One of the greatest needs among the modern Christian Church, is the restoration of an age old practice that has long become abandoned, the practice of daily family worship. There was a time when this was considered the norm, if not the expectation of anybody who became a member of Christian Church. In a loose sense, it was considered that the head of each house functioned like the Pastor of that house, and that one of their primary responsibilities in pastoring that house was to lead the family in daily worship.
Today, many Christian homes know nothing of this practice. It is considered that whether or not Christians worship together within their families at home or to what degree prayer permeates a particular home is a matter of liberty. Each house can choose or not choose as they please. As a result, not only do these families struggle to maintain a culture in the home of Christ-centeredness, but the Churches which they belong to suffer as well, as they are robbed of one of the great strengths of the Church, Christian leadership in the home. Joel Beeke says it this way,
“Faithful leadership and family worship are the right and left hand of godliness in the home. Family worship sets up the structure of godliness in the household… To attempt to cultivate godliness in your home without the structure of family worship would be like trying to live during the winter in a house with neither walls nor roof. We need structure, habits, and discipline in our lives.”Joel Beeke, A Puritan Theology, 876.
A Brief Word Towards the Hesitant
For many, the idea of leading family worship may sound overwhelming and intimidating, especially if they have never seen it demonstrated before. I have spoken to a number of men who are fearful to lead the home in this way because they sense that though they know they are the spiritual head of their house, they feel far behind the spiritual depths of their wives, and they are intimidated to be exposed as weak. Still others, simply will not ever develop this habit in their home, not because of an insecurity or any lack of knowledge, but rather because they have prioritized other activities and there is simply no time to fit this into their schedule. Permit me to address all three below.
- Never Seen It Demonstrated: To those that have never seen this demonstrated, I can relate. I had never seen this demonstrated. Franky, the category of ‘leading family worship’ was not something I even had on my radar. Further, building new habits and forming new muscles always feels clunky at first. But it’s okay if you’ve never seen this before. It is overwhelmingly simple, and will bring great joy to you and your entire house. Try something new. Be bold. Form a new habit.
- Insecure to Lead Like This In Front of My Wife: To the heads of house that are insecure to lead boldly like this because they know their wife is more spiritually mature then them, a few things. First, I suspect that if you were to bring up with your wife that you would like to start leading the family in daily family devotions, that she would be overwhelmed with gratitude and hungry to assist and serve in any way she could. Second, this habit may well be the thing that catapults your spiritual maturity to entire new heights. Don’t let fear stop you from leading strong in the home. We all have to start somewhere.
- Prioritized Other Activities: Some cannot imagine where the time for this would come from in their families daily rhythms. This can be a real problem, but the issue is deeper than the calendar. What is the priority of your life? What are you aiming for in your home? What is the aim of your parenting? Is it not to honor Jesus your King? If your family calendar is so full, that you cannot find fifteen minutes daily to honor Jesus through family worship, then something in the calendar has to go.
Basic Principles and Tools for Leading Family Worship
Permit me to offer some simple advice and tools for leading family worship. Before I do so, know that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to how to do this. I have developed my own rhythms that work well in our house. They may work well in your house as well. But over time you may modify to the needs and rhythms of your own family. Be creative as you lead. Have the formation of Christ in every member of your household as the vision.
One piece of advice for you is to have a plan that involves a particular time and place where this habit occurs every day. For our family it is at 7:15am, before we leave to drop the children off at school and before I head to work. The children know the expectation, they need to be ready to go out the door by 7:15, shoes on, breakfast eaten, teeth brushed, everything! This way, we are not rushed. The whole process takes us about 15-20 minutes each morning. Plan for it. Build your day around it. (Note, the picture on this post was taken over the summer when school was out, hence the jammies).
Family Worship should have at least three elements in it: reading & discussion of the Bible, singing worship together, and praying together. Though there are far more elements to the overall leading of a Christian home, these are the minimal elements of the particular aspect of daily family worship.
