There are several things that Christian parents can do to promote spiritual growth and health in their children. Church attendance, catechizing, observing the Lord’s Day, spiritual conversations, loving discipline, and family worship – just to name a few. Raising godly children is not a mere suggestion but a command from God’s word. Moses says in Deuteronomy 6:4-9,
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Two things stand out in this text. First, God often uses the obedience of Christian parents as a means by which He will call the child to Himself. Notice who is called to be the primary teacher of spiritual things in the child’s life – “You!” [the parent]. Second, it shows us that the things of God are taught most effectively in the common setting of your daily routines – sitting in the house, traveling; the normal events of the morning and evening.
Almost every parent cares about physical provision for their child, yet many Christian parents are derelict concerning spiritual things. Friend, making sure your children are clothed and fed is only half of your job. What about seeing Christ formed in them? We are called to instruct our children in the way of salvation, discipline them, pray for them, challenge them to grow in godliness and to be growing in godliness ourselves.
Each of us has seen a new product on store shelves that have made us slap our foreheads and ask, “Why didn’t I think of that?” The reality is some of the most profound inventions on the planet are often some of the simplest. One of the simplest ways for us to be obedient to those Deuteronomy 6 principles is through regular and meaningful Family Worship.
What is Family Worship?
The three primary components of Family Worship are singing, scripture reading, and prayer.
Singing – Perhaps the scariest aspect for the musically challenged, is also one of the most delightful for the entire family. Singing is a crucial part of both Family and Corporate Worship for praising God and helping us to remember biblical truth. Grab and old hymn book and sing a family favorite. Sing the Psalms (Download the 1650 Psalter App – it’s a wonderful tool!). Learn some children’s songs to sing with your little ones. My heart still bursts with joy every time my three-year-old sings, “What is our only hope in life and death? That we are not our own but belong to God!”
Scripture Reading – The heart of all Christian worship is God’s Word! Find a Bible reading plan and stick with it! Reading to your children even one chapter a day, six days per week, for three years will get you through the Bible! Memorize God’s Word together too! Pick a few simple verses, the 10 commandments, etc. and begin teaching them to your children.
Prayer – “Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to His will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies” (Westminster Shorter Catechism A.98). Our prayers should reflect a healthy balance of adoration, confession, praise, and intercession for ourselves and our neighbors. Family worship is an opportunity to teach your children to pray!
I have a confession. I am a Pastor and I didn’t successfully implement daily Family Worship in our home until the beginning of this year (2020). It wasn’t due to seeing these things as unimportant but rather a long list of excuses and difficulties that I had to be overcome. As I examine my past failures, I see that my past attempts had been squashed by time and timing.
How long should Family Worship Last? Brevity and consistency are your friends when seeking to keep your children engaged and ensure that your time together is profitable. Ten minutes, while the children are young, is perfectly acceptable. Naturally, as your children grow so will the length of time spent during family worship. Don’t kill family worship by trying to make it too long.
When should we do Family Worship? The most common times to hold Family Worship are morning/breakfast, Dinnertime, and bedtime. We tried multiple times to do evenings, each of which ended in frustration. My wife and I found that gathering at breakfast time has worked wonderfully for our family. There lies the secret – do what works best for your family.
Obstacles to Starting and Continuing Family Worship
There is no shortage of obstacles to faithfully leading your family.
The Fact That You’ve Never Done This Before: New routines are hard to set and maintain. Your family may kick against this new idea – You’ll need grace, patience, and perseverance to get through this initial difficulty.
An Uncooperative Spouse or Children: maybe your spouse is critical toward this new plan or flat-out uncooperative. Your responsibility is to lovingly try to work them through their apprehensions and to pray for their heart to change. Maybe your spouse (particularly husbands) is just lazy. Do all that you can to help them find Bible passages, songs, and set up times to make Family Worship happen. Children less than thrilled? Explain to your child why you are doing what you are doing and again, keep it brief!
Crazy Schedule: We are busy people. If Family Worship is truly important then it needs to find prominence in our schedule. This may mean some radical changes need to take place. I had to change a four-year-old routine of leaving the house every morning for work at 5:30 AM so that I could be home with my girls to do family worship at breakfast.
Idealism: Dr. Ligon Duncan calls idealism the “primary enemy” of family worship. Too many of us have grand visions of sitting around the table fielding thought-provoking questions from our 3-year-old regarding supralapsarianism verses infralapsarianism, Singing the Psalms from memory in four-part harmony, and collectively dropping to our knees for 45 minutes of meaningful prayer. The problem is that it isn’t your family and likely won’t be your family. You are not called to be Jonathan Edwards, you are called to be a godly father/mother to your children. Don’t let your idealism kill your zeal. Meet your family where they are, pour yourself into them and they will thank you for it.
Parents, we have an awesome responsibility to raise our families in godliness. The power of training has its primary place in the home. If you feel that you have been lacking in the area of family worship, now is the time to put your hand to the plow and not look back.
What are you waiting for?
Go right now and pick a song, pick a passage, grab some prayer requests. Set up a meeting time and get to leading your family in one of the simplest, yet most life-changing routines you could ever implement – for their good and God’s Glory!
This was a guest post from Blake Laberee. Blake is a husband, father of two, and the lead Pastor of a small Baptist Church in the Pacific Northwest. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Pastoral Ministry and was a Youth Pastor for five years. Blake averages one book per week, is an avid outdoorsman, and is a fan of Phillies Baseball.