some reason, when we put words to music, they stick. Singing is such an easy, powerful way to make truth stick. Don’t be afraid to sing together as a family. You might not be the Von Trapps, but you can make a joyful noise. (emphasis on noise?) Some days we sing simple kids songs like Jesus Loves Me or Trust and Obey, etc. and other times we’ll sing a hymn or the Doxology. Still other times, we fall down the YouTube rabbit hole watching one worship song after another, dancing around the dirty dishes that need to be cleared from the dinner table.
Read, Pray, Sing. The simplicity of this rhythm makes it totally doable for us. If we’re feeling especially ambitious we’ll review memory verses and catechism questions together as well, which are still a priority for us.
But let’s face it, some nights are really hard. Sometimes just keeping everyone in their seats for 5 minutes is a monumental chore, let alone helping them be engaged. Add in food and drink spills, sibling rivalries, and good old-fashioned kid jabber, and it can easily become a recipe for frustration.
“Shut your little faces! I’m trying to teach you that God loves you!”
I’m kidding. Sort of. But it can feel like that sometimes if we’re not careful, right? That’s why we need an abundance of God’s grace, a good sense of humor, and an eye towards the long view. Kids are kids and that is ok. Of course, we discipline our children when necessary and teach them the importance of joyful obedience. (Ephesians 6:1, Proverbs 13:24) But in our attitudes and approach, we’re going to be gracious, not trying to legalistically impose this time upon us or them. We’re humbly trying to direct our attention to Jesus in the midst of normal, everyday, messy life, recognizing his glory and taking the time to worship him together.
"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
So why have a ‘Family Worship’ time? I think for the answer to that question we can look to the great commission of our Lord. If we want to be disciple-makers, that starts first and foremost in our own homes with the children He has entrusted to us. And it is a joy. Family Worship is one way in which we can be intentional to disciple our children. Truly, I can’t think of much that we do that is more important than the time the five of us spend around the dinner table, reading God’s Word, praying and singing to the Lord together.