It’s funny the moments in our past we remember with such clarity. In 2009, my husband and I were house hunting in the town we wanted to move to. We were there on a Sunday so we visited a local Bible church. The thing I remember clearly was that in this church people had their kids over age three sitting with them. No way could my kids do this! About nine months later we were members of this church and our children were sitting with us. This story always makes me laugh at myself. How did I go from being repulsed at the thought of not dropping my kids off during church to having them sit with us?
“… bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
First, we didn’t have them practice sitting for an hour only on Sunday morning. It takes more than once a week. The training began during our nightly family worship time. We had to be very intentional with who sat where and it was important that it was the same every night. Family worship is the term we use but other terms are family devotions, family prayer, family Bible study, etc. At the time we started having family worship we had a seven, five and two year old plus an infant. Because every child is different it wasn’t our two year old that needed the most focus, it was our five year old son. My husband Michael sat with the five year old, while I held the infant and the seven and two year old girls sat beside me. It was important for training to have our family’s method of discipline handy. We also had a reward waiting for those who were well behaved.
Now that we were all sitting in our spots it was time for family worship. One of the questions families often ask us is HOW do you do family worship?
There are a couple of preliminary questions to ask or assess on our own.
Is the father a believer? How familiar is he with the Bible? If he is a believer but doesn’t feel comfortable teaching from the Bible on his own, we suggest a study Bible like MacArthur’s Study Bible. There is a footnote for nearly every verse. If he is not a believer but not opposed to family worship then mom should go through the study Bible with the kids. Not being seminary trained or having a lack of biblical knowledge should never deter a family from the practice of family worship. There are so many resources available for every family.
Are the children pre-readers? Below are three recommendations for the families with young children:
- Big Truths for Little Kids
- My 1st Book of Questions and Answers
- Big Book of Questions and Answers: A Family Devotional Guide to the Christian Faith
For families of mixed littles and big, readers and non-readers here’s what we do:
- Everyone has a Bible.
- Everyone sits in the same spot.
- A book of the Bible is chosen to go through verse-by-verse (it could take a year to complete a book).
- Open in prayer.
- Sing a hymn or praise song that most are familiar with. We purchased hymnals off Amazon but we are eagerly awaiting the release of Hymns of Grace being created by Grace Community Church.
- Have a child read the first verse. Pause and give a brief explanation of the verse. Have the next child read the next verse. If the child can’t read, read it for them and have them repeat you. Explain the verse. Remember you don’t have to know all the answers! That’s what a great study Bible or commentary is for.
- Once everyone in the family has read, ask if there are any questions. You can also use this as an opportunity to make the verses applicable to your current life. Use real life examples.
- Close in prayer. We close in a group prayer. All who are believers have to pray, those who aren’t can pray if they’d like. I begin and Michael closes.
- Assign a child to put up all the Bibles and hymnals.
- Reward time!
In addition to family worship we also read books to our children. Through homeschooling I have all the kids sit and listen to me read. The little kids only have to sit for about 30 minutes.
The best reading time is after family worship though! We all get comfortable and daddy reads. During this time the big kids can draw pictures according to what is being read and the littlest has to lie on Michael. This is a great time for training toddlers to be still and listen, and maybe even fall asleep, making bedtime easier!
Does doing family worship and family reading make Sunday morning service a breeze? No! But, it does make it easier. On Sunday the seating arrangement is very important. If you’re a pastor’s wife with lots of littles this can be a stressful time. Routine is vital to training though. We all crave consistency. Tell your children beforehand what is expected of them, don’t stress out during the service and reward them afterwards for obedience. If you’re like our family, every time you get to peacefully listen to a sermon another child outgrows the nursery or is born adding yet another dynamic to the arrangement. We aren’t the perfect family. Our oldest children have been doing family worship and sitting in church for six years. That once overactive five year old is now eleven, and still overactive.
When we started this process in 2009 my husband knew very little about teaching from the Bible. We started in the book of Romans (we didn’t realize at the time what a deep book that is!) and Michael would research the verses beforehand and consult MacArthur’s Study Bible. It was a lot of work for him at the time, but the benefits to our family today are priceless.
Are you currently doing family worship with your family? Are there any struggles you are having that you would like help with?