It’s one of the most basic things that a Christian family does — or should do. And yet there are many Christian parents who’ve just never been taught. They might be new Christians, or perhaps they grew up in a church-going family that was just not very serious about following the Lord. For them especially, I’ve been meaning to write this practical post about how to do family worship. This is about the practical side of it. I’m not going to explain the biblical rationale for it today. Instead, I’ll just assume that we agree that Christian families should worship God together. Moreover, I’m not presenting this as the definitive way to do family worship. Rather, this is the way our family does it. There are other ways to do it. There’s freedom for that.
In our family, we normally do family worship after our evening meal. At the beginning of the meal, I normally lead in prayer and give thanks for the food. During that prayer, I’ll also ask for God’s blessing on our family worship later.
After the meal is over, we’ll begin by reading Scripture. Throughout our married life, my wife and I have just constantly read straight through the Bible in our family worship. For many years, I would just read and everyone else would listen. But in the last few months, everyone has a Bible and everyone takes a turn reading a verse or two from the chapter. Most times we read an entire chapter, but if the chapter is long we might split it up over a couple of days or more. The hard part for a father is trying to make some intelligent comments about what is read, comments that draw out the meaning of the passage, how it points to Christ, and how it applies to our lives. That can even be hard for a father who’s a pastor! This is where you can really benefit from the Reformation Heritage Study Bible (see my review here). Every chapter includes “Thoughts for Personal and Family Worship.” This feature has also been distilled into the Family Worship Bible Guide. Sometimes there are just comments, other times questions to ponder or discuss. It’s really enriched our Bible reading time!
After Scripture, we do a short time of catechism instruction. When our children were younger, we sometimes used The Children’s Catechism, encouraging them to memorize the answers. As our children became older, we used a book by Starr Meade based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. The book is entitled Training Hearts, Teaching Minds. I highly recommend it. She also has a book based on the Heidelberg Catechism, Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds. You can find my review of that here, but in brief, I still prefer her previous book. Whatever is done, it’s important for parents to catechize their children with Christian doctrine. It’s not first of all the job of the church, but of the youth pastors, i.e. the parents.
Next, we sing a psalm or hymn. There are different ways of doing this. Our children went to a Christian school and had memory work from our church’s songbook (the Book of Praise). So, in the past, we’ve sometimes sung their memory work. These days, we just sing our way through the psalms and hymns. God loves to hear his people sing! And don’t worry if you’re singing is not that great — neither is mine. God just loves to hear you and your family sing. It is, after all, family worship.
Finally, we end with a brief time of prayer. Each day, a different member of the family takes a turn in leading this closing prayer. It’s important for our children to learn how to lead in prayer. Especially when they’re younger, the prayers might not be that deep or elaborate, but it doesn’t matter. Family worship is about training and discipleship. They’ll grow into it. There can be an opportunity for prayer requests. You can also make a prayer calendar where you pray for some particular things each day of the week. On some occasions, Christian families can also take turns praying around the table. I know of families that do that once a week or more.
All up, our family worship usually takes about 15-20 minutes, depending on how much discussion we have.
Like I said, our way of doing it is not the only way. There is lots of room for flexibility with family worship. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Above all, my one word of advice is: just do it! Your family will be blessed for it.