Family Worship Image

Recently, I spoke at Kedleston’s Family Adventure Camp on the topic of Family Worship. One thing made clear throughout Scripture is that parents are to pass their faith on to their children. Personally, I grew up in a home with a plaque on the wall from Joshua 24:15 that said: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” This declaration is representative of Old Testament theology, announcing that faith should not be an individualistic endeavor.  In the New Testament, we see the pattern of Family Worship continuing in the example of Timothy, who learned the faith from his grandmother and mother (1 Timothy 1:5; 3:15).

Family Worship in the Early Church:

As we move into the early church period, we find that the early Christians met in the home three times a day for Family Worship:

At an early hour in the morning the family was assembled, when a portion of Scripture was read from the Old Testament, which was followed by a hymn and a prayer…in the evening, before retiring to rest, the family again assembled, when the same form of worship was observed as in the morning, with this difference, that the service was considerably protracted beyond the period which could be conveniently allotted to it in the commencement of the day. Besides all these frequent observances, they were in the habit of rising at midnight to engage in prayer and singing of psalms.1)L. Coleman, The Antiquities of the Christian Church (Gould, Newman & Saxton, 1841), 375-376. Available from Google Books at: http://books.google.ca/books?id=CV0WAAAAYAAJ&q=At+an+early+hour+in+the+morning#v=onepage&q=in%20the%20evening&f=false

Chrysostom [c. 349–407], said it this way: “Every house should be a church, and every head of a family a spiritual shepherd, remembering the account which he must give even for his children and servants.”2)Schaff, vol. 3, p. 535, available from CCEL.

[Tweet ““Every house should be a church, and every head of a family a spiritual shepherd.” #Chrysostom”]

Resources for Family Worship for Today:

So, as we move into our present world, how can we practice family devotions? Most of us won’t be up for getting up at midnight like the early Christians did, however, at camp we discussed several ideas for how we can make family worship a regular part of our lifestyle. Most importantly, we concluded that it is best to not beat yourself up over this topic (unless you feel Godly conviction). This is definitely one of those areas of life where a little is better than nothing. If you can meet as a family even once a week, do it without guilt. Also, we concluded that it is wise to incorporate modern technology into your family worship, rather than teaching kids that technology and faith are separate. Here are some suggestions:

  • This blog post provides a good starting place: “How Youtube Helps Our Family Worship“.
  • Youversion’s Bible App for Kids is interactive and engaging for preschoolers to adults. Best of all, its free.
  • If you want to bring an apologetic edge to your teaching, Beyond Teachable Moments is designed to help kids learn about issues like sex and gender, the reliability of the Bible, basic economics, secularism, etc.
  • And here are Five other Bible apps for kids. I especially like the idea of using the “Jesus Calling” app as a family, since there is a book for parents and an app for kids, which keep your family studying the same thing each day.

If you want some low tech resources, check out these ideas:

  • Check out the “Bible reading plan for children” by David Murray. This is published weekly or you can download it in 6 month chunks. It is brief, simple, and provides a lot of variety, as well as really creative ways to teach children the bible.
  • Or if you find that plan too intimidating, this Bible Reading plan is designed to guide you through five weeks of bible readings at 20 verses per day.
  • The best children’s bible for putting the whole story of Scripture together (because it brings each story back to Jesus, including each Old Testament story) is called The Jesus Story Book Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones.
  • Finally, if you want to leave a legacy a Christian legacy for your children beyond family worship, this idea is really appealing: “Dad’s, Write in Your Bible“.

Tips for Facilitating Family Worship:

When it comes to how often you should meet together and for how long, the best rule of thumb comes from the Puritans: “Don’t wear out little minds”:

“Don’t provoke your children. Thomas Lye (d. 1684) said, ‘Nothing more disgusts a child’s spirit, than long and tedious discourses.’ Samuel Lee wrote, ‘Be frequent, and pithy, and clear in family instruction…. But in all your instructions, have a care of tedious prolixity; make up the shortness of your discourse by frequency… Long orations burden their small memories too much, and through such imprudence may occasion the loathing of spiritual manna.’ If you worship twice a day, try ten minutes in the morning and twenty-five in the evening. Aim for consistency.”3)Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), Kindle Location, 32702-32707

Final Thought on Family Worship:

Hebrews 13:17 says that we should make it a joy for our leaders to lead us in the things of God. I can think of no better way to do this than to practice regular Family Worship, because the church rarely recovers what is lost at home. One of the best modern authors on Family Worship, Joel Beeke, said it this way: “Blessed is the church where family worship takes place in the home! In that place the pastor need not exhaust himself trying to do the work of many spiritual fathers at once.”4)Ibid., 32793

[Tweet “Blessed is the church where families worship at home! Their pastor won’t be exhausted. @Joelbeeke”]

Finally, if you want to learn more about how to do Family Worship well, Joel Beeke gave a presentation on the topic at a Desiring God conference. Although long and aimed at pastors, this is a really helpful introduction to the topic. Beeke also has a short 30-page booklet called “Family Worship” available for free.

Family Worship – History, Resources, and Tips

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