Our family added a new daily routine at the beginning of 2021: family worship time! If you don’t have this as a daily routine in your home already, I cannot recommend it highly enough. We’ve wanted to do this for a while but weren’t sure what to actually do. And to be honest it just seemed like it would be awkward. But it has come to be our absolute favorite part of each day. I hope that this post will encourage you to add this routine in your own home and provides some tips to get started.
What do I mean by “family worship?” Worship in general refers to the way that we praise and encounter God. We do this on Sunday mornings in church, which we call corporate worship. We do this in daily quiet times, which could be called “private worship.” Family worship is simply praising and encountering God as a family, in a time that we have intentionally set aside for this purpose. For much of Christian history it has been a core piece of Christian family life.
Why should you add family worship time to your daily routine? Let me give three reasons. First, regular family worship time provides a way to model your faith by worshipping in front of your kids. This is especially true if your church, like ours, has children’s classes during your Sunday morning worship. If your kids are not with you during Sunday morning worship then they may never see you publicly worship God during their childhood. Family worship provides a time for your children to watch you worship and learn what it means to pause to praise God.
Second, family worship provides an intentional time to make worship part of your family life. Deuteronomy 6:7 says that parents are to “teach [the words of God] 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.” Our faith cannot be confined to Sunday worship and midweek church activities. We are to constantly be seeking to form our children in the ways of faith. As a parent, this is the highest calling in your life. Family worship helps us to steward this responsibility well.
Third, a daily routine of family worship provides accountability for you and your spouse to worship the Lord. I have to confess, I miss my daily devotional times more often than my family misses family worship. Because making time for family worship doesn’t depend only on me. Most days I announce that it is family worship time. Many days it is my wife. Some days our three year old daughter Lydia is the first to remind us. We’re in it together, and even on the days when I’m tempted to skip it, I’m always glad when we make time for family worship.
So how do you actually go about doing family worship? It’s Tuesday evening, you’ve eaten dinner, and it’s time for family worship… now what? First, keep it short. Our family worship time is typically 5-10 minutes. The benefit you gain from family worship is not to be found in any one evening but in the habit itself. Not in this Tuesday evening’s worship but in doing family worship every Tuesday evening. We are formed not just by the content but by the habit itself.
So what do you do during family worship? Read, sing, and pray. First, read a story from an age-appropriate Bible. For older children this may be an actual Bible, but for younger children it may be a children’s Bible. (I recommend the Jesus Storybook Bible, or for toddlers we’ve used The Beginner’s Bible Bedtime Collection). We end our reading time with a short prayer response to the story (“Thank you God for sending David to be Israel’s hero and save them from Goliath. And thank you for sending Jesus to be our hero and save us from sin. Amen.”)
Next, sing. Pick a song that everyone knows. For us this has usually been Jesus Loves Me, or sometimes Jesus Thank You. If you have a piano or guitar to play along with, fantastic. If not then you can play a YouTube video of the song and sing along with it together. We’ve done both. Most nights Lydia “plays the piano” while we sing together. It’s not a production, it’s family worship, so do whatever works for your family. But please don’t skip it. Singing is a great way to worship, and singing in family worship is a great way to model this for your kids.
After you sing, pray. For our family worship prayers we all hold hands while I pray. In my prayer I thank God for a few things from our day (our family, church teachers, sunny days to play) and for something related to our Bible reading (“Thank you for forgiving the people in Nineveh after you sent Jonah to them”) and ask him for our daily needs. Depending on how the day has been, this may be a prayer for good sleep or for help being kind to each other tomorrow.
But What About…
Won’t it be awkward? This was my concern. It just seemed weird, and I was positive that singing as a family would be awkward. My encouragement is that it feels more awkward for you than it will for your kids. Your kids don’t know any better. It’s awkward for you because it’s not your “normal.” But whatever you do in your home will become the “normal” for your kids.
I don’t have enough time. If you don’t have time for a daily family worship time then aim for 5 days a week or 3 days a week or 1 day each week. Even one day a week adds up to hundreds of formative family worship times over the span of a childhood.
My kids won’t sit still that long. We have a three year old with two modes: Go and Sleep. We get it. Three thoughts here. First, expect some wiggling. It’s going to happen. Second, set boundaries. We have a “family worship blanket” that we are required to stay on during family worship time. A few times a week we have to enforce this rule, but having a physical boundary makes this easier. Third, remember that the main goal is the habit, not tonight’s worship time. If your kids are so wiggly that you aren’t sure they heard a word you said, it’s OK. They’ll be there again tomorrow.
I’ll end with a line from Donald Whitney’s book on Family Worship: Isn’t this what you really want to do? It might feel a little awkward at first, it might require sacrificing some time, and it might be frustrating some days to get your kids to sit still that long. But don’t you really want to have a regular routine of intentionally worshiping God as a family? For your kids to learn from you each night what it looks like to worship God? What a fantastic way to steward the high calling of parenting that God has given to us as the primary disciplers of our children. It is my hope and prayer that you would add this rhythm to your family life and find it as richly rewarding as we have.