By DENSON TODD
If you are looking to root your family in the teachings of our Lord and produce unexpected and joyous fruit for years to come, establish daily family worship. I can think of little else in my own family’s experience that has seen more fruit born in each one of us.
Over the next several weeks, I plan to “interview” several of our partner families and get a view of how families across CrossPointe are engaging in worship within their homes and their experience with it. My goal is to encourage all of us that there are other families involved in this spiritual discipline and that it doesn’t have to look the same for everyone. Our call is to put God in front of our families daily that we may know Him and His ways.
Let me begin with a caveat for when I use the term “family worship.” I am not implying that this can and should only be done if you are married and have a household of children. Family worship is for the husband and wife, for the family with a newborn, for the family with teenagers, it’s for the single adult establishing practices for life or even a future family. I use the term “family worship” as the daily practice of gathering yourself and others in your household to worship the Lord by seeking to know His ways and learn His truths.
Furthermore, I come to this topic humbly because it has not come naturally or easily for me. It is a practice I have wanted to do well with my family since the day my wife and I were married, but I have had many, many false starts, periods of neglect, and times of frustration. Thankfully, my wife has diligently encouraged and sought my leadership in this. I have come to love this time with my family. It’s a time for teaching, for encouraging, for questioning, and for watching our family grow together in the knowledge of God and build stronger relationships with each other. Scripture admonishes parents to this task: “train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). There is no better tool for this than daily worship together. For me, family worship is about building “spiritual literacy” in the family; it is the springboard for daily encouragement, spiritual conversations, and demonstrating to our souls the priority and worthiness of our Lord.
THE PRACTICAL SIDE:
Family worship is going to be a bit messy, and as I said, there are going to be some false starts. Stick with it! Husbands and dads, remove the ideal image of a perfectly planned and executed time of family worship; you will be quickly frustrated. Make your expectations reasonable, especially if you have small children; your goal is a set apart time together in worship. Even if worship is ten wild minutes, it is a time set apart. From my experience, the practical steps have been:
- A specific time and place, (at dinner, after dinner, at bedtime, over breakfast, etc), just pick something and stick with it for a while.
- Train expectations, in yourself and your children.
- Select material to use that is age-appropriate (along with scripture, there are many great family resources, and I’ll provide a starter list at the end of the article).
- Laugh–make this time enjoyable. It is a glorious time of worship together; enjoy it together. If you have smaller children, I think this is very important to help create a time they enjoy and a place they will eventually feel free to ask questions and engage
- As it relates to the above point, accept questions or thoughts from the family that take you off track. Explore those, and they may become some of the best times. Remember, the goal is worship, not making it through a specific chapter.
WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE FOR US: (A FAMILY OF 5 WITH YOUNG CHILDREN)
At the Todd house, we gather on the couch every night after dinner, and before we start the bedtime routine. Our family worship time lasts around 20 minutes, sometimes shorter, and sometimes longer. Often a discussion we start during family worship will spill over into bedtime conversation with my oldest daughter. Our older kids have begun expressing deep questions that sometimes don’t hold the attention of the little one doing ballet leaps on the other side of the room. I am still learning to give space for engagement during family worship and remembering that everything doesn’t have to be answered then and there.
We will most often use a family worship related guide, such as a bible story book, a topical study, or a seasonal devotional. With our kids, this gives us structure and usually comes with specific passages to read and guided questions. Then we sing a hymn or two together; sometimes, we will have a hymn of the week that we are learning, and other times it is just picking a favorite. We love to incorporate hymns because of the richness of emotion, praise and theology they expose to our kids as they sing them. Also, because it is amazing to hear our girls singing How Sweet the Name of Jesus while folding their laundry. Another great resource we’ve included in our family worship is catechism questions; as with hymns, they are rich in depth. Plus, there is a range of versions from children’s, shorter, and longer catechisms so you can select which is appropriate for your family. Finally, we end with prayer. Recently we’ve been keeping a prayer board where we have written specific people we are praying for and general prayer concerns that have been made known to us. We’ve found that this has helped us all to remember specific prayer requests and give something for the girls to visually pick from as they pray. Now, it doesn’t look like this each night. Sometimes we just sing and pray because of time, or we’ll change it up and pray through a Psalm as a family, but the idea is to make a plan that works for you and evolve it over time to fit your family’s style and engagement.
I often dwell on verses like “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long (Psalm 23:4-5). How has God given us to know His ways and learn His truth? Through faith He has given us the means of grace to persevere in salvation, specifically His word and prayer; both of which are an integral part of family worship. If your desire for your family is that they know the ways and truth of our Lord, then gather them under the word and prayer. Whether you have a solid time of family worship, struggling to get it going, or have never given it much thought I plea-fully encourage you to pursue it and to fight zealously for this time; for the Lord has and is using it to produce great fruit in my family and I have every assurance that He will do the same in yours.
SUGGESTED FAMILY WORSHIP RESOURCES:
Gospel, Bible, or topical overview for family worship
- The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm
- The Gospel Story Bible by Marty Machowski
- The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung
- Big Truths for Little Kids by Susan and Richie Hunt
- The Ology, Ancient Truths Ever New by Marty Machowski (this has been one of my favorites for a children’s introduction to theology)
- Westminster Shorter Catechism
- Wise Up by Marty Machowski
- Old Story New (10-Minute Devotions) by Marty Machowski
- ABC Bible Verses by Susan Hunt
- My ABC Bible Verses from the Psalms by Susan and Richie Hunt
- Any of R.C. Sproul’s children’s stories
Beginner Bible Stories for Small Children
- Read-Aloud Bible Stories Volume 1-4 by Ella Lindvall
- The Trinity Hymnal
- The Getty’s Family Hymn sing (this is a weekly live stream from Keith and Kristyn Getty with their children where they talk and sing hymns with viewers. It can be accessed from their Facebook page)
- All is Bright by Nancy Guthrie
- Prepare Him Room by Marty Machowski
- Mission Accomplished by Scott James