On Father’s Day, June 19, I preached a sermon on “How to Be the Spiritual Leader of Your Home” from Deuteronomy 6:4-9. In it I talked about how regular times of family worship can be one of the best ways to “teach God’s Word diligently to your children” (Deuteronomy 6:7), and “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). I was able to share a little bit of application on how to have family worship and gave a few examples of how we do family worship at the Gaines household, but I wasn’t able to go into much detail because of time constraints.
So, I’m writing this post to go into much more detail about how to do family worship. Keep in mind that what I’m about to share is just what we do with our family. Not every family will do it exactly like us. My hope is simply to give our church members (and anyone else who might be reading this) one example of what family worship can look like and how to do it. Feel free to take or leave different aspects of what I’m laying out here and mold it into something that works for you and your family.
Before I begin describing exactly what we do, let me plug a resource on this subject that I cannot recommend highly enough. Donald Whitney’s little booklet, Family Worship, should be read by every Christian family. In sixty pages you’ll be motivated to do family worship, and you’ll be given a simple plan for it. If you would like to read a review of this booklet that I wrote recently you can access that here.
During our times of family worship we stick to the three key components of (1) reading the Bible, (2) praying, and (3) singing. Here’s how we do each of those.
Read the Bible
We always start family worship with Bible reading. Right now the ages of our four children are seven, six, two, and one, so we have chosen to use a good children’s Bible for our Bible reading. We use two:
1. The Big Picture Story Bible, and
2. The Jesus Storybook Bible.
We’ve found that The Big Picture Story Bible is best for kids five and under, and The Jesus
Storybook Bible is best for kids six and up. We have been using The Jesus Storybook Bible with
our older kids for a year or two, but now that our third child is two and able to pay better attention to the Bible reading, we’ve switched back to The Big Picture Story Bible because it’s easier for her to understand. Before long I plan to use a regular Bible with my oldest kids and continue with one of the children’s Bibles with the younger kids.
The way our Bible reading works is that, typically, I sit on the couch with my children gathered beside me and with the youngest in my lap. I then read one of the entries in the children’s Bible. I’ve found that it’s helpful to do anything possible to keep their attention. Use inflection in your voice, for example. Have them help you turn the pages. Stop in the middle of a page and have them repeat a name or word you just read: e.g., everybody say “Nebuchadnezzar”—anything that keeps their attention from wandering off to other things in the room. This usually takes no more than five minutes.
Sometimes after we read the Bible entry, we do things to reinforce the story. For example, I might ask the kids a couple of questions about what happened in the story to make sure they were listening. One of their favorite things to do after reading a Bible story is to act it out. Once, after we read about Joshua and the armies of Israel marching around Jericho and how God gave them a miraculous victory, we had the children march around the living room seven times, and then shout and act out blowing a trumpet and we pretended the walls of Jericho came tumbling down.
This is the first part of our family worship time: Bible reading.
A second important part of family worship is prayer. Often we try to pray together about something we have read during the Bible reading time. Or, we might ask the children if there is anything or anyone for whom they would like to pray. Sometimes we let one of the children lead in prayer, and other times Melisa or I will do it. The time on this varies, but it usually only takes a few minutes.
This is the second part of our family worship time: prayer.
Singing is an important part of our practice of family worship. After we read the Bible and pray together, we sing a few hymns and worship songs. Believers throughout the Scriptures not only read and preached the truth of God’s Word, but sang it as well. We all know how putting words to music helps us remember those words. This is one of the reasons singing can be such a great way to “bring your children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” If you pick doctrinally rich songs for your family to sing, they will often remember the truths in those songs more effectively than if they simply heard those same truths read. So, singing is helpful because of the TEACHING potential it has. But singing as a family is also helpful because of the PRAISING potential it has. By training your family to sing to the Lord, you are leading them to praise God for the truths they are singing. In this way, singing together can lead your family from simply knowing the Word of God, to praising the God of the Word
Here’s how we do the singing portion of family worship. We have put together several copies of what we call the “Gaines Family Song Book.” It’s a three-ring binder, and inside we’ve inserted pages with the lyrics of our favorite hymns and worship songs. Each page is numbered, just like in a hymnal, so we can tell the kids to turn to page seven, and we’ll all have our song book opened to “This Is My Father’s World.” I usually add a song every week or so by finding the lyrics online, copying and pasting them onto a word document, and printing a copy out for each of the song books. We put each page in a plastic page protector as well, to keep them from being torn (At first we didn’t use the page protectors and after the first night our kids had destroyed all the pages!). A lot of times I choose songs we have been doing lately in our corporate worship services at church. This has been a great way to involve our children in church worship. They love it when we sing a song in church that they’ve learned at home and are able to sing confidently because they know all the words.
I play guitar, so in my copy of our songbook I have guitar chords printed above the lyrics. I sit in front of a music stand in our living room and play while we all sing along. We let each of the kids have a turn picking a song to sing. We usually sing three, and then we’re done. If you don’t play a musical instrument, I would still encourage you to consider making your own family song book. In place of a guitar or piano, you could use a service like Spotify or Apple Music to play the songs you pick for the night and sing along to the music as a family. The benefits of a song book are that it allows you to have the lyrics in front of you, and it doesn’t limit you to singing the songs in a hymnal. You can always add or take away hymns or newer worship music as you see fit.
This is the third and final part of our family worship time: singing.
Time of Day, Frequency, and Being Busy
We typically do our family worship right after dinner time, which for us is usually around 6:00. Family’s with unusual schedules might need to pick another window of time that better fits their family’s needs. While we don’t do family worship every single night, we do make a point to do it most nights. This can be very difficult, especially during certain times of the year when we tend to be extra busy. For example, during the spring our two oldest children were involved in playing baseball and softball. There were several occasions when we were at a baseball or softball field three nights a week. But even though it was much harder to maintain consistent family worship during these busy days, we decided beforehand that nothing and no-one would prevent us from family worship. This was going to be a priority for our family over any other extracurricular activities. What this meant was that there were times when we kept our kids up later than we normally would to have family worship. Sometimes, if the kids had a ballgame in the evening, it meant having family worship before supper or even first thing in the morning. Life is busy, and I’m sure it will only get busier for us; but we are convinced that family worship is too important to be given up for something else.
I hope you will consider making family worship central in your home, and that what I’ve written here might give you some helpful tips on how to do it. My prayer is that a whole host of families will rise up and say with Joshua,
“Choose you this day whom you will serve . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)