“Family” and “worship.” Two words, each of which standing alone is richly warm and evocative. “Family” connotes community, belonging, and unconditional love. “Worship” conjures thoughts of reverence, jubilation, and communion. However, curiously (and sadly), when these two precious terms are conjoined into a single phrase – “family worship” – the associated words that come most immediately to mind might be “boring” and “bland.” While that may be the case, I would encourage you to persevere, as your children, when grown and old enough to look back on their youth without being dimmed by immaturity, will most likely rise up and call you blessed for that perseverance.
Family worship does not have to be complicated or lengthy, as many fear in advance, and so fail to even try. However, I believe that family worship ought to have three basic components to it:
The Scriptural Component. Many families who practice family worship use a family worship card distributed by their churches that list daily Bible readings designed to prepare them for the upcoming Sunday’s sermon. (If your church doesn’t practice that, perhaps you could ask your pastor to do so. Believe me, he’ll be glad you thought of it! A church member who wants to know how to prepare himself and his family for Sunday worship?!) Other families may simply read a Psalm or other short passage. Perhaps you could even use a daily reading from a devotional book such as My Utmost for His Highest byOswald Chambers, Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening (one of my personal favorites), or Note to Self, by Joe Thorn. In the early years when children are young, Bible readings should be “age appropriate.” However, if your children’s ages span a wider range of literacy, allow me to give you some advice: refuse the temptation to “dumb things down,” and stubbornly teach to the eldest, trusting that the younger ones will glean what they are able, possibly calling on the older ones to explain obscure concepts to their younger siblings. I was often reminded of this important principle, when I would teach to the eldest (perhaps 11 at the time), and the youngest (four-years-old) would often pipe up and ask or answer questions, when I was convinced that he couldn’t even understand what we were talking about!
Prayer. The prayer component of family worship might consist primarily of thanksgiving and intercession. Perhaps collectively identify prayer items, and one or more of the family members gathered at the table leads in prayer about those particular matters.
Singing. Typically, families might open and close their time of worship with a song, which could be a hymn, a contemporary chorus, or simply the doxology. So many people in churches across America believe (falsely) that they can’t sing, because singing has never been a normal, natural, everyday occurrence in their lives. How much richer would the singing on Sunday mornings be across this land if only singing had been as normal a part of family life as speaking and reading (or watching TV)?
Beyond content and format, consistency is very important to family worship. As in virtually all other worthwhile endeavors, so it is with family worship: much more is gained by small incremental efforts consistently applied over the long haul than by lavish outpourings that occur only sporadically. Of course, this doesn’t mean that family worship must occur in your home every day of every week (as great as that would be!). However, it does mean that parents should battle hard not to succumb to the kids’ apathy, our own indolence, or the innumerable distractions presented by our busy schedules.
Consistency also should not suggest rigidity. In fact, consistency over time is fueled by flexibility. Adjusting the time that you conduct your family worship to accommodate busy schedules may just be the saving grace to this important endeavor. There may be good reasons to shift family worship from the post-dinner hour to the breakfast table because it offers a better fit.
If flexibility is the fuel of the family worship engine, then brevity is the lubricating oil that helps to overcome the frictional forces that work against a consistent family worship. Except for those occasional times when genuine discussion springs forth, family worship may last no more than 10 minutes. While such brevity imposes limitations, it can be central to preventing family worship from being crowded out by other competing demands.
So, why do it? Families persist in this devotion because it affords them a corporate opportunity to exalt the wisdom, power, and love of Our Heavenly Father, and to acknowledge our need for the grace of Jesus Christ. It is a propitious moment in the day for all family members – together – to be reminded of the gospel. In this sense, family worship is yet another means of grace, literally empowering us to live our lives in a manner worthy of our high calling.
As such, can it be said that family worship is “bland” or “boring”? If that’s our perspective, then it may also be indicative of our need. And that realization should not discourage us. Rather, it should impel us to pursue this blessed opportunity as those who are desperate to drink more deeply of God’s precious grace – desperate for ourselves and desperate for our families.
“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God,” Psalm 42:1.