Family

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.

Benefits of Family Worship

Though it can be difficult to make family worship happen, it’s worth the effort. Consider the following benefits of taking a few minutes to worship together in your home.

Discipleship
One of the greatest benefits of family worship is discipleship that happens in the home. “Discipleship” is simply helping someone take one step closer to Jesus. When parents take the time to read the Bible and pray with each other and with their kids, they’re modeling (in a small way) what it looks like to help someone follow Jesus. Not only is this great for your family, it’s also a helpful model for understanding how to disciple someone that’s not in your family!

Family unity
With life today being scheduled so full and often being chaotic, it’s good to have a time when the family sits down and spends time together face-to-face—no phones, no TV, no screens at all. While it may feel awkward at first, this time and effort will lead to a greater sense of togetherness, as you learn to enjoy spending time together in the Word—and it may spill over into other areas of life as well.

Memories
One day, you’ll be left with memories of today. Time spent in family worship is one of the most valuable memories to enjoy and pass on to your children. Beyond the good feelings of having good memories, these times together will form a foundation for your children to appreciate the value of the Word and prayer in their own lives and in the lives of their future relationships.

Worship as the center of life
Discipleship is all about calling people from every corner of the globe to worship Jesus. Worshiping the Triune God is the point of our existence, and discipleship is all about calling each other to engage in true worship. By making family worship a central part of life in your home, you’re living out the ultimate point of our existence:

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

(Revelation 5:13)

What the Bible Says about Family Worship

While it might seem like a given that families should pursue Christ together at home, it’s also easy to dismiss an idea like this as too burdensome. But not only is family worship at home a good idea, it’s commanded and modeled in Scripture.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 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. 

It doesn’t get a whole lot clearer than this, does it? Teach your children at home, when you’re out, when it’s bedtime, and when it’s time to get up.

Psalm 78
Tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.

This psalm highlights the importance of family worship by telling us again that it’s commanded for parents to teach children, and it’s through parents teaching children that the next generation learns about God’s greatness.

2 Timothy 1:5
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.

Paul tells us about the important role that Timothy’s mom and grandmother played in leading him to Christ. The faithfulness of parents and grandparents plays a vital role in passing on the faith to succeeding generations.

Conclusion
These are just three texts of many in Scripture that highlight the importance of passing on our faith to others. In these instances, the ones receiving the benefits are children in the home of believing parents. If you don’t have kids, you could pass along your faith to someone else—your spouse or some friends:  What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2).

Why Family Worship Is Difficult

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?

Family
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.

Time
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.

Culture
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.

Laziness
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
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!

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.

Reflections after Ten Years

imageThe post below is more personal than a typical post, but it seems appropriate on a day like today. I apologize in advance for its length.

Some days mark our lives more than others. Ten years ago today, July 29, 2005, was one of the most terribly memorable days of my life. My dad died suddenly while playing basketball. I and other family members were in the room and saw it happen. He was literally there one moment and gone the next. There have been many moments in the past 3652 days that I’ve had occasion to question God’s wisdom in taking my dad when He did. At the same time, there have been many times when I’ve been moved to prayer, worship, and faith in God’s sovereignty as I’ve reflected on all that God has done (in spite of still not knowing the answers to all of my questions).

There are times when that crystal-clear moment seems like it was yesterday, and there are other days when that instant feels like it was 100 years ago. Grief is a weird cycle of intense/dull/intense/dull/etc. Thankfully the immediately intense grief of that day has lessened, but that’s a pain in and of itself, as it reminds me that he’s been gone long enough for the pain to lessen somewhat—or at least morph into a different kind of pain. Sometimes the cycle is related to important dates (e.g., Father’s Day, birthday, holidays, etc.). But it’s often completely random—driving alone in the car when a memory comes to mind unbidden and unexpected.

Life has been marked with further losses since the passing of my dad, and we’ve grieved with others who have lost loved ones. Sadly, this world will leave all of us carrying burdens of grief and loss. The burdens look different for each person, but they’re real for us all. It’s times like these that teach the children of God what it means for God to be our Shepherd (Psalm 23), our Father (Psalm 103), and our Peace (Ephesians 2).

Even those who experience the same loss feel that loss differently. My mom lost a faithful husband of three decades. My youngest siblings lost a dad for their childhood and formative years. My middle siblings lost a father-figure guide for their terribly difficult adolescent and young adult years. And we older siblings lost a rock, guide, mentor, friend. We all miss him, but we all miss him through the grid of our relationship. Recognizing this allows us to empathize with each other yet also recognize that there are parts of the grief of others that we can never fully understand. The only one who can fully understand is Jesus the Priest who experienced life as we experienced it, who endured much greater grief than we’ll ever experience as he bore the wrath of God in our place. And I thank God for that; I thank God that Jesus is a friend for sinners.

