Family Worship

A Practical Guide to Family Worship

by Mike Thompson

Family Worship should have some connection to Corporate Worship.

Family Worship prepares children for worship.  It begins to train them to worship with God’s people.  Corporate Worship is simply a larger gathering of God’s people.  The Family is the basic unit for discipleship and worship. 

Fathers must actively lead in family worship, if at all possible.

Mothers can and should be active as well, but when the man is home, he must take the lead to bring his family together to worship.

God has designed the man to be the leader.  Even if he is a younger or less mature believer, he is still to take the burden and privilege of leadership.  If he does not, then the young men especially, but really girls as well, will learn that spirituality is not a manly thing.  Satan has duped a lot of men into thinking this way, and as a consequence, men have chased after other pursuits.

Certainly, women, if your husband has no desire for family worship, or is absent, by all means, you may and should lead your children in worship.

Family Worship should be simple, yet meaningful.

Far too many Fathers have tried to do too much and only succeeded in exasperating their families.
Prayer is fundamental to Worship.
Especially when children are very young, long prayers do not help anyone.  Pray long before you have family worship.  At the same time, you also help no one if you pray the same little prayer jingle every day.  You ought to systematically pray for that which is on God’s heart:
Prayers for the salvation of loved ones.
Prayers for an increasing desire for our family to love and obey God.
Prayers for missionaries that our church supports.  It is fine to pray for other missionaries as well, but do not forget our own church’s missionaries.  
Prayers for daily needs.
Confession of sin:  Children need to hear their parents confess specific and real sins.
Prayers of thanks.
Prayers of adoration.

You should not pray for all of these things every time you pray.  But you should systematically pray “all sorts of prayers.”  As the children grow, increasingly ask them to pray.  Give them a specific thing to pray for.  Thank them for praying.

Singing is helpful in prayer and teaching:

Get a Trinity Hymnal.  Even if you are not sure that you like it all that much.  Our family regularly sings three hymns.  We started singing only one hymn and have gradually grown to three.  Especially early on, sing the same hymn repeatedly so that the kids can learn the words.  Even kids who cannot read will find that they can memorize hymns pretty quickly.  I believe that our children learned to read singing hymns.  We would use our finger as a cursor and have our children follow it across the page.

To learn some of the unfamiliar tunes in the Trinity Hymnal, there are websites and CD’s that make a number of these tunes available.  Also, when we sing a hymn on Sunday, remember it and sing it again at home so that it sinks in your memory.

I also recommend the singing of contemporary choruses, but do not neglect the Trinity Hymnal.

Psalter:  We have periodically used the Trinity Psalter.  This has been a great blessing.  My suggestion is to work on the Trinity Hymnal first.  Then, use the same principles to begin singing the Psalms.

Scripture is fundamental to worship:

We used children’s Bibles for some time.  Some are better than others.  Be choosy and ask parents who have older children than yours to give you advice. 

As soon as possible, I recommend moving to an actual Bible.  I also recommend reading through whole books of the Bible.  Do not neglect the more difficult portions.

I know that God has given me more Bible knowledge than some, but I really do not make this a prepared lesson.  I simply read the text to my children.  Sometimes no comments at all are said.  Other times I will make some brief comments to help the children understand the context.  Often, they will begin asking me questions.  If I know the answer, I will give it.  If I do not know the answer, I will tell them that I do not know the answer.  This is far better than trying to make up an answer.  Tell them that you will search for the answer.  Ask others, read commentaries, and go back and study on your own.  What better opportunity to be an example to your children of a man who seeks truth.
We read regularly one chapter each night.  Sometimes more, rarely less.

How do you handle when your children do not like the time of worship and give you resistance?

Early on, I had to continually remind my children that our family was a Christian home and as such it is our duty, obligation, privilege, etc. to worship God.  We did not worship merely because we wanted to at the moment.  God had created us and provided for all our needs, and ultimately is redeeming us.  Therefore, he deserves our worship:  To not give it to him would be wrong.

At the same time, I would acknowledge to the kids that even though, in a general sense, I wanted to worship God, that I too had conflicting desires.  There are plenty of times when I do not want to go to all the trouble.  Every parent who has tried family worship knows that it can be more of a battle than a spiritual experience.  Our kids need to know that we, as parents, struggle to “delight” in family worship.  

Do not wait until your kids are ready to delight in family worship to begin requiring them to participate.  I would often tell my kids, “I do not require that you like family worship, but I do require that you sit still and respect the time of worship.”  What would happen if kids waited to start brushing their teeth until they really enjoyed doing it?  By mandating family worship, you are not making family worship boring.  Rather, you are communicating to your kids its great importance.  Most of the really important things in life are required.

With the left hand you are telling your children that they must remain still and give their full attention, but with the right hand, you are continually expressing to them that God sees their heart and he requires more than mom and dad.  He requires that we truly delight in him and the worship of him.  This is a great opportunity to answer the normal question that will come out of your children.  If I don’t want to really worship God, how can I get that desire?  Bingo!  You can begin to explain the gospel.  Look to Jesus to forgive you for your lack of desire for him and look to him to give the Holy Spirit to all who ask.  True worship is always the work of the Spirit in our hearts.

How often should you have Family Worship?

Many of the Puritans conducted family worship twice daily:  morning and evening.

We have tried to have it once each day.  
We don’t meet this goal.  Rather than beat myself up over it, I continue to strive to be faithful with all the grace God has given me.
Give yourself grace, but don’t use grace as an excuse for laziness.

A Warning to the zealous!

Some men, when they finally tackle the responsibility of leading their families in worship, go a bit hogwild.  I know that I did, especially early on.  Men, it does your children no good if you are angry and mean throughout Family Worship.  Sometimes, we would get home late from some activity and the kids would be tired and I would want to make sure we squeezed in our family worship.  It took a while, but I began to learn that this was not the right way to go about things.  If I wanted to have regular family worship, I was going to have to limit our evening activities.  So, I talk often with Robin as to whether or not we can take on another activity.  It is much better to say no to something and have an evening where you are not rushed and can have quality time of worship, than to try to fill your whole day and then mash a time of worship into a ten minute block.
I do not try to have family worship after Praise and Prayer on Sunday night.
I do not try to have family worship after our Tuesday night home Bible Study.
Both Praise and Prayer and our Tuesday Night Bible Study include out children.
When I am gone, Robin leads worship with the kids.

Family worship provides a wonderful opportunity to evaluate your overall schedule.  If you are too busy to worship together as a family, then you are too busy.

When do you take the time to instruct your kids?  Catechism or Doctrine stuff?

We have typically taken a short time after meals to memorize Scripture, or Catechism or to discuss theology.  We try to keep this to 5 minutes or so.

Again, the same principle applies.  We learn about God because he is worthy.  We are required to work at learning about him.  As the father, I require them to give their full attention.  As their heavenly Father, God requires that they delight in knowing him.

Robin also has had some form of Morning devotions with the kids.

The other important means of instruction is to bring God into your daily discussions along the way.  (Deut. 6)

What about personal Quiet Times?

This has been a gradual thing.  Make sure that your children see you spending personal time in prayer and Bible Study.  You cannot give them a love for this, you can only work to impart it to them.

When our kids wake up, I would simply prompt them to take a few minutes to read their Bible before they read anything else or begin their chores.  I have never been harsh with this.  I believe that if the other things are in place, this will happen.  Just continually encourage it.

Make sure that you periodically ask your children what God is teaching them in the Word.

In all of these practices expect a spiritual battle.  The fact that they are difficult should tell you volumes as to their importance.  Nothing worthwhile in life is easy.  

May God bless you and your Family!