Tag Archives: family worship

Top Five Tips for Better Family Worship

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.

3. Catechize

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.

4. Sing 

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.

 


How to Do Family Worship

family-worship_300_178_90

It’s one of the most basic things that a Christian family does — or should do.  And yet there are many Christian parents who’ve just never been taught.  They might be new Christians, or perhaps they grew up in a church-going family that was just not very serious about following the Lord.  For them especially, I’ve been meaning to write this practical post about how to do family worship.  This is about the practical side of it.  I’m not going to explain the biblical rationale for it today.  Instead, I’ll just assume that we agree that Christian families should worship God together.  Moreover, I’m not presenting this as the definitive way to do family worship. Rather, this is the way our family does it.  There are other ways to do it.  There’s freedom for that.  In fact, I’m going to leave the comments open on this post so that other people can share their ideas.  Please do share!  If you have questions, also please feel free.

In our family, we normally do family worship after our evening meal.  At the beginning of the meal, I normally lead in prayer and give thanks for the food.  During that prayer, I’ll also ask for God’s blessing on our family worship later.

After the meal is over, we’ll begin by reading Scripture.  Throughout our married life, my wife and I have just constantly read straight through the Bible in our family worship.  For many years, I would just read and everyone else would listen.  But in the last few months, everyone has a Bible and everyone takes a turn reading a verse or two from the chapter.  Most times we read an entire chapter, but if the chapter is long we might split it up over a couple of days or more.  The hard part for a father is trying to make some intelligent comments about what is read, comments that draw out the meaning of the passage, how it points to Christ, and how it applies to our lives.  That can even be hard for a father who’s a pastor!  This is where you can really benefit from the Reformation Heritage Study Bible (see my review here).  Every chapter includes “Thoughts for Personal and Family Worship.”  Sometimes there are just comments, other times questions to ponder or discuss.  It’s really enriched our Bible reading time!

After Scripture, we do a short time of catechism instruction.  For this, we use a book by Starr Meade based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism.  The book is entitled Training Hearts, Teaching Minds.  I highly recommend it.  She also has a book based on the Heidelberg Catechism, Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds You can find my review of that here, but in brief, I still prefer her previous book.  Whatever is done, it is important for parents to catechize their children with Christian doctrine.  It’s not first of all the job of the church, but of the youth pastors, i.e. the parents.

Next, we sing a psalm or hymn.  There are different ways of doing this.  Our children go to a Christian school and have memory work from our church’s songbook (the Book of Praise).  We’ve sometimes sung their memory work.  At other times (like at present), we just sing our way through the psalms. God loves to hear his people sing!  And don’t worry if you’re singing is not that great — neither is mine.  God just loves to hear you and your family sing.  It is, after all, family worship.

Finally, we end with a brief time of prayer.  Each day, a different member of the family takes a turn in leading this closing prayer.  It’s important for our children to learn how to lead in prayer.  Especially when they’re younger, the prayers might not be that deep or elaborate, but it doesn’t matter.  Family worship is about training and discipleship.  They will grow into it.  There can be an opportunity for prayer requests.  You can also make a prayer calendar where you pray for some particular things each day of the week.  On some occasions, Christian families can also take turns praying around the table.  We did this recently with our church’s Day of Prayer.  I know of families that do that once a week or more.

All up, our family worship usually takes about 15-20 minutes, depending on how much discussion we have.

Like I said, our way of doing it is not the only way.  There is lots of room for flexibility with family worship.  It doesn’t have to be complicated.  Above all, my one word of advice is:  just do it!  Your family will be blessed for it.


Book Review: Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds

9781596384651-Meade-Comforting-hearts-teaching-minds

Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds:  Family Devotions Based on the Heidelberg Catechism, Starr Meade, Phillipsburg: P & R Publishing, 2013.  Paperback, $16.09, 255 pages.

