Answering the Call of Family Worship
More than anything in the world, Rick prized time with his children. His work sometimes took him away for extended periods of time, but he always managed to create ways to bridge the gap created by the time and distance. In fact, on one momentous trip, Rick created a videotape with 17 daily devotions on it—one for each day he'd be gone.
"I can at least talk to them over the videotape and let them know I'm praying for them," he said. There was nothing he could think of that was better than telling them about God.
His devotional from February 1, 2003, included the following words to his daughter, Laura:
It's Landing Day and hopefully, if the weather's good, I'll be landing today in Florida. I'm certainly looking forward to seeing you, Matthew, and Mama." Rick read from Laura's devotional book and when he finished, he prayed for her. "Okay, Laura, it won't be long before I see you! I love you very, very much … I'll see you in just a little while! I love you. Bye, Bye!
Rick wanted both Laura and Matthew to have a daily relationship with God. It's what had changed Rick's life, and he knew it would sustain Laura and Matthew for the rest of their lives. This was Rick's highest calling.
That day, February 1, 2003, Captain Rick Husband and the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia died when the craft broke apart over north Texas during re-entry.1
What drives a parent to do family worship?
What would prompt a man as busy as Rick Husband to make such an investment of time in doing devotions with his children? Wouldn't the kids be fine without it? And after all, how did he know what to do?
Rick took seriously what the Bible says about teaching your children. As Psalm 78:4-8 tells us:
For He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments …
He understood that effectively teaching them is not a one-time occurrence, but a daily and ongoing process:
These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons 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 up (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
And he knew that his efforts, whether eloquent or clumsy, would spiritually prepare his children for a life of happiness and blessing. Talking to Timothy, the apostle Paul wrote:
You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings ... (2 Timothy 3:14-15a).
We all desire for our children to know God, to serve Him, and to love Him. We want to protect them. We want them to avoid the difficulty that comes with sin. We want them to be happy in doing what is right.
Family worship is a key component to fulfilling these desires for our children. It is a time when the family is all together. It is a time when we look into God's Word and gain His perspective. It is a time when we can actually pray and hear each other pray. In my experience, family worship holds the potential to be unlike any other occurrence in our lives and the lives of our children.
If we can then agree on the goodness of family worship (or family devotions, as some would call it), why is it still so rare in our families? It's mainly because we don't know where to start and we don't want to look like fools in front of our spouses and children.
This is where the rubber meets the road … and where our actions can finally align with our hearts. So, as we can already agree on the "why" of family worship, let's move forward into the "how."
How do you do family worship?
There is no single answer to this question. God is silent on the method of family worship and historically, methods widely vary. Don Whitney, author of Simplify Your Spiritual Life, suggests three components of family worship regardless of form.
Reading: Many children of Christian parents leave their homes after 18 years with a clear knowledge of their parents' convictions. However, many have no understanding of the Word that is behind them. In those cases, parents have taught their children their wisdom without sharing God's wisdom with them.
So make God's Word a regular part of your family worship. With younger children, the parent(s) can read a short passage out loud. With older children, the reading can be done by the children themselves. In any case, a discussion can follow rather than an actual lesson. You might consider a few standard questions to ask your family following the reading of any scriptural text:
- What does this mean in context?
- What can we learn from this?
- How should we change because of this?
If you don't know the answers, that's okay. You can learn from your children as God gives them unique insight. You can revisit a question after you've had some time to check with your pastor. This type of sharing might take time to develop, but with persistence and dedication, you can be sure it will develop eventually.
Prayer: One of the most overlooked practices in Christian families is family prayer. Here's your chance to change that. After you've discussed how the Scripture of the day/week should impact your family, pray for God to make that impact happen. Pray for each other. Parents can even confess on behalf of the family where appropriate. Pray for them, pray with them and let them pray for you.
If you hold family worship weekly, you might take specific prayer requests from each family member. If you do it daily, you might spend the prayer time focusing on one family member. The next day, another, and so on.
If your children are younger, be sensitive to the time. You don't need to rush through it … they are much more capable than you might think. However, be considerate of their youthfulness. If your children are older, you can spend a longer time in prayer. They may not desire it at first, but you can be sure they are capable. Start small and build up. You won't regret it.
Singing: Whether you attend a church that worships in a more conservative tradition or a contemporary one, music is an integral part of worship. People remember better when things are set to music. So, as important as music is in our public worship, why would we not intentionally bring it into our family worship?
Many say it's because they can't sing or play an instrument. You don't need to be a professional worship leader to lead your family in worship. My wife, Gina, sings well and she enjoys music very much. She has a rule, though: never sing publicly in a group smaller than 20. And she plays our piano with her forehead. Yet, I've not met anyone more deeply passionate about family worship than she is. She sees the value, enjoys the time, and wouldn't miss it for the world.
No matter how musical you are, you can certainly play a CD player. Choose hymns or praise songs or music by a favorite Christian artist and sing along. Our family highly recommends the Steve Green Hide 'em in Your Heart series. Not only can you worship along with these, but they help you memorize Scripture: All of the songs are simply verses from the Bible set to music.
What we do
Each morning, as I am finishing my personal time in the Word and eating my breakfast, I sit with my three oldest and we have devotions. (My youngest is still a baby and sleeping at this time.) We'll either work through a book of the Bible, a story of the Bible (such as David and Goliath/Moses and Pharaoh), or I'll tell them a made-up story illustrating a Proverb.
We work on Bible memory verses that Gina and I have selected. It almost always addresses issues that the children are working through, such as peacemaking, prayer, or loving others. This is also very useful in instruction and discipline throughout the day and week.
We begin and end in prayer.
In addition, every Wednesday (well, nearly every Wednesday) we get together in our family room and sing. We'll do one or two hymns and a couple of praise songs. Then we do some songs just for fun, such as "Father Abraham" or "Down in My Heart." For these songs, the children are allowed to dance around and just have fun. With the others, we have them concentrate and sing, as well as they are able. This helps prepare them for our time in church.
It's worth the investment
The threat of failure can paralyze us as parents if we allow it to determine our actions. Don't expect everything to be perfect. Sometimes, you'll have their attention; sometimes you won't. Develop realistic expectations: both for you and for your family. Everyone starts on a learning curve. Success with family worship is not determined by eloquence; it is determined by consistency.
Rick Husband made an investment of time in worshiping God with his family. That investment, his 17-day video devotional, is now an enormous treasure to his wife and his children. You, too, can make an investment in your family. And, like Rick, the investment you make now, no matter how mundane or routine it feels, can and will become a treasure to your children for years to come.
Footnotes: 1. Story and quote from High Calling by Evelyn Husband, Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2003.