First, Read the Bible Together
The first element is reading and discussing the Bible together. This is fairly straightforward but some tips and tools might serve you well. First, choose a Bible translation that is age appropriate for your children. For younger children consider the New Living Translation. As children get older, consider a more literal translation like the English Standard Version (ESV) or Christian Standard Bible (CSB). Translations can be issues of personal preference, so pick one that works for you.
Second, especially with young children, make it fun by having them remind you of the context of the book you’re reading. So, if you are working through 1 & 2 Samuel (as I am with my family at the moment), begin each morning with a few fun questions. The repetition forms memory. I might ask, “Who was Samuel’s Mom?” “What was the problem she faced at the beginning of the story?” “Who was the first king of Israel?” Your list can grow as you get further through the book. Your kids will look forward to remembering the answers together.
Third, we do not want to overwhelm our children with overly lengthy passages. Typically I select a passage that takes no more than five minutes to read through, about one chapter. When the reading is done, turn and ask questions of your family. What did you learn? What did you think? If there are particular lessons that would be helpful to make sure your children takeaway, explain it to them. This morning we arrived at 2 Samuel 6 and the story of Uzzah and the Ark. I emphasized that we cannot approach God on our own terms or our own ways because of His holiness. We must come to God in the ways He has prescribed.
If this feels challenging or daunting for you to do on your own, Joel Beeke has written a wonderful resource called the Family Worship Bible Guide, which provides meaningful heartfelt questions that you can ask your family on every chapter in the Bible.
Second, Sing Worship Together
This was the hardest element for me to begin incorporating, but looking back I don’t know why. I think at first it felt the most foreign to me. I love corporate singing on Sunday at Church, but corporate singing at home felt strange, especially since I’m not a particularly good singer. But, what a delight it has been to fill our home with the signing of hymns and spiritual songs every morning. What a pure joy to hear my wife’s voice and the voice of my three little girls echoing around our Family Room in praise to God.
Each morning, a different member of our family selects a worship song that they want to sing together. We use our Roku on our TV to display the lyrics to the song up on the screen so everybody can sing along. Then we’ll simply play the song over our speakers, and all sing along together. It’s beautiful.
One thing to keep on your radar is to make sure the songs you are singing are theologically sound. A good place to start is with the songs that you sing in Church on Sunday. Our Church sends this list out to our congregation each week so they can prepare their hearts for worship. The songs we sing form us, and so be wise in your selection.
If you find your children are not participating as much as you would prefer, try to give them more ownership. Let them select the song. Or let them be in charge of scrolling the lyrics for the family. If they refuse to cooperate, correction or discipline may be required. Again, the goal is joy in the Lord, not some form of rigid legalism.
Third, Pray Together
Third, take a few moments to pray together. You might ask your children if there are any particular prayer requests they have. You’ll be surprised what you will learn about what is on their heart when you ask them this question. I learned this morning that one of my girl’s teachers had a problem with her back, and so we prayed over that teacher’s back for healing, that her teacher would cling to Jesus when she experiences pain. Again, in every moment we are trying to form godliness in our children’s thoughts and minds. Pray over your days. Pray over each person. Pray over people in your life or in your Church who are struggling or who have fallen ill. Pray for those in your life who do not know Jesus.
Perhaps each person shares a portion of the prayer, or perhaps you rotate. Make it work for you and your family. Remember again, we do not want to bore our children. Neither do we want them to see us rushing prayers as if they are a checklist. Pray fervently. Pray meaningfully. Pray directly. And don’t pray too long, especially with little kids.
As I close this post, I want to leave you with a strong encouragement. It is never too late to begin this journey. We want to paint a picture in our home that our household is passionate about forming godliness in each member of the family. We want to trust God that our disciplines and habits are being used by the Holy Spirit to bear fruit. As the head of your house, call your family up! Call them to something beyond you! Call them to experience God together. May your family and your home be blessed as you faithfully follow the Lord’s lead. As William Perkins said,
“Those families wherein this service of God is performed, are (as it were) little churches, yea, even a kind of Paradise upon the earth.”William Perkins, “Household-Government,” in Works.