Family Worship – The Why / Some Dangers / Benefits and Tips
By: David Diaz
Every Christian husband, wife, father, and mother has the enormous responsibility and privilege to be disciple makers in their own home. This is not a pre-written afterthought from a Hallmark card written by a stranger. This is a heavy, difficult, and fearsome endeavor charged to parents by the Creator of the universe. LET THAT SINK IN… because one of the first things I want to acknowledge is that when the words “Family” and “Worship” or “Daily” and “Devotional” are paired together, most of us would rather not talk about it lest we are honest and admit that this is a weak area of our lives.
This blog is not intended to show you the 11th commandment “Thou must have family worship daily” because it simply doesn’t exist. We are not told by God to sit around the dinner table or sit on our sofas daily and worship God together. This entry is meant to show us what the Bible says about family worship in our homes. To do so, I will touch on a few subjects relating to family worship which include; consistency to achieve true disciple-making, guilt over lack of family worship time, methods to avoid, benefits to look forward to, and practical steps to grow in this discipline. If you are a single person or single parent, read on as there’s something in here for you as well.
For now, let’s look at the following verses together and see if we can agree that the worship of God in our families is a biblical principle and important discipline.
6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.7 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.
5 He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, 6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children,7 so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments;
4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
2 Tim. 3:14-15
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom[a]you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. ‘’
The common thread in all of the passages is families being connected to God through the proclamation of his Word in the home and of parents being the initiators and planners of these types of interactions in the home. Sadly, over the years that I’ve been in the church, I’ve seen parents depend on pastors, youth group leaders, and children’s ministry leaders to disciple their children once a week, only to wonder decades later why their child has gone astray. Our God in His wisdom has charged parents to do the bulk work of rearing a child spiritually. In the Bible, we are told that Timothy was taught God’s Word by his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. Our generation desperately needs more Loises and Eunices to train them in God’s ways.
GUILT VS. GRACE
If we’ve come this far in the blog and are honest, we probably feel guilt from what the word of God requires and how that starkly contrasts with our everyday lives. The good news about any guilt we may feel as Christians is that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ! When we feel guilt over our lack of family worship or personal devotional time, we can run toward God. His mercies are new every morning! The blood of Christ has wiped away all our sin so now we can push on to obey God’s word daily without the weight of sin and its guilt. If we are to do anything that pleases God, it must come from the acknowledgment that it is only possible because of God’s grace in our lives and because the righteousness of Christ has been given to us through faith and not because of our performance. Everything in this blog moving forward is to be seen through the lens that we are only able to these things because Christ’s blood was shed for us and we have the Spirit of Christ empowering us to do these things. As you read on, if you feel any guilt I recommend you do these steps: repent, run to Christ, rest in Christ, and resolve to do better by His power.
One of the major killers of family worship is passivity. I’m sure there are many parents who wake up early, rise and go to work, and come through the front door at 6:00 p.m. to kick back and relax for the rest of the night in front of the television, or electronic devices. I must remind us (as a father myself) that while our 9 to 5 work is very important our most important work is from 5 to 9 when we are home. Passivity is a family worship killer because we are easily influenced by our emotions and feelings when we get home from work. Our hearts are easily pliable due to the circumstances we are faced with. We come home tired, dinner has to be cooked, homework has to be done, kids’ baths have to be given, the dining room and kitchen have to be cleaned for the next day, the dishes have to get done, and the laundry that has been sitting around for a couple of days is waiting to be put away. In our busyness, we can become passive about God’s Word instead of passionate.
Another major killer of family worship is idleness. We get lazy. Somehow we have the energy to get up and get the kids ready for school, go to work, take the kids to soccer practice, cook for them, give them baths and get them ready for bed, but by the time we sit down with them in the evening we are tired and slothful. Simply put we just don’t feel like opening up our Bibles when the day was long and the kids are yelling, jumping, fighting, or crying – all at the same time! Perhaps we rush through the evening routine to get the kids to bed so we can finally get some “me” time and relax with our favorite Netflix show we are binge watching. Idleness means we are not driven by purpose but rather by convenience. In our leisure, we can become idle in our pursuit of God’s Word instead of intentional.
One form of legalism is to do what God’s word says, but only as an outward obedience than an inward one. We may feel guilt over this blog and decide that we need to get our act together and start doing family devotions. We will do it and check it off our list of to-dos between dinner time and bath time. Our hearts are not fully engaged but we trek through it anyway because we must obey. This is dangerously close to what Jesus warned us about in Matthew 15:8, “These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me, in vain do they worship me.” It is astounding that we could be doing something the word of God commands, and yet not please God. The Pharisees were twisting one of God’s commandments with their tradition. Have we twisted God’s commandment to instruct our children in the word and have replaced it with a tradition that we merely check off daily to feel good about ourselves? What’s worse is that we could be passing down this legalism to our children. We must guard against doing family worship out of mere tradition. In our need to be do-gooders, we can become legalists instead of lovers of God’s word.