This post is part reflection and part gratitude. And I’d like to thank God here for the dad He gave me:

1. I’m thankful that my dad had a unique combination of high expectations and full acceptance.

There was probably no one in the world harder on me than my dad, yet I also felt fully loved and accepted by him. I’m thankful for the way he pushed me in my work, in my play, and in my walk with Christ. I’m also thankful that I don’t ever remember feeling like failing would change his love for me one bit. My dad knew the worst things about me and still fully accepted me. In this way, he beautifully modeled the love of God for me.

2. I’m thankful that my dad consistently worked to make time for each of his nine kids.

Our house was. full. of. kids. We loved it, and I still love it. At the same time, being a father myself now, I recognize the sacrifice of time and love it took for him to get down on the floor and play “Candyland” with my youngest sister, then get up and hear the relational heartaches of his older children.

3. I’m thankful for the example of my dad and mom in their faithful perseverance in marriage.

A friend once told me, “Marriage is the best and the hardest thing that’s ever happened to me.” And he’s right. It’s awesome, and it’s hard. I’m thankful for my dad’s example of leadership and my mom’s example of commitment that led them to persevere in a loving relationship in good times and bad. I never thought their relationship was perfect (I lived with them, after all—like my kids do with me), but it was awesome to experience a double date with my parents the night before my dad died and see their fresh love in the 30th year of their marriage.

4. I’m thankful for my dad’s work ethic.

I’ve never known anyone who worked harder than my dad. “Work hard; play hard,” he said.  And we did. I’m thankful that he passed that legacy to his kids and urged us to fight through and repent of childish laziness.

5. I’m thankful for my dad’s foresight.

My dad worked at a church my entire life and managed a household of nine children. Yet he planned ahead for provision for his family, in case he were ever absent. He didn’t expect to be gone, but he had prepared for that day. When I was twelve or thirteen, my dad had me sit down and write out how many hours I’d need to work at a given wage to pay my way through college. He expected all of us to pay our way, but he helped prepare us for that reality. I graduated college with a car, a computer, and some cash in the bank—thanks to my dad.

6. I’m thankful that my dad loved people.

It was shocking to see some 3000 people show up to my dad’s visitation and to hear story after story of people he had blessed or encouraged. I had no idea. He was just my dad. Yet he somehow made time for us and also managed to touch the lives of thousands of other people. It was an overwhelming moment and is still a legacy I treasure.

7. I’m thankful that my dad loved telling people about Jesus.

He was a faithful, persistent witness who spoke the gospel and lived the gospel. He shared the gospel with two non-Christian men the day he died. His lifestyle of evangelism is convicting and motivating.

8. I’m thankful that my dad loved his local church.

My dad was a businessman with a pastor’s heart. He spent his life serving the church vocationally as a financial administrator, and he made sure his family loved and served the church too. If the doors were open, we were there. And we loved it. He helped me process the flaws of church and of people without turning my back on the church and the people in it. That’s a legacy that is a huge gift to me, a deeply flawed pastor of a congregation of flawed people.

9. I’m thankful that my dad (and mostly my mom, I’ll admit…) gave me eight siblings/friends.

It was awesome growing up, and it’s awesome having a family/team of people that love each other, are pulling the same direction, and think about life roughly through the same grid. I loved working with them and playing with them growing up, and I love talking to them and hearing about their lives now.

10. I’m thankful that my dad was a man of conviction and courage.

I saw my dad take courageous stands in great and small ways. Sometimes it was the courage of relationship—being willing to say a difficult thing—and other times it was courage of integrity. I will never forget the eighteen months he spent graciously pointing out the proud and selfish way I was treating others as I proudly and selfishly ignored him … until one day God’s Spirit opened my eyes and moved me to tearful repentance through my dad’s courageous persistence.

11. I’m thankful I had 24 years with my dad and that I get to see him again.

Some have much less. I’m so thankful. And I’m grateful that my dad knew Jesus and led me to know Him too. It was my dad that led me to Jesus 30 years ago, and because of that we’ll get to sing “Jesus, Thank You” together one day.

Daddy, I (we) miss you, love you, and can’t wait to see you again.

“Homesick” by MercyMe

You’re in a better place, I’ve heard a thousand times,
And at least a thousand times I’ve rejoiced for you.
But the reason why I’m broken, the reason why I cry
Is how long must I wait to be with you?

Help me, Lord, cause I don’t understand your ways.
The reason why, I wonder if I’ll ever know.
But, even if you showed me, the hurt would be the same,
Cause I’m still here so far away from home.

In Christ, there are no goodbyes,
And in Christ, there is no end!
So I’ll hold onto Jesus with all that I have,
To see you again,
To see you again.

And I close my eyes, and I see your face.
If home’s where my heart is, then I’m out of place.
Lord, won’t you give me strength to make it through somehow?
I’ve never been more homesick than now.