By Joshua Winslett
What is it?
Family Worship is a concept that is almost foreign in modern culture. Sadly, this seems true even among Christians. What is family worship? It really is self explanatory. Family worship is simply worshiping as a family at home. At minimum, it can just be taking time out every day to regularly pray as a family. Ideally, family worship involves prayer, singing hymns, bible reading, and discussion as a family. Israel was commanded in Deuteronomy 6 to teach his words to the following generations. Paul praised the mother and grandmother of Timothy for being faithful in teaching him the scriptures (2 Timothy 1:5).
Family Worship is a historic Christian practice that has been the foundation of thriving churches. Thriving does not necessarily mean only a physical number increase, but instead it means spiritual health and God blessing with increase. Elder Sylvester Hassel (1842-1928) wrote of his father, “As far back as I can remember he was in the habit of assembling his family around the family altar every morning and evening, to read a portion of Scripture, sing a hymn of praise, and to pour forth in the most humble and reverend manner his thanksgivings and supplications at the throne of grace: I can truly say that these were the most affecting, happy and blessed seasons of my life.” The preface to the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith argues that the neglect of family worship is to be blamed for religious decline and stagnation, “Verily there is one spring and cause of the decay of religion in our day which we cannot but touch upon and earnestly urge a redress of, and that is the neglect of the worship of God in families by those to whom the charge and conduct of them is committed.”
In the rise of radio, TV, computers, cell phones, and many other personal entertainment devices, family worship has greatly and by majority been neglected. I say this from personal experience and sorrowful conviction. My prayer is that this short article will encourage and help those seeking to guide their family in the Lord.
Is this Important
You may ask, why is this important? Imagine the amount of time we spend on teaching our children math, English, history, and science. Also imagine the amount of time we spend teaching children about our hobbies and favorite sports and sports teams. Certainly reading, writing, and arithmetic is important. It is also very enjoyable teaching our children our favorite hobbies. Yet there is nothing more important, nor more enjoyable, then teaching our children from the word of God. Do we want our children to know that we love Jesus Christ and his word? Do we want our children to have a biblical worldview? Do we want our children to continue in the same biblical understanding the we so hold dear? Do we wish for the churches we are members of to be faithful and blessed? If you answered yes to all of these questions then family worship should be important to you!
Before moving on I want the reader to understand that though family worship is important, family worship does not replace the local assembly or corporate worship. Family worship is not ‘home church.’ When exhorting the disciples concerning offenses and trespasses, Jesus told them that the final phase was taking it to the church (Matthew 18:17). This command cannot be accomplished in a ‘home church.’ It can only be accomplished in a local assembly. Needless to say, the local assembly is vitally important to the child of God’s spiritual joy and health, and family worship complements that assembly. It trains children for family integrated worship services. It does not supersede the local assembly, instead, it encourages and further improves the quality and focus of worship. Again, family worship is important!
The two usual responses I get from parents that are endeavoring to begin family devotions are 1) they do not feel adequate or worthy to lead their families, and 2) I don’t know how to conduct a family devotion.
This one question has been what has hindered me the most in my duty to lead my own family in home worship. Why, you may ask? Because my family knows all of my faults and failures. I sympathize with those that feel this way. Nevertheless, let me start by saying that if God’s grace is upon you and He has blessed you with a family, then He has qualified you to lead your family in worship. No matter how sinful and inadequate you feel, you are a redeemed individual that God has blessed with a heritage from Him. Whether you are a father or a single mother, you are qualified to lead your children to the throne of grace and in the word of God. Fathers, your influence is a tool that God compares to being a mighty man holding and directing the course of arrows (Psalms 127). Mothers, though God’s word dictates that only males are to be a part of the ordained gospel ministry, God has delivered you from your inability to preach by giving you a congregation of your own (2 Timothy 2:9-15). Parents, YOU ARE QUALIFIED!
How do I conduct Family Worship?
This question seems to hinder many people, yet it has such a simple answer. Let’s answer this question in three parts; 1) format, 2)what to study, and 3)how to study.
What kind of format should be used? Simple answer, the same format you use in corporate worship. The three ingredients of worship are prayer, singing of praise, and preaching. These are the ingredients that you should integrate into your family devotion format. Below is the variation I use for my family devotion.
- Sing a hymn.
- Ask family if there is anything they would like the family to pray for.
- Read scriptures or other selected reading material.
- Explain what was read.
- Ask if there is any questions on read material.
Basically, our family devotion is a miniature form of corporate worship. Any variation of this format can work. To be honest, every family should find some variation of the three main ingredients that best work for them.
Whatever format is chosen, you should not make your family devotion into a burden upon your family. Keep it short. It can be anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes.
Your devotion should not be done on accident. How many things in your life are planned? Sports, TV, work, vacations, etc? Your family worship should have a planned time and place. My family personally has our devotion directly before bed time in our living room. It can be during breakfast or supper at the kitchen table. It can be a in your living room directly before your children will be placed in bed. Each family must find what time, place, and format best works for them. It can be done once a week or 5 days a week, but it needs to be planned. There is not a legalistic model that needs to be followed. It is the principle of planned family worship that must be followed, and not a specific format. Whatever format, time, place, or length; planned consistency creates the idea of priority in the mind of a child. Family devotion should be done on purpose.
What to Study?
The word of God should always be the main priority for family worship. Yet, other aids are not excluded. There are many Primitive Baptist devotional books and Question-and-Answers that can help with ideas. You may not know which book to start with. You may want to try something simple like one of the gospels. Many people find going through one chapter of Proverbs a day to be profitable. There are thirty to thirty-one days in every month. There are thirty-one chapters in the book of Proverbs. You may even choose to do topical devotions, such as; salvation, marriage, creation, etc. Either way, the primary source should always be the word of God.
How to Study?
Many people feel that they could not lead their family in study because of lack of knowledge. That is the beauty of family worship, we are all learning together. You do not have to be a theologian or pastor to lead your family in worship, you only have to be one devotion ahead of your family. You do not have to give a four page essay on every passage and all the Greek involved, just read a chapter and give a summary. If you are unsure of what a passage is teaching then contact your pastor, that’s what he is there for. You will begin to get the hang of it more and more after a while.
- It honors God.
- It unifies families.
- Creates biblically literate families.
- Even if your youngest children do not understand everything that is read, they will still understand that the word of God and worship of God is so important to your family that it is planned and regular.
- Faithful families create faithful and blessed churches.
- It trains children for family integrated corporate worship.
- Complements training children in love and admonition of the Lord.
- Family Devotions by Elder Neil M. Phelan, Jr.
- Daily Meditations by Elder Dolph Painter
- Questions and Answers by Elder Sylvester Hassell
I hope you are encouraged. You are able. By God’s grace you can train your children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.” God has given you a wonderful blessing and a solemn responsibility. Always remember, your children are ever learning whether you are teaching them or not. Take advantage of what short time you have with your children and pray the prayer of Psalms 71:18, “Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.”