When our oldest children were born, we knew it as Family Devotions. Even now you can search for family devotion materials. Some call it a “Family Altar” and still others, like us, “Family Worship”. The title may vary but the important things are consistency and content.
Though we had a true desire to raise our children for the Lord, doing a specific Bible time with them was inconsistent. I could say we were busy, and we were. I could say that either we or the children were tired at the end of the day, and we were. I could even tell you that they were already learning things at church, and they were. However, I think it would be more accurate to say, we just didn’t understand the significance or the structure of a family worship time.
Parenting is steeped with routines like brushing teeth, meals and bedtime stories. Attention to physical needs with little ones is a big part of our job. But just as important, no, of higher importance, is attention to routines that feed us spiritually.
Being a parent is so much more than any of us had ever imagined. (Am I right?) In all of my years of babysitting and being a camp counselor, I was never having to think through all of the intricacies of long term care for a child. Now, as a parent, that is my charge. It’s not enough to simply “keep them alive”. Parenting is so much more of an investment. We are thinking of the whole child. Physical, mental, educational, emotional and spiritual development are all in need of attention.
Though all of those things are foundational, right now I will focus on one of them, spiritual development. Primary spiritual training isn’t to be delegated, it is mandated to parents. Does this mean we cannot utilize the ministries of our local church and beyond to train our children for the Lord? Of course not! What I’m saying quite simply is, that if you are relying solely on those ministries to pour into your children the life transforming truths of the Bible, you are missing out!
Though we train our children throughout the day as life moves us, setting aside daily time to dig in deeper is of huge benefit. We can assure that they are learning foundational truths that could be otherwise lost when we appoint a time to systematically disciple our children.
Let me start by reminding you that every family actually has a personality. This is the wonderful mix of who you each are as individuals and as a group. Part of this is the ages, stages, talents and gifting of each one! Because of that, your structure is going to be unique to your family. Though there may be some similarities in family worship formats, you will make it your own.
The way we do things….
Typically, we start with a song. Though we enjoy singing together and everyone can carry a tune, we aren’t a super “musical family”. Few of us play instruments and so our song time tends to be acapella. At times we have sung from hymnals, from praise chorus books and also along with music from a digital format. Maybe you will bring out instruments or gather around a piano. Whatever works for you, take a moment to worship the Lord in song.
Praying is a good way to begin any event. To start out, we pray for open hearts and for the Lord’s word to be understood. We pray that we would be attentive to hear what the Lord would have for us and that we would understand Him and His word more fully.
Lesson time is where we linger the longest (but your home may be different). We need to change things up a bit through the seasons of life. Sometimes we read through the Bible directly, chapter at a time. Then, there are times when still using the Bible as our foundation, we employ a different delivery. For example, if my husband is out of town or he is ill, we may watch a missionary story through media. There are also times that we watch a documentary such as The Star of Bethlehem or The Truth Project.
Every year, in the month of December, we take a break from any other teaching and our family worship time is anchored in The Waiting Tree which was our introduction to regular family worship time. No matter what format is used, we always bring it back to scripture and discussion. Our desire is that our children understand what we believe and then, own their own faith.
To close, we pray again. This has been a good time to bring forth any requests that each person has. It is also a great time to get out our prayer box and pass it around. So many times we may hear prayer requests throughout the days and weeks but they could go forgotten. Instead, making this time open to remembering those requests brings them before us and put it into action! Often after our prayer time these very things are the start of conversation with the older children as the younger ones get ready for bed.
What about the wiggles?
I know what you are thinking. My children are too young, they won’t sit still. That may be true. Who said anything about sitting still? In fact, let them stand. Let them act out a Bible story. Maybe they need to sit on a ball or squeeze some play-dough. Most of my children draw or color while we read and discuss. They are learning nonetheless. Adapt your family worship time to fit the ages, stages and personality of your family.
How about an older child? Do they need to be part of this time? I guess I would ask you this, Have you already learned all that there is to know from the Scripture and about God? No matter our age, there is always more to learn. For some teens it may help to give them a task to take ownership of. If they play an instrument, put them in charge of the song part. If they like to debate, engage them in a discussion about your faith. As a matter of training to lead their own families someday, you might even allow one of your teens to completely lead from time to time. We gather in and include our teens just as much as our little ones.
Maybe you have never thought about it before. Perhaps your own faith is new to you. Quite possibly since becoming a parent you have considered your own faith with new eyes and desire to pass that on to your children. Whatever the case may be, I encourage you to dig a little deeper. You don’t have to buy a bunch of materials. Seminary or a degree in Bible is not required. Simply open up God’s word and talk about it. If it’s new to you, you can learn along side your children! In fact, by teaching them, you will come to understand it better yourself.
Resources To Get You Started:
The Family Worship Book by Terry L. Johnson
Hidden Treasures and other resources by Doorposts (Pam Forster)
Family Bible Study Series by Kevin Swanson