What Works for us (and might work for you) in Family Worship

Family devotions

Howard Kids – Thanksgiving Day 2013

Are you a parent?

Then you need to know that your kids are going to learn primarily what you teach them.

You might sometimes wish that you could delegate the spiritual training of your kids, but you are the one who is responsible to teach, train, and disciple your kids. This is not something to be outsourced to Sunday School teachers or Youth Pastors as past generations have sometimes done.

Over my fifteen years of parenting, my wife and I have continuously attempted to teach our kids what is true and call them to live in light of the truth of who God is and what he has done. We have read the Psalms and Proverbs as a family several times. When we do this, we have each of our kids (who is old enough to read) read a verse until we are finished with a chapter. After reading a chapter we have a discussion about what we learn in the chapter about who God is, what He is done, how He relates to us etc. Then we finish by praying together.

We have read/worked through The Jesus Storybook Bible several times. (Which I highly recommend) We have also had seasons where we felt like complete failures at family worship. But we have never given up. We now how two teenagers. In light of what we have learned over the years, here are Four words of advice to help you press forward in family worship:

1. You are BY FAR the Primary Spiritual Influence in the Life of your Kids.

Consider how Moses instructs the Israelites in the book of Deuteronomy concerning God’s ways:

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. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7, ESV)

The Scriptures make it clear that parents are to teach their kids Gods truths. But what about teenagers?

Recently I read a summary of the writing of Researcher, Christian Smith, who asserts that our assumptions about American Teenagers are often incorrect. He says:

“In U.S. culture, the very ideas of “teenager” and “rebellion” are virtually synonymous…But that impression is fundamentally wrong. What we learned from interviewing hundreds of different kinds of teenagers all around the country is that the vast majority of American teenagers are exceedingly conventional in their religious identity and practices. Very few are restless, alienated, or rebellious; rather the majority of U.S. teenagers seem basically content to follow the faith of their families with little questioning.”

Contrary to what many people think, you are the primary spiritual influence in the life of your kids. Wayne Rice, one of the pioneers of American youth ministry, argues this compellingly in his book, Reinventing Youth Ministry (Again). This truth is both comforting in knowing that we have a large influence on the spiritual lives of our kids and scary in that we have a large influence on the spiritual lives of our kids!

2.  Doing SOMETHING for Family Worship is Far Better than doing NOTHING.

My friend Josh McPherson, pastor of Grace City Church in Wenatchee, Washington recently told me, “A good plan today is far better than a perfect plan next week.” Perfection can be the enemy of progress. Read a verse and talk about it. Pray together. Get a book and go through it. But do something. Perfection has never worked for us. We have never (not even a single time) done family worship 7 nights in a row. Our goal is to pull it off somewhere around 4 nights a week. We have to work around high school basketball games, gymnastics, music lessons, dinner with neighbors etc. But we keep at it knowing that something is FAR better than nothing.

Related: 5 things you Absolutely Must do to have a Healthy Marriage

3. Don’t Quit when you get Discouraged.

The best way to save money (unless you are super rich) is not normally to make a one time deposit. The best way to save money is to put some away every month. Eventually, in most cases, your consistent savings will amount to a large savings account. This same principle of consistency is true with family worship. There will be times when a fight breaks out during family worship or when you feel like yelling at everyone. Come back to it tomorrow night. Don’t get discouraged and quit when your kids don’t vow to spend their lives on the mission field in Africa. Stay with it…for years…Don’t Quit.

4. What we are doing now for Family Worship.

A few weeks ago I called my friend, Chad Vegas, who pastors Sovereign Grace Church in Bakersfield, CA. I asked him for some insight into what might be effective for us to do in family worship now that we have two teenagers. Chad recommended that we take our family through the New City Catechism. We started this a few weeks ago and love it. Here is how it works for us:

  • We have dinner as a family 4-5 nights per week.
  • Before we get up from the dinner table we have a time of family worship.
  • We focus on one catechism question per week. (There are 52 total)
  • I printed 6 copies of the questions so each person has a copy. We keep them next to the dinner table.
  • There is an iPad and iPhone app for the Catechism. I have this open when I am leading.
  • The Catechism was put together (adapted) by Tim Keller.  Need I say more?
  • By the end of the week, our kids have the catechism question and answer memorized.
  • There are accompanying Scriptures that go along with the question of the week.
  • Chandra (my wife) and I talk through with our kids the implications of the question and the Scripture that we read.
  • We pray together.
  • It’s not rocket science.