For many Reformed parents, the catechizing of their children begins and ends with catechism classes taught by the church.  This is despite the fact that the third baptismal question is very clear.  Parents first of all promise that they will instruct their children in the “complete doctrine of salvation” as soon as those children are able to understand.  The catechism teaching done by the church is not meant to replace this parental catechism teaching, but to complement or supplement it.  But how do we implement parental catechism instruction in the home?  That’s where a book like this promises to be very helpful.

The same author wrote a similar book based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Training Hearts, Teaching Minds.   Our family used this book profitably for several years and by the time we were done with it, it was falling apart.  Our experiences with the previous volume led me to have high hopes for this one as a replacement.  After a few months of using it in our family worship, I can report that, overall, it is a worthwhile tool.  However, discernment is needed on some important points.

A week of devotions (Monday-Saturday) is spent on each Lord’s Day of the Catechism.  Occasionally a Lord’s Day will be spread over two weeks.  Each day features a short devotional that can be read in less than five minutes.  The devotionals also include one or more readings from the Bible to show the connection between the Catechism and Scripture.  The devotionals are well-written and often include vivid illustrations.  Most of the teaching given in these devotionals is faithful to the Reformed faith.  While even preschool children can benefit from these devotionals, those benefitting the most will be school age.

Unfortunately, I do have to share two significant criticisms.  I share them in the hope that parents who want to use this book will use it with discernment.  First, parents should be aware that Meade uses the edition of the Heidelberg Catechism adopted by the Christian Reformed Church.  This has a couple of regrettable drawbacks.  First, we want our children to learn the Catechism as adopted by our churches.  This means that parents should keep the Book of Praise at hand and read the Catechism in the Canadian Reformed edition, rather than the text as printed in this book.  The second drawback is more significant.  The CRC edition of the Catechism dropped QA 80 about the Roman Catholic mass.  Meade follows the CRC lead and even states in a footnote, “There has been concern among those who use this catechism that the position of the Roman Catholic Church may not be stated accurately.  Therefore, I have chosen to omit Question 80 altogether” (160).  If Meade had only done some research, she would have discovered that this “concern” was only among some and actually said far more about the CRC than about the Catechism and its portrayal of Rome.  This puts Canadian Reformed parents who use this book in the position of having to teach QA 80 on their own – and they should.

My second criticism has to do with Lord’s Day 27 and infant baptism.  According to the author’s website, she and her husband teach a Sunday School class at a Reformed Baptist church in Arizona.  I would assume that they are also members at this church.  This puts the author in an awkward position when it comes to Lord’s Day 27.  This was not an issue in the previous book on the Westminster Shorter Catechism (which also teaches infant baptism).  It seems to me that the author may have changed her views on this between the two books.  When it comes to Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds, the author is very brief on infant baptism and does not teach it or defend it.  All she does is note that there are differences amongst Christians on this question and encourages families to discuss where they and their church stand on it.  This is not faithful to the intent of the Catechism.  The Catechism was written to teach the Reformed faith and that faith includes the truth that the children of believers belong to God’s covenant and therefore should receive holy baptism.  This is the whole point of QA 74!  Unfortunately, Meade’s Baptist bias comes out elsewhere in her treatment of the sacraments as well.  For instance, in the Friday devotion on Lord’s Day 25, she writes, “Baptism is a sign used once, when we first come to Christ.”  While baptism certainly is a sign to be used only once, there’s no recognition that it’s to be used when Christ first comes to us – and that could be (and often is) as a little covenant baby.  Reformed parents who use this book will have to be cautious about this and intentional about filling out the gaps in Meade’s approach.

We need more books like this, tools to help us catechize our children as we promised to do.  We need books like this written by men and women who share a wholehearted commitment to the Reformed faith – with no reservations about any points of doctrine.  While I believe this book could be used with profit (and we certainly are profiting in our home), it should only be seen as a stop-gap measure until something better comes along.


Nouvel article en français

The good people in the Reformed Church of Quebec have translated another article of mine into la belle langue.  This one is on the subject of family worship.  More information here.