A Practical Guide to Family Worship
Family worship (or family devotions) can be a touchy subject for Christian parents. For some, they are like litmus tests for the health of the Christian home. There are a few who feel “successful” in this area of family life, but many parents I talk with are experiencing discouragement and even feel guilty that such time together is sporadic or non-existent. However, a regular family worship time can be an effective strategy for fulfilling our biblical responsibility to instruct our children in the faith, orient them to the Bible, and instill in them a God-centered, Christ-exalting view of life.
In his book Rediscovering Family Worship, Jerry Marcellino quotes Ecclesiastes 12:1: “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth…” and then asks, “How else is a child going to know his Creator in his youth apart from his parents daily bringing Christ near to him?”
This question moves us beyond the “event” of family worship. Whether or not I successfully lead a daily devotional time with my family, I want to bring Christ near to the members of my household every day, multiple times, and in different ways. It might be a brief word of encouragement, a thirty-second prayer, a text, a phone call, or a gathering with the family. All can be used to point our loved ones to Christ, his promises, and our everlasting hope in him.
Years ago, my wife Sally and I were with a couple who, after dinner, gathered their six children, ages eight to seventeen, in the living room. The dad took a well-worn Bible from the table next to his chair and began reading from Leviticus 15. The passage offered a lot of detail about handling various bodily fluids but not much inspirational substance. After he finished, he said something like, “this passage reminds us that God is holy. Without the righteousness of Christ, there is no way we can abide in his presence.”
He asked one of the children to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the hope we have in Christ, asking for grace to live lives pleasing to the Lord. Then, we sang a hymn to conclude the family time. The family did this each day, considering what God was saying to them through his Word. Sometimes the passage would prompt a longer discussion and other times, like this one, there would be a comment or two.
Giving our children a regular family worship time is important; it reinforces our identity as “people of the Book.” Today, I doubt that our friends’ six children remember much from reading Leviticus 15 together. What they undoubtedly do remember is that their dad consistently took them to the Word of God. They grew up understanding that the Christian life is centered on this book as the source of truth and on the God of the Bible whose faithfulness and steadfast love endure forever.
Those who seem to have the most success maintaining a regular family worship time can plan something short and simple that requires little or no advance preparation. In his book, Family Worship, Donald Whitney reinforces this challenge to simplicity and the model that I witnessed in my friends’ family. One of the things he recommends is the “Read, Sing, Pray” pattern for family worship. His book—along with a free five-day email course—is a great resource to help families get started or grow in this important area. Two other excellent resources are Rediscovering Family Worship by Jerry Marcellino and Family Worship by Joel Beeke.
May the Word of God be a lamp for our feet and a light for our path, dwelling richly in our households for the glory of God and the everlasting joy of the next generations.