Family Worship

Family Worship provides an opportunity for fathers and mothers to fulfill a biblical command to raise their children in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). Paul places this command specifically on fathers but it will not happen unless both are agreed in its importance and usefulness. You may read the passage from Ephesians and say, “I do this all the time. We regularly discuss the Christian faith with our kids.” Wonderful, I am glad you do. I would suggest that while that is helpful more may be done to equip our children with instruction in our faith. We see intentional instruction in the account of the first Passover. The Lord has already instructed Moses on how to prepare the meal and the significance of what is about to happen. He then turns his attention to the instruction of Israel’s children, “And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the Lord who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.’” And the people bowed low and worshiped” (Ex. 12:26-27). See how the Lord provides the anticipated question, “What does this rite mean to you?” and the answer, “It is a Passover sacrifice to the Lord…” This is called catechesis, or oral instruction, based on questions and answers.

What are the benefits of doing family worship? First, it strengthens spiritual life. Daily reading the Bible, praying, and singing together can be a wonderful means of grace to the daily grind of life. It further reinforces your family identity as Christian. Your kids will see that being a Christian is not something for Sundays only but everyday. It is who you are even when no one else is around. Second, it strengthens your family life. Many young families feel the pressures of children's activities, church, work, and family responsibilities. Family worship shows the importance of coming together as a family. It should be an opportunity to rest and be refreshed. It provides opportunities for the family to connect and encourage one another in prayer and the Word. Third, it is proactively instructive. The practice of catechesis is not very popular these days. Instructing your children in our Reformed faith may seem odd to you. However, they are being catechized all the time. Those outside the church have an agenda, ideas, philosophies that all seek to instruct and you and your children. Formally training them with attention to the deep riches of our theology, will equip them to be good thinkers, know what they believe, and have the ability to engage with others with opposing worldviews. Third, family worship is evangelistic. Our Westminster Confession of Faith speaks to the timing of baptism and salvation, “The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered” (WCF 28.6). Our covenant children have received the sign of the new covenant even as we wait for the Lord to work in their hearts. Daily family worship provides ample opportunities for your children to be evangelized. You cannot read through a gospel and not have your children ask about sin, grace, salvation, the atonement, and the resurrection. If you wish your children to hear the gospel, what better way to make sure they hear it than sharing it with them every evening at the dinner table or living room couch? Finally, family worship is a great resource to train your children for Lord’s Day worship. They get familiar with hymns (try singing songs your church regularly sings). They get familiar with hearing the Word of God read. If you take that time to practice sitting still, being quiet, and not interrupting what is going on in the privacy of your home, they will be better prepared to behave the same way during public worship.

The biggest objections to family worship are usually practical: when, where, what, and how? Let us look at “when” first. The simple answer is whenever is best for the family. We have several homeschooled families at the Kirk. They often might find it easier to do in the morning. For others, it will have to be in the evening. The next question is “Where?” Again, wherever it is best for your family. I shared in Sunday School that we do not do family worship in the living room. We’ve tried a few times and every time it is a disaster. We do family worship immediately following dinner at the kitchen table. We remove all the plates, wipe down the table, and take out our Bibles, hymnal, and memory verses. As for the “what” of family worship, I would recommend, if you have never done this before, to start in a gospel preferably Mark. Mark is short and punchy. Finally, you want to know how to bring this all together. I recommend the following format for family worship: read the Bible, catechesis and/or memory verses, sing a hymn or psalm, and close with prayer. I also encourage you to check out a great article by Jason Helopoulos titled “Worship with Your Family in 5, 15, or 30 Minutes.” You can find it on the Gospel Coalition website.

Our Directory for Public Worship says that parents should set the example of piety and Christian living before the family. What better way to show our children the importance of their relationship with God than by practicing daily family worship together? I would add one more encouragement. I heard this from David Strain pastor of First Presbyterian in Jackson, MS. He said, “Never stop starting.” I have emphasized that family worship should be done daily. Many will respond, “What happens when we miss a day?” Do not beat yourself up. You also shouldn’t completely give up either. If you miss a day, start again the next. Never stop starting. You are sowing seeds of the gospel in the hearts of your family. Farmers know there is no such thing as an overnight success. You are going to need grace and time to develop this habit of family worship, but I promise, it is worth the time and effort for you and your family.

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