Family worship is a concept that has long been forgotten for many through the years of church history. It is a concept that can be both exhilarating, but also paralyzing. Family worship at its most basic level, is simply taking time to gather the family to read the Bible, pray, and worship the Lord on a regular basis in your home. It is true that there is no direct command found in scripture imploring fathers and families to do family worship, but it is a great application to direct commands found all over the canon of scripture. Here are just a few examples:
Deuteronomy 6:4-7: This text implores parents to “Teach them diligently to your children . . .” Telling them that the Lord is One, and that they should love the Lord with all that they are.
Psalm 78: This Psalm has some strong commandments to fathers to teach their children about the things of God, and for this to continue on, not just to your children, but to your children’s children. This was a command to tell the coming generations the glorious deeds of the Lord.
Ephesians 5:25-26: Here we find husbands are told to “Wash them (their wives) in the Word.” It also explained that children are to be brought “up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
I Timothy 3:4-5 we find the qualifications of being an elder. He “must manage his house well.”
One of the best and easiest ways to apply these commands is to have regular family worship in your home. After looking over these verses you may be convinced that this is a good idea, but what does it actually look like? Since that vast majority of people didn’t grow up in a home where this was practiced, what should it look like? Here are a few points to consider if you want family worship to be a profitable and successful experience in your home.
Consider the Elements:
Generally speaking, there are three parts to family worship. You read the Bible, pray the Bible, and sing the Bible. They are much like the same elements that you find in a typical corporate worship setting. However, there is no preacher (other than the parents), and there is no choir or worship team, other than those sitting in your home. There is no need to hire someone to come in and do these things for you. God has actually equipped you the parent (practically the father), to lead in this manner. All it takes is having everyone sit quietly (or mostly quiet if you have small ones) and read a portion of scripture. Then you explain it to the best of your ability. You pick a song that the family knows and sing it (if you can play an instrument that is even better). It can be something as simple as the Doxology with no music, but I would encourage you not to skip this part if possible. Finally, close in prayer. That is it. Simple and easy, but it can have eternal significance.
Consider the Brevity:
Your average church service lasts about an hour. You may think of your family worship like a small church service on Sunday, however much shorter. You should want family worship to be a delight and not a drudgery. Ephesians 6:4 gives warning to fathers not to “provoke your children to wrath.” If you are just starting family worship and it is a new concept to your family, please remember that it is new to your family as well. If you try to make it too long, you may be provoking your children. You may very well work up to a 30-minute family devotion, but brevity is key here. It is good to start off with no more than 10-15 minutes. Read 15 – 20 verses in the Bible. Take 3 or 4 minutes to explain it and to ask questions. Spend 2 or 3 minutes in prayer and sing a quick song. Try to set a regular time that you plan to do this and try to stick to it most days. Remember, it does not have to be anything super formal, but there does need to be a sense of reverence. You are worshiping and honoring God after all, even if it is in your pajamas.
Consider the Content:
When your children are small, you may not want to go straight to Song of Solomon or Revelation. It may not be helpful. Consider reading Proverbs, the book of James, or even some of the narrative portions in the Old Testament. There are some great stories there that will allow you as a parent to point to the gospel and give just simple and practical advice. If you feel like you don’t know the Bible well enough to teach, invest in a good study Bible. Take 10 minutes to read the passage before-hand with the notes so you can explain it. You only need to be one step ahead to teach. As the children get older have them get involved. Fathers, have your wife be a regular part of worship. She is gifted in ways that you are not. Have your children read the scripture. Have them pray. Have them help lead the song(s). This is part of training and teaching them not just the things of God, but also how to lead their families when they get older.
John Piper emphasizes the commitment to family worship by saying, “You have to decide how important you think these family moments are. It is possible for little ones, teenagers, and parents. You may have to work at it, but it can be done.” Family worship has been a blessing to my family. I love hearing my children sing praise to God at the top of their little lungs. I love hearing them answer and ask great questions that come from our Bible reading. I love having them repeat prayers after their mother and I. It is a commitment that my wife and I made that we would do on a regular basis early on in our marriage. While it is true that this is just one way to apply the clear commands of God to teach, train, and lead our homes, I believe it to be the best one. I don’t think when you get older and you look back on your time as a parent, that you will ever regret the time you spent around the dinner or coffee table worshiping the Lord together.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Adam B. Burrell