Family worship (or family devotions, as we called them when I was a kid) is the gathering of a family together during the week to reflect in smaller ways what the gathered church does each Sunday together. This can be one of the most encouraging—but also most frustrating and discouraging—parts of the Christian life.
Responses to the idea of family worship tend toward extremes—(1) imagining a glorious ideal that will never happen or (2) simply throwing up your hands and saying you can’t do it. While both are temptations, I’d encourage you to hang in there and trust that the Lord will give you grace in this effort.
Many people don’t have the opportunity to enjoy family worship, due to life’s circumstances (unbelieving parents, unengaged parents, schedules that don’t intersect, etc.), but there are many other families who could pursue Christ together as a family but don’t.
So what are some obstacles to regular family worship?
The family itself can make time together hard. Different stages of life mean different things, and each stages brings its own challenges. When your kids are young, it’s hard to get them to sit still. As they grow older, it’s hard to get everyone in the same place at the same time. And it’s hard to keep kids of different ages engaged (if you have multiple kids). Furthermore, while in two-parent homes Dad should serve as the spiritual leader, Mom is often more engaged and interested in the spiritual well-being of the family.
We schedule our lives to the max. We tend to live this way individually, and this is magnified exponentially when it comes to families. School, sports, music, scouting, gymnastics, dance … the list could go on. And that doesn’t include the reality that our work tends to come with us wherever we go, and we have responsibilities at home and in our communities that are time-consuming. There just doesn’t seem to be enough time for the basic things of life, let alone things that aren’t absolutely required.
Our culture doesn’t value family time together. In ads or commercials for family events, they’re almost always geared around entertainment—Disney, a family smiling warmly at their devices, or watching a movie together. The idea of people sitting in a room and just being together without some form of entertainment feels more and more distant from everyday experience.
Let’s face it—we’ve all been here. It’s hard to work up the energy to do one more thing after (or before) a long day at work. It doesn’t seem urgent, and we can get by without it. So we do things that are easier and that we can “slide” into. Gathering a family together and leading in a time of worship takes effort and intentionality.
Legalism is the idea that we can earn God’s approval by performing to a certain standard. In a desire to avoid legalism we sometimes avoid doing good things that people who love the Lord should do. Because there’s no “law” that says we must, we neglect something that we should delight to do in love.
Lack of knowledge
Leading in family worship can be intimidating. We all feel lost sometimes. We don’t feel that we have the skill or resources to do it, so we avoid it altogether. Or we might give it a shot, but we’re just so lost that we lose our way altogether.
Fear of failure
Many parents (and dads in particular) are aware of their failings across a broad spectrum of life. It’s hard for someone who feels that he’s failing to lead a family to worship God. Beyond that, it’s hard to want to add another area in which it’s easy to fail—either by doing a poor job of leading (or feeling like you are) or starting something but not continuing faithfully in it.
If you find yourself failing or feeling discouraged, hang in there!