Here is my final challenge:  No matter what –  Start this week

Please Comment and continue this conversation! We need your voice! What works for you?

And Please, Please, Please, Share this so that more of us will lead our families in this way!

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Posted by Brian Howard

My focus is to help YOU move forward one step at a time. I write about church excellence, personal productivity, and family leadership. I coach leaders, start churches, and help organizations break growth barriers. My goal is to draw on this experience to help YOU move forward in life, leadership, and productivity.

  1. Daniel Kleven March 8, 2014 at 4:49 am

    “We have never (not even a single time) done family worship 7 nights in a row. Our goal is to pull it off somewhere around 4 nights a week.”

    what!?!?!?! you don’t get the kids up at 6:30 for prayer and worship, and then again at noon and again at night?!?

    do you think that perfect puritan model is even helpful, or should we get that out of our heads as the “ideal” which we’re NEVER going to attain (and always feel guilty about)?

    we recently switched from “right after dinner” (fail for us) to “right before bed” and are getting closer to that 4-5 nights/week mark.

    this was a really encouraging post. thank you.

    Reply

  2. We homeschool and so do devotions most mornings. We choose a chapter of the bible to memorize each year (we just finished James 1 and are currently working on John 1). We are always switching it up as the kids grow older between bible study, bible stories, devotional readings… right now, we are reading Randy Alcorn’s Heaven for Kids. I find that having great flexibility is the key for us; both in what we study and how we study it.

    My favorite family tradition, however, is that if we stay home from church due to illness, we meet in the family room and do church as a family. The kids each share a verse and explain why they picked that one, and we all choose a spiritual song and pray. Amazing experience when they are active participants instead of passive receivers.

    Reply

  3. […] What Works For Us. Family worship is a daunting idea for many, especially if you never saw it modeled while growing up (like me). Here, a pastor/parent explains what works for him and his family for their family worship. […]

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  4. […] Brian Howard shares what his family does for Family Worship. It may be less than what you expect or may seem like an impossible mountain to scale. Regardless, his closing words are fitting. “No matter what, start this week”. Read, What Works for us (and might work for you) in Family Worship | Brian HowardWhat Works for us (and mi…. […]

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  5. I kept trying new “adult” devotionals (like “For the Love of God”) at the dinner table, but they were always too long and uninteresting for my 3-year-old. So I switched to using Sally Lloyd-Jones’s “Thoughts that Make Your Heart Sing” and it does the trick. It’s a short devotional on a verse and has the same excellent artwork by Jago. Because there is artwork, my daughter always stops eating to listen and look at the picture. It only takes about 2 minutes (if that) to read, but it’s good for asking one or two follow-up questions with young children.

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  6. This is great. Thanks for the encouragements.

    We’ve been going through (for a second time) “Big Truths for Young Hearts” — once or twice a week. It’s a great book for helping me and my kids learn theology.

    Like you, I agree that doing something is better than nothing. We see a big emphasis for parents teaching their children theology around Christmas & Easter, and then that passion goes away.

    http://differentway4kids.blogspot.com/2014/01/dont-be-seasonal-christian-parent.html

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  7. […] What Works for Us in Family Worship – “Are you a parent? Then you need to know that your kids are going to learn primarily what you teach them. You might sometimes wish that you could delegate the spiritual training of your kids, but you are the one who is responsible to teach, train, and disciple your kids.” […]

    Reply

  8. […] What Works for us (and might work for you) in Family Worship | Brian Howard […]

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  9. […] to God for feeding your family and making food delicious. Sing to Jesus together. Pray together. Do family worship. Work hard to make your child very comfortable in talking about Jesus with you. Let your home be a […]

    Reply

  10. Brian,

    I really liked this article.

    I really like the part about discouragement. I find I’m there a lot and I have to bring the gospel truth to bear on those feelings. This was really helpful for me this morning.

    Thank you again.

    Reply

  11. […] to God for feeding your family and making food delicious. Sing to Jesus together. Pray together. Do family worship. Work hard to make your child very comfortable in talking about Jesus with you. Let your home be a […]

    Reply

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