It was a defining moment in our lives and the lives of our children. Several years ago—when we only had two children—we set out on an adventure (actually just a 10-minute drive), visiting the home of a family from our church. They had 8 children and a flock of crazy chickens running around their yard. After dinner, laughter, and some engaging conversation they invited us to join them for a time of family worship.
Many of the families at our new church mentioned family worship in passing, but we weren’t exactly confident that we knew what they did, or how it was different from reading Bible stories to the children. Plus, it sounded complicated and time-consuming.
But we admired many of these families and the way that they had raised their children. We saw them take Deut. 6:4-9 and put it in to practice. They taught the word of God to their children diligently throughout the day through intentional conversation and by their own example. Their parenting displayed the grace of God to their children, and their children loved and obeyed their parents. They also purposed to devote a part of each day to regular times of family worship, teaching their children to value God’s word, singing praises to Him as a family, and sharing concerns and praying together.
So, we eagerly accepted the invitation to participate in family worship, hoping to learn what made this time so meaningful to this whole family. The older children generously offered the big sofa to us and then scattered themselves around the room on various chairs or the floor, while the little ones piled on their parents’ laps. As I looked around, I noted that they all looked so comfortable and genuinely happy to be there—unexpected for several teenage children and busy little boys who usually preferred the dirt.
Their father began with a prayer and we sang a few simple songs that we knew from church. He read the next chapter from the book of the Bible they were reading at the time, and then he asked a few follow-up questions to get a discussion started. Following a lively discussion, they noted a few prayer requests and closed in prayer.
That was it—read the bible, pray, and sing!
Observing and participating in family worship gave us the confidence that we could also have family worship and that it did not have to be complicated or involve long hours of preparation. We are so thankful that our friends invited us to join them and encouraged us to establish this practice in our home!
Not long after that, we were able to go away for a week to a small cabin near a lake. Shawn began leading family worship that week. Somehow being out of our normal routine made it easier to begin a new routine, which included family worship after dinner. The two of us felt a bit silly that first night, singing while our toddlers sat there wondering at our unexpected behavior. They quickly learned some songs and since then, singing has become a favorite part of the day not only for the children but for us as well.
We continue to gather together most evenings to sing, read scripture, and pray. Some evenings, when everyone joyfully participates, we read some children’s Bible study books and work on scripture memory as well. (I plan to share some of our favorite family worship resources soon!) And other nights, we choose to keep it short, so that it continues to be a joyful time rather than a burden.
Our children often remind us that we should make time for family worship (though sometimes the request is to delay the inevitable bedtime) and we have seen the older children develop a sincere desire to hear and know God’s word. God has used the practice of family worship in our home to grow our knowledge of God’s grace, to develop hearts of thankfulness and prayer, and to encourage us to praise God even on the hard days.
After sharing these verses in a previous post, this has been a continual refrain in my heart this week—a challenge from the Lord, I believe, to be so saturated with God’s word that it flows out to my family, so that we can worship the Lord together with thankfulness in our hearts.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing songs and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Col. 3:16)