Questions About Family Worship

familyworship

Here are some common questions that come up when family worship is discussed.

Will family worship make my children super-spiritual?
Okay, no one actually says this, but it is often an unspoken assumption. We believe that family worship is some great key to unlocking our children’s potential holiness. It is not. It is one of the many things that we can do to help our children grow. But it is not magic. Many families have practiced family worship and yet not brought their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Do family worship, but don’t expect it to do too much. There are many other tools we must use alongside family worship to raise godly children.

What if I am not capable of teaching my family God’s Word? 
All men who lead their family in worship feel inadequate.  However, if you are the father, then God expects you to lead your family in learning God’s Word. The usual problem here is that we think we need to be John Piper or R.C. Sproul every time we have family worship. But you don’t need to be an amazing speaker to lead your family in worship. You don’t need to be profound. In fact, when we try to sound profound often we lose our children’s attention. All you need to do is give your family a clear truth or two from Scripture each time.

How do I practice family worship with young children?
Family worship can be difficult with young children. My encouragement would be to keep it simple and short. If you have a three or four year old read them a little Scripture, sing a short song, and pray with them. After you read them the Bible explain what it is saying in short, clear sentences. Young children understand a lot more than we think they do. You can read them stories from the Bible. But you can also read them books like Ephesians. For example, you could read Ephesians 1:7-10. If I was talking to little children I would explain that Jesus died for us and that we can run to him to have our sins taken away. That is about all I would say. Illustrations are very helpful with young children. Sin is like mud and Jesus makes us clean. It may not be Charles Spurgeon, but it is true and clear. And that is all that is necessary.

How do I practice family worship with a broad age range?
This follows naturally from the above question. What if I have numerous age ranges? A good shepherd understands how to minister to various kinds of sheep. This is easy to do one on one, but in a group it is more difficult.  The key is to try balance the increasing inquisitiveness of the older children with the short attention spans of the younger ones. Here are my two suggestions. First, talk directly to the little ones as you do worship. Look them in the eye and ask them questions on their level. For example, “Elijah (my three year old) what does Jesus have coming out of his mouth?”  Second, let the older ones ask questions, but don’t allow them to go on and on. With older children, you will want to set aside time to discuss spiritual issues with them outside of family worship. Sometimes I will tell one of my older children to wait until after family worship and then answer their question privately.

Can I use a story Bible instead of the real Bible?
Using a story Bible can be a helpful way to supplement reading the Bible. But I would not encourage using it in place of reading Scripture. Even with young children I would read at least a little bit of the “real” Bible.

Can the wife lead family worship in the husband’s absence? 
A wife can lead in family worship in her husband’s absence as long as she does it in a way that supports her husband and does not undermine him. The woman in  Proverbs 31 has wisdom on her tongue and the law of kindness in her mouth (Proverbs 31:26). It might also be worthwhile to have older sons lead family worship occasionally to get practice.

What if a woman is married to a non-Christian husband? 
This is a difficult question. The wife is stuck here between two competing obligations. First, she wants to give her children God’s Word. Second, she wants to respect her husband’s wishes. Ideally, she would graciously approach her husband and ask to have a short Bible time with the children. I think most non-Christian husbands will be fine with this. She should ask what time he would like her to do it so it does not cause him unnecessary interference.  If he says no, I would encourage her to not implement family worship without her husband’s consent. If there is no family worship, she should make sure she is giving her children God’s Word all day (Deut. 6:7). If the husband will not allow family worship then she needs to make sure her children are getting the Bible other ways. Family worship is not explicitly commanded in Scripture so her husband is not forcing her to disobey God’s Word. But teaching our children God’s Word is. She must find ways to get them God’s Word. Obviously, a key would be getting them to church. In order of priority for a Christian woman married to a non-Christian would be 1) church, 2) Christian education, 3) daily interaction about God’s Word, and 4) family worship.

Note: Several of these answers were influenced by Jason Helopoulos’ book A Neglected Grace.