FROM SINNERS TO SAINTS (JUSTIFICATION)
One of the benefits of family worship as a discipline in the home is we are the key players in instructing our children and therefore have the privilege of seeing them go from sinners to saints. Let me remind you that the adorable, cuddly, pooping and farting baby you are holding in your arms is already a sinner in need of a savior. That baby you hold in your arms is an enemy of God. If you don’t believe me, I’ve been around this block four times. I recall how surprised I was when my first child as an infant lashed out and almost sliced my cheek off my face with their paper-thin razor-like talons after I took their toy away. I wore a hockey goalie mask for the next three kids. Parenting children is a war on sin and the enemy as we are depositing the seeds of God’s word into the hardened, frozen tundra soil in the heart of our children. This is why the discipline of family worship is such a crucial weapon against the unregenerate heart of a child. We diligently sprinkle seeds of the gospel into that frozen heart of stone, until the word of God removes a heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh that beats for Him and begins to love God and all that He is. What a privilege it has been for my wife and I to have witnessed this happening in our two oldest daughters.
FROM DEAD TO DISCIPLE (SANCTIFICATION)
Another benefit of family worship is seeing a spiritually dead child become a disciple of Jesus. I cannot express with words how joyful it is to watch a child pursue, seek and love Jesus. This is the crucial stage that we are entrusted with by God. First, God solely converts sinners to saints through the regeneration of a child’s sinful hardened heart by the power of His Spirit. Now, parents partner up with God in the sanctification process of their child. Our justification is a one-time event while sanctification is a daily occurrence for the rest of our lives. How crucial then it is for parents to prioritize family worship in the home? With time there is fruit that is born and we begin to watch our children grow (at snail speed probably!) in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Parent, every time you speak of God’s word to your children, you are fulfilling the Great Commission and are being faithful in filling the earth with disciples of Jesus.
CONSISTENTLY VS. DAILY
A helpful tip in pursuing family worship in your own home is to not worry so much as to how to do it, how long should it take, and how often should it happen – but rather that you do it! Doing it is more important than the how and when. Depending on your schedule and pace of life, you will begin to figure that out as you go. It is easy to get bogged down with the pressure to do it daily when you first begin that you may become discouraged to the point of stopping altogether. Pick yourself up, dust yourself, and go for it again the next day, and the day after next. This is a marathon you are running, not a sprint. You will have your children for 18-20 years so when you have a bad week, pick up where you left off for the following week.
NOT SOPHISTICATED BUT SIMPLE
The KISS model works here (KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID). Too much too soon will not work. Start slowly and small. Family worship should consist of at least three things: Reading/Teaching the Word of God, singing the Word of God and praying the word of God. Pick a simple devotional book and keep the reading to a minimum to keep your children engaged. Sing a song that they are familiar with, and finally, pray about what you read and learned in God’s Word. The younger the kids are the simpler it ought to be and as they get older you can begin to change it up a bit and do longer readings. Older children can have a role in reading a passage of Scripture and/or leading prayer.
LONG –TERM OVER SHORT TERM
It is easy to get caught up in unrealistic short-term progress goals as well as be discouraged when results are not seen. The goal is not to take shortcuts. The goal is to be faithful in the short-term so you can see fruit in the long-term. You can count on there being bad days. You may have one child trying to listen, while another is spaced out, while another is crying for their toy, while another doesn’t have time for this and would rather climb down and crawl around and eat crumbs from the dinner table. Remember that God is not offended by this, rather He’s honored that you are being faithful. God uses the ordinary just as well as the extraordinary to grow our children into the likeness of Christ over the course of their lifetime.
A WORD FOR SINGLES / SINGLE MOMS / WIVES WITH DISENGAGED HUSBANDS
If you are single, this blog was for you also. Most likely, you will be married and have children one day, Whether you are a single man or a single woman, your priority is ought to be your personal walk with the Lord, so that when you are married and become a parent you will dive right into the discipline of family worship before kids and after kids. If you are a single mother or a wife whose husband is not a believer or is a disengaged believer, you are also responsible for the spiritual care of your children. Mothers in either of these situations will have to assume the role of being the spiritual leader of the home. This is, of course, a big undertaking but it is not impossible for you. God’s grace supply does not run short and will do much more and make up for your shortcomings as you fight to disciple your children. God is faithful and He will be with you every step of the way.
Lastly, if you have not started the spiritual discipline of family worship in your home, it is not too late. Take advantage of this advent season to begin to sit down with your children daily and read about the birth of Christ and sing some Christmas hymns. Below are a few options for advent devotionals for you and your family.