Family Worship Is Hard—And Worth It
“And so God gave the land to His people.”
I closed the colorfully illustrated pages of Joshua and the crumbling walls of Jericho and looked up at my two-year-old. She was playing with a stuffed purple dog that sings songs about bears and the color pink. Had she even noticed I was reading? I’m honestly not sure.
I said “Let’s pray” and bowed my head. She screamed, “No! No! No!”
I thanked God for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I asked that we would honor Him throughout our day. I said Amen.
I looked up to see her laughing at the cat who was standing beside her chair licking up fallen Cheerio crumbs.
As a father, regularly engaging in family worship is one of the most challenging things I do. As far as return on investment goes, I sometimes wonder about the effectiveness of those few minutes before bed and those early moments at the breakfast table.
Is it worth the time, effort, energy and chaos?
Let me encourage you: Yes. Yes. And Yes.
In modern Christian culture, it is easy for us to focus on what Zack Eswine calls, “large things famously and fast.” Unfortunately, that paradigm doesn’t work for discipleship or sanctification. There is a reason Jesus used largely-agricultural terms to describe the process of Christian growth. The process involves waiting, planting, watering, feeding and waiting. Your family’s spiritual growth will be less large and famously fast and more what Eugene Peterson described as, “long obedience in the same direction.”
A significant part of that long obedience is family worship in the home. The home must be the front line of the Gospel. How can we institute practices that make our homes spiritual greenhouses for Christian growth? I offer four hopefully helpful ideas:
1. Use the Scripture
As much as anything, family worship is habit-forming modeling. Developing a regular pattern of priority in your home is essential. Centering that habit on the right things is vital. Whether your child is 1 or 17, use the Scripture. The Bible must be your primary text for family worship because it is the Word for all of life.
There are great children’s Bibles that point to the metanarrative of the gospel and amplify the echoes of Jesus in every passage. When looking for a children’s Bible, don’t just get one that pulls moral lessons from a story; find a Bible that points to Jesus and the Gospel throughout every story. If your children are older, share reading opportunities and insights with them. Don’t be afraid to let your children ask questions. Sometimes, “I don’t know, but let’s find out” is the best answer.
The Big Picture Story Bible is an excellent resource for Scripture reading with children.
2. Make It Memorable
Making family devotions fun is good, but not primary. If you are only attaching the Bible to fun, as soon as something more fun comes along, it is easy for your child to ditch the Bible and find it irrelevant – even childish. Two of the best ways to make family worship memorable are singing and catechism.
You may not be able to carry a tune but don’t worry. Your kids don’t need you to be a great singer; they need you to be a faithful parent. A simple song we use every day goes like this:
Father, thank you for this day,
Jesus, for the price You paid,
Holy Spirit, lead the way,
Thank you, God!
What is the tune? It doesn’t matter. Make one up. Singing little songs like this not only create memorable thought patterns for our families, they also teach us doctrine. Another great way to infuse doctrine into your family devotions is through catechism. Don’t be afraid of that word. It just means short questions and answers to help us learn about God, the church, Jesus, sin and other essential fixtures of the Christian faith.
Lifeway’s Big Picture Questions & Answers for Kidsis a fantastic, trustworthy resource.
3. Don’t Overthink It.
Keep it short. Keep it simple. Keep it light. I remember, just a few months after my oldest was born, sitting with him watching Albert Mohler videos (president of Southern Seminary) explaining the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement. While I want my children to know and trust this doctrine, it might have been a bit much for someone still learning what a square is.
Family worship does not have to be long, but it needs to include the foundational elements of Christian devotion that you want your children to develop later in life. Read the Scripture. Pray. Sing truths. Keep it around 5 minutes. Don’t overthink it.
4. Do It Over and Over and Over Again.
We allocate time for, and intentionally repeat, what is important to us. Our children are noticing and will pick up the habits we employ. If it is difficult for a season, commit to lead through that season. If you have a terrible day, commit to the next day. When you get through Revelation, go right back to Genesis. Do it over and over and over again. You will strengthen the spiritual muscles in your own heart and in the hearts of your children.
Family worship can be difficult. It’s difficult for me. But so is anything worth doing in this life. You may not see the fruit for decades, but plant the seeds now. Water the seeds, shine the light of the Gospel and pray fervently for your family—trusting the Spirit to do His work for God’s glory in your home.