A Primer on Family Worship

Family worship should be a regular part of the life of a Christian family. However, most of us did not grow up with family worship. Naturally we have questions about how it is to be done. When I started family worship I expected way too much. I went way too long and was pretty boring. My children’s eyes quickly got that look of chained up prisoners instead of joyful participants.  I thought I would describe my family’s practice in hopes that it might help you avoid some of the same mistakes.

What are the Parts of Family Worship?
We tend to make this more complicated than it actually is. There are three core elements of family worship: Scripture, song, and prayer. You can also add Scripture memory and/or catechism if you wish.

Here is our current practice in order. My practice is not Scripture.

Memorization-Usually I read the verse we are learning, the children repeat after me line by line, then we all say it together. A few days of this and we usually have it down.

Scripture Reading-I read a passage of Scripture and try to bring out one clear point to leave with the children. I open it up for questions and comments at the end. I have children ranging from 1 year to 14 years. I try to keep the younger ones involved by asking questions or making them repeat phrases, such as Satan is the great dragon. (We are currently reading Revelation.) I also try to answer the questions the older ones have without letting it get too long winded.

Singing-We sing a song, usually one we will be singing the following Sunday in corporate worship. Since many of our children cannot read we try to learn the song by hearing it instead of reading. This means we will often sing verse one until we get it. Then we will move on to verse 2 the following night. If you are not musically inclined, get one of your devices and sing along to the song on Youtube or another website.

Prayer-We end with prayer. I vary this up quite a bit. Sometimes I just pray. Often I will have a couple of the children pray. The older the child is the more freedom I give them. For example, with my thirteen year old I would just say, “Son can you pray for someone at church?” With my 6 year old I would say, “Amelia, can you please give thanks to God for Mrs. So and So’s new baby?” Don’t make this prayer time too long.

All in all, this takes about fifteen minutes. As the kids get older, don’t be afraid to go a bit longer or dismiss the younger  kids and keep the older ones around for some more instruction.

How Can We Be More Consistent?
Consistency is probably the greatest difficulty in family worship. We will do it for a few nights or a week, but then something will happen and we will stop for a while. Then we will pick it back up again. Here are some things I have learned that help with consistency.

We try to get it in every day. This may seem obvious, but doing family worship once a week will not help with consistency. Even on Sunday we will often sit down and read together in the afternoon. Sometimes I will vary Sunday up by reading some of the kids favorite passages. If you try for every day you will often get it in 4-5 times a week. That is enough to produce consistency.

We do family worship at the same time. By this I do not mean 7pm or 6 am. I mean we fit it in the same slot everyday. We do ours right after dinner. We clear the table then gather in the living room for family worship. It might be 6, 6:30, or 7. The exact time is not as important as the children learning that worship immediately follows dinner.

We do it in the same place. As 21st century Christians, we tend to have deficient view of place We think that worship is worship no matter where you are. There is some truth here. But there is a great benefit to using the same place for the same thing every time. It provides consistency and a trigger for the children.

We don’t do it if it gets too late. How does this help with consistency? We can become reluctant if the last family worship experience was terrible. If all the kids have bags under their eyes then get them to bed and try to get to it earlier tomorrow. The same goes for having family worship in the morning. If the children were up too late, let them sleep.  If you find it getting too late several nights in a row you will want to adjust some other things to make sure you have time for it.

When we miss a few days, we don’t get discourage. Family worship is a wonderful way for a family to experience God’s grace. God’s grace means we don’t fall into self-pity or act like family worship is a work we do to earn God’s favor.  Let it go if you missed it. Move on and try to get it in next time. Don’t get discouraged.

I wanted to end with the great quote from Thomas Chalmers. He was a pastor in England in the early 1800s. His quote is a good reminder that regular, small efforts are what make the greatest difference in our lives.

“It is not by irregular efforts that any great practical achievement is overtaken. It is by the constant recurrence and repetition of small efforts directed to a given object, and resolutely sustained and persevered in.”