Children

Tips for Engaging Family Worship

What are some things you can do to get and keep your family engaged?

Build on Your Corporate Worship
Use the worship of your local church as a way to connect family worship to your weekly corporate worship. The weekly sermon passage can make a great starting point for Bible reading. You can either prepare for the upcoming Sunday or read and remember the text from last Sunday. Family worship is a great time to teach your family to sing, to sit still (start small!), and pray together.

Keep It Brief
Gyms are full on January 1 each year. By February 1? Not so much. Don’t make the mistake of trying to get too big or too serious. Take just a few minutes to read and pray together. Five minutes five days a week is 1300 minutes at the end of a year. 10 minutes? Double the fun. You get the idea—don’t make it long and laborious. Conscientious people may unwittingly teach their children to dread something that doesn’t have to be dreadful. If your kids are young, keep in mind that they have a short attention span. If they’re older, work to make family worship a refreshing time, not an overwhelming burden that sits like a brick in their stomachs when they hear it’s time to get together.

Mix It Up
Work hard to find things to keep family worship interesting. Mix things up from time to time. Get creative. Have your kids act out a Bible story—or have mom and dad act it out! Draw something to illustrate what you’re reading. Ask questions, and seek to be as interactive as possible. Talk about life, and then connect life to what you’re reading, singing, and praying about.

Know Your Family
Every family is different, and every kid in every family is different. For that matter, each child is different at different stages of life. Ask God for wisdom, don’t make it too much of a burden, and throw yourself into it! It helps to find a time when you’re already together (family meals, the beginning of the day, or the end of the day). “Baby steps” is the name of the game. The fruit is worth it in the end.

Trust the Lord
No matter how much time and intentionality you give to leading your family, you’ll find that you fail … a lot. In those moments, let these words encourage you to trust that God’s grace is big enough for your failures: “He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) Then get back up and give it another shot!

The Content of Family Worship

What kinds of things should you do to lead your family in worship at home? Hopefully, you attend a good church that models what Christ-centered worship looks like. In many ways, worship at home simply builds off of what your church does and works it out in a way that works for your family at home.

Bible
Read the Bible—one person (or more) reading aloud. When you read Scripture together, it gets God’s words into your ears and hearts. When you build worship around the Word, it ensures that God’s wisdom, not merely some good ideas that you (or others) might have, is guiding you. This can also be a good time to memorize Scripture together, talk about the Word, and see it seep down into the hearts of your family.

Prayer
Take some time to pray together. Perhaps you could pray for particular things on particular days of the week. For example, you could pray for extended family on Mondays, church family on Tuesday, friends on Wednesdays, etc. There may be some requests or people that you pray for every day. Have your kids take turns praying too. This is a great time to teach them to thank God, praise God, and confess sin to God. As you pray, you can model how to pray and then give your kids a chance to pray in a comfortable setting. This will help them in their personal prayer life and also aid them as they have opportunities to pray with and for others.

Songs
Singing together can be the most engaging (and fun!) part of family worship. Use this as an opportunity to teach your children to sing and to sing good hymns and songs. As a teacher used to tell me, “Things learned in song are remembered long.” This is a great way to prepare your kids to worship in church too, as they can learn “church songs” even before they can read. Let kids choose a favorite song to have the family sing, and it will give you a chance to learn which hymns really connect with them and also a good opportunity to sing children’s songs—which can have great truth for adults too.

Books
There are a number of good devotional books designed for family use. Some are children’s story Bibles for young children, while others are for older children. We’ve used various family devotional books from time to time, although we also like to use the Bible itself. If you have multiple kids, try to find something that engages children of different ages. It’s ok to mix it up, to roll with what works well at one stage, and then move on to something that works well for a different stage of life.

Principles for Wise Discipline

Wise discipline of children…

1. Knows and respects the child.
There’s no place for discipline that demeans children or serves as a vent for an adult’s frustration. All people are made in the image of God, and God commands parents to rear their children in a way that doesn’t provoke or frustrate children. Discipline serves God’s ends, not our own, and should lead children toward the loving embrace of God through the love and respect of their parents.

2. Sacrifices being liked for a moment to do what is best.
Most parents are willing to sacrifice themselves to save their children, but many parents refuse to tell their children “no” out of fear that their children won’t like them or might (gasp) be upset with them. The loving and direct application of God’s truth to a child’s life is worth your child’s disapproval.

3. Varies by age and situation.
Wise discipline is consistent but not rigid. If children never know what to expect, the lack of consistency will drive them crazy. But if parents never adapt to situations and individuals, they can press “a square peg” so hard into “a round hole” that they can do harm to the child.

4. Prepares hearts for the gospel when it’s done in love.
By bringing consequences in a temporary, yet tangible way, we model the holy anger of God against sin. By loving our children warmly, relationally, and unconditionally, we model the loving care of our Heavenly Father. Understanding the character of God helps children understand the necessity of the cross for dealing with the pain of sin and the love of the cross, as Christ died for our sin. Teaching children that there’s no pain in sinning cheapens the sacrifice of Christ.

When Fear Is Cute

Kids are cute.

One of the cute things about kids is their innocence. My three-year-old makes my life more enjoyable because so much of life is a discovery of something new and exciting. We walked through a store recently, and it brought so much joy to see her so excited about things I walked past without a second thought–a zebra on a shelf, a poster of a tiger, a football.

Kids are afraid. But not always.

Because children are innocent, they are often scared of things more educated people are not … like being scared of the dark. And sometimes it's cute.

On the other hand, children don't have the fear of man that more “worldly-wise” people have. Ever been with a small child in a library or a nice restaurant? You may be paralyzed by the child's loud laughter, but the child just knows the enjoyment of that moment, without the fear of what other patrons may think (I'm not advocating poor behavior for children in public places!). The beautiful thing about childlike innocence is that he/she may just be naive enough to miss pressure a more “educated” person would experience.

Adults are like big kids.

What about adults and fear of others? That's not cute.

The thing about fear of man is … it's fake. Others have power over you only insomuch as you allow them to have power. What sophisticated library patrons think doesn't have ill effects on a child secure in the love of his parents. And the approval of others shouldn't affect children of God who rest secure in the love of their Heavenly Father.