Family worship (or family devotions) is an important part of growing a Christian family. In Reformed churches, Christian parents promise to disciple their children. Regular family worship is one of the proven ways to do this. However proven it may be, it always comes with challenges. To assist you in overcoming these challenges, let me share my top five tips for improving family worship time.
1. Be Flexible
For a lot of us, family worship is connected to family meals. That’s how we grew up. There was prayer and Bible reading, possibly singing and discussion, but it was always after a meal. Typically, it was the evening meal. Today we live in a time when families are eating together less and less. That issue could be discussed some other time. However, let’s recognize that there is no biblical mandate for a family to eat together. There is, however, a biblical mandate for Christian parents to bring up their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. If you’re going to disciple those children and family meals are difficult to organize, then it’s time to get creative. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I know of a Christian father who worked in the construction industry. He put in long days, often not coming home till after his youngest children were in bed. Yet he took his responsibilities seriously as a father called to disciple his children. Under his leadership, the whole family got up a bit earlier in the morning and they did family worship together first thing in the morning. That’s what I’m talking about when I say, “Be flexible.” Find a way that works for your family and then run with it.
2. Aim for More than Just Reading the Scriptures
In our family worship, we want to be reading the Bible together. However, there should also be some way of connecting the passage with our lives as Christians. We ought to reflect on how this or that passage points us to Christ. To help in that, I cannot recommend more highly the “Notes for Personal and Family Worship” in the Reformation Heritage Study Bible. This is an outstanding resource! It’s recently come to my attention that these notes are published separately by Reformation Heritage Books as the Family Worship Bible Guide (see here).
Every chapter of the Bible includes some helpful notes, and often thought-provoking questions. Every one can benefit this resource, even couples with no children at home.
It’s a sad truth that many Christian parents believe that catechism is just something for the church to do. No! It starts with parents teaching their children Christian doctrine. Parents are the front-line youth pastors of Reformed churches. By the time they arrive at a church catechism class, those kids should already have the basics of Christian doctrine down cold. To help with that, I have another recommendation to make: Starr Meade’s Training Hearts, Teaching Minds. This book includes a week’s worth of instructional devotions on every Q and A of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. It’s all laid out for you — easy peasy.
When I was growing up, I knew of one Christian family in our church that sang in their family worship. One — that’s it. That’s sad. God loves to hear his people sing. We should be singing, not only in church on Sunday, but in our homes during the week. You say that you don’t know how to sing very well? Well, join the crowd — neither do I. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Whether you sing well or sing poorly, God doesn’t care. His Holy Spirit will perfect your singing as it rises to the throne of grace. Because of what Jesus has done, Christians have every reason to lift up their voices and sing! By the way, if you’re CanRC or FRCA and need help with tunes from our Book of Praise, there’s this awesome resource: Jane Oosterhoff has recorded herself singing every thing in the Book of Praise. You can find her on YouTube at this link.
5. Take Turns Praying
Prayer has to be part of family worship too, but it doesn’t always have to fall on Dad’s shoulders. In fact, teach your children to pray not only by hearing you pray, but by giving them opportunities to lead in prayer themselves. Think of what you’re doing. You’re teaching your sons to lead in prayer. When they have a Christian girlfriend or fiancée, praying with her won’t seem odd or weird. He knows how to lead in prayer. You’re teaching your daughters to lead in prayer. When they become Christian mothers and Dad isn’t around, they’ll know to how to step up to the plate. All your boys and girls will be able to lead in prayer at study club/Young People’s, etc. Do you see that teaching your young ones how to pray is an important part of helping them grow as disciples of Jesus Christ? Let them learn by doing.