We have spent several years working out the logistics of family worship with young children. Some nights are a struggle as we endeavor to teach everyone to be still and listen attentively. Along the way, we have learned a few things that help to keep it a joyful experience, rather than a burden, and that encourage even the smallest children to participate.
- Expect interruptions. We usually have to stop several times to encourage participation, ask little ones to sit still and stop poking one another, or take care of a defiant toddler. Interruptions tend to cause frustration, especially if time is limited. By expecting these interruptions, it is easier to continue on in patience instead of viewing the children as a hindrance.
- Address questions to the little ones. Our older children often jump in and answer questions before the little ones have a chance to respond. Try addressing “easy” questions to the younger children and teach the older children to wait for their own questions. The little ones will listen more attentively if they expect questions, and the older children can be taught self-control and patience in the process.
- Add a children’s book. We have a collection of gospel-centered story bibles and family devotional books. These are not meant to take the place of scripture reading, but read in addition to the Bible. We don’t use these every night, but pictures and interactive questions help to engage the youngest children. If they are very excited to read from one of these books, it can also be good incentive to sit quietly through the Bible reading.
- Know when to keep it short. If the children are grumpy or other circumstances arise, we have an abbreviated time of family worship. In 10 minutes, we can sing a song, read a Psalm, and say a brief prayer. After a long day, a few minutes of quiet worship can go a long way in calming the crew before bed.
Of course, each family will have to experiment to find the best routine for their own family worship times, but I hope some will find encouragement and help from the things we have learned through our own trial and error.
Please feel free to add any of your own suggestions in the comments!