My philosophy of youth ministry, one which I have communicated several times with our church body, and one which I made clear even before I brought on as Youth Pastor, is that my role is to supplement the spiritual nourishment that my students are receiving at home. Parents are to be the primary spiritual providers to their children; not the pastor, not the youth pastor, not the Sunday School teacher. Of course, there are going to be exceptions to this as there are going to be Christian kids that have non-Christian parents and it is in these cases that other Christians should step in to provide a spiritual foundation. But God’s plan for the family is that spiritual instruction is received primarily at home.
What is Family Worship
This is made clear to us 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.” What we have here is some of the earliest instructions on family worship. One of the primary ways that we give spiritual instruction to our children is to have family worship at home.
If I were to ask you personally if you care about the spiritual development of your child, I wouldn’t expect that anyone would say they didn’t. Now, that answer may change if I were to ask whether you thought you were the one responsible for that spiritual development. There are still many parents today who think that the parent’s responsibility is to love and provide for their children, while teaching them basic skills, and the church’s responsibility is to teach them all the spiritual stuff. Some might even argue that the basic skills stuff falls to the responsibility of the educational system. We cannot, however, find that model in scripture. What we do find is admonitions and exhortations for parents to train their children to be godly (basically the premise of the book of Proverbs).
Let us consider this quote from the great Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon, “If we want to bring up a godly family, who shall be a seed to serve God when our heads are under the clods of the valley, let us seek to train them up in the fear of God by meeting together as a family for worship.”
Another reason, and one of the most crucial ones, for family worship is that God may use that time to save souls. As you are leading your children into the presence of God, it may be that God calls them to salvation. Whenever I pray with my young children, the focal point of my prayer is that God would draw them to himself. Let us lead our families in worship that they might be saved.
What is family worship?
It may be possible that you are unfamiliar with the concept of family worship altogether, so you may be wondering what it is and what it looks like. Unfortunately, there is no one set formula for family worship that says it has to be done this way, at this time, in this setting, with these tools. I do want to give you some tips for how to do family worship, but I think we need to first define what family worship is. Borrowing a quote from the Ligonier Ministries website, “Family worship is the regular use of Scripture, song, and prayer by a family unit, guided by the head of the household.” This sounds like the model of a church service. So, in other words, family worship is worship. Now we can certainly point to some church services that have those things that we mentioned, where it’s hard to find any true worship taking place. And the same can be said about family worship. We mustn’t approach family worship as simply a religious discipline. It is one, but it should also be a time when are hearts and minds are fixed on God and true praise and worship is taking place.
Returning to the example of Charles Spurgeon, listen to this story told by a visitor to the Spurgeon home: One of the most helpful hours of my visits to Westwood was the hour of family prayer. “At six o’clock all the household gathered into the study for worship. Usually Mr. Spurgeon would himself lead the devotions. The portion read was invariably accompanied with exposition. How amazingly helpful those homely and gracious comments were. I remember, especially, his reading of the twenty-fourth of Luke: “Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.” How sweetly he talked upon having Jesus with us wherever we go. Not only to have Him draw near at special seasons but to go with us whatever labour we undertake... ...Then, how full of tender pleading, of serene confidence in God, of world-embracing sympathy were his prayers... His public prayers were an inspiration and benediction, but his prayers with the family were to me more wonderful still.”
How to do Family Worship
As I said, there is no set way to do family worship, but I do want to share some principles that I think will help you as you look to implement family worship as a part of your routine. Here are 11 principles for leading your family in worship (if you attended the Family Worship workshop at Family Camp, taught by George Ross, you may be familiar with these):
1. Worship is about God. Family devotions are when you meet with God as a family. Don’t let the details hide the big point – you are gathering together to hear from God and respond to Him in love.
2. Make it important. You can make family devotions a regular and joyful part of your home life, but you must make it a priority. Don’t let time pressures rob your family of the eternal treasure of knowing God.
3. Keep it short. For most families, 15 minutes several times each week will work well. As your children mature, devotion time will naturally become longer. But regular short meetings are better than occasional long meetings.
4. Make it fun. Everyone should look forward to family devotion time. Use role-playing to act out Bible stories, or invent motions to accompany the singing.
5. Use songs that teach. Choose songs that tell about the character of God, incorporate Bible verses when possible, and your kids can sing.
6. Make it a habit. Getting into a pattern (or habit) will make family devotions a normal part of your home.
7. Learn as you go. Experience will become your teacher. Since every family is different, you will need to discover what pattern of family worship best fits your home life.
8. Involve your kids. Have you children lead in different ways and times.
9. Avoid distractions. Turn off the television and remove toys from the area. If you have small children, an illustrated story Bible will help retain their attention. Remove distractions for mom and dad as well (turn those phones off!).
10. Model leadership and ask questions. Mom and Dad should be heavily engaged and involved as the lead their family during this time. Learn the art of asking questions.
11. Always include the cross and the tomb. Clearly communicate in light of the Gospel.
Family worship will be a discipline that will have huge dividends. Don’t let excuses keep you from growing spiritually as a family and instilling a love for God and His word into your children. May God be glorified in your efforts as you seek to bring Him praise!
Soli deo gloria, Pastor Brian