I did not grow up in a Christian family, so family worship was not something that was modeled for me when I was growing up. Additionally, my first decade as a Christian didn’t include a lot of teaching or discussion on the topic of family worship. So a few years ago when I became convinced that this was a way I needed to be leading my family, I really didn’t know what to do. Born from experience and some good advice received, here are some ways to do family worship, some practical tips, and some encouragement for you as you begin or continue with this discipline.
Ways and Means
My first inclination was to overly complicate family worship (because…me), but what I have found is that the same elements used in corporate worship at church (minus ordinances/sacraments) are excellent for family worship.
You could have asked my 4-year-old, Wesley, “What are the 3 elements of a family devotion?”
And he’d tell you, “Scripture, singing, and prayer.” In a related story, we now have 4 elements of a family devotion, the fourth element being ‘kindness.’ I’ll let you guess what precipitated the need to add that element.
Family worship doesn’t need to include long sermons which you’ve put tons of effort into like a pastor would for a Sunday sermon. It is better that you open the Word, beseech the Lord in prayer, and sing from a grateful heart—than you do nothing at all.
Too often, a lack of preparation would prevent me from just sitting down with my family, and reading a New Testament book. Just sitting through a reading of Colossians or Philippians is a wonderful way to spend the time. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be an exegete, or on your family to sit solemnly for too long or too often.
Be consistent. If you miss a day, don’t let that get you down, pick up the next day. Set a time if you have a family that is often separated doing different tasks AND STICK TO IT.
Be serious, but be light. Be prepared for children, especially, to now have the same reverence in your living room that you’ve taught them to have at church. Make it a time when people learn to seek God and worship Him together, rather than just another opportunity to disappoint Dad.
Get some hymnbooks you like so each person has one. Or make your own, as I did. <<– Click to see how. You can find accompaniment, but if you sing tunes folks know you’ll never be stifled by a slow internet connection or a song in a key you aren’t used to.
Get a good book and read it together. My family has read “A Little Book on the Christian Life” by Burk Parsons (originally John Calvin) and we found it to be a wonderful blessing. We are currently halfway through Sexual Fidelity by Mike Abendroth which has been thought-provoking and helped start some important conversations with my teens. Nate Pickowicz reviewed it here.
Another wonderful blessing to my home has been the daily reading of Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon. My young ones sit and listen or read twice a day and I am impressed by how much they pick up!
Finally, make sure to be humble and patient. As you lead your family in worship, it will be helpful for your family to hear you confess sin (and I am not talking about the general we-all-sin-everyday confession). Your children are being taught to worship a holy God, and they need to see you humble before Him.
And be patient as you deal with all the little distractions and difficulties that are sure to come as you attempt to get your family doing something so wonderful for our Lord Jesus Christ as consistent family worship.
Encouragement for the Way
I want to encourage you in a couple of ways by sharing two specific stories of how family worship has been a blessing to my home and my family.
A week before Easter, 2018, a dear sister in the Lord sent my family a 7 day Easter devotion she and her mother had conceived. Because we started late, we were doing two devotions a day to catch up by Easter. It was a wonderful tool to use for our family worship.
Providentially, my wife’s aunt came to visit for a few days the week leading up to Easter. As the result, she sat through 2 days of devotions focused on sin and redemption. Evangelizing family can be hard, but my wife’s aunt heard the gospel a dozen times in a natural “this-is-just-what-this-family-does” setting. She even picked out a few of her favorite hymns to sing when we sang hymns.
Finally, the obvious desire of the man who leads his family in worship is to see everyone born again, begin to have the mind of Christ, and able to worship Christ on their own. My family does what I would guess is an average job of having family devotions and worship. We miss a day here and there, and we aren’t always as serious as I think worship should be. But each time, God is working on each member of my family differently.
One of the great joys in our home is the singing of worship songs. My son Wesley is only 4 years old, so when we sing hymns he cannot read the hymnbooks. He must listen and learn as we go. Well, I am very pleased to know that we must sing enough that Wesley is really starting to learn hymns (and we don’t sing the same one over and over!).
Your gift for reading to the end is to be able to listen to 4-year-old Wesley sing all four verses of Jesus Paid it All by Songwriters: Jack Fascinato/Ernest J. Ford from memory. Click below to listen.