Family worship Part 3: How to conduct Family Worship

no time for worship, family worship, is it practical to do family worshipSome of you may be wondering after reading my previous post, “Fine, it all sounds quite biblical, but I’m not sure we can pull this together given our haphazard schedules!“. I understand this predicament. But think about it for a moment: aren’t misplaced priorities the culprits for our chaos? And should not sound family worship be the fulcrum on which all else is laid and balanced? My firm belief is that if we get this right, every other disorder will settle in it’s place with time (Matt 6:33), and I’ll show you in a minute that family worship can be less an ordeal and more a tie that binds your family together.

When , where and how often
Although the home is the most familiar and least distracting place to worship God, you can build into your practice the occasional freedom to go to a park nearby or a friend’s place to have your times of devotion. Most of them who start out with spiritual exercises make a vow to do it early in the morning, just like Jesus, and often that the whole thing just dies down with time. For one, every exercise requires discipline and perseverance, and two, every family needs to find its own rhythm to worship effectively. If your kids leave for school early and your wife is reeling under pressure to pack them off, then evenings could be more relaxed times for spending with God.
In the Bible, we see the pattern of morning and everning sacrifices ( 2Chro 13:11; 2Chro 2:4; Num 28:3-4 ) which were required of Israel apart from a weekly Sabbath observance. The Westminster Directory of Worship contains a specific exhortation for family worship “to be performed by every family, ordinarily morning and evening”. This made perfect sense to me when I noticed that my parakeet ritualistically ( or should i say instinctively? ) lifted her voice to sing ( and shout ) twice a day: mornings and evenings. Now, let me add something here for your comfort. These are standards, and standards are perfect, whereas the practice of them may not be so. Ideals are often set so we can aim for them, but a realist knows how many different things cram for our attention. While worshiping God twice daily is fitting for our Maker, we can start with atleast once and consistently. Sometimes it may be a good practice to divide your worship elements between morning and evening, say, pray and sing psalms and read a portion of Scripture in the morning, and meditate on the reading, ask and clarify questions, memorize scripture and sing again in the evenings. Some families use meal times to worship God, and as often as the earthly food is partaken of, the children are reminded of their need for the Heavenly Manna. Whatever be the case, find what works for your family and faithfully pursue it.
Preparation

KISS, keep it simple, stupid, simple stupid people

We are often led to think that whatever involves children involves a lot of preparation since they easily get distracted. That’s a myth. Children, if they are trained to listen from infancy, quickly fit themselves into times of intense learning and focus.
One thing to remember for an activity that’s woven into your everyday life is this: keep the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid!). Preparation for worship, more than practicing catchy songs and printing coloring exercises, has to do with life attitude. If you desire your children to listen to you when you teach, then you need to be listening to God and reading the word at other times. If you desire your children to ask you “Father, teach me how to pray”, then you need to be found on your knees at other times, like Jesus. Remember what Jesus said, “..for whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (John5:19). Worship is caught more than taught. Before you know it, your children will begin emulating your practices, so let family worship be motivated by your private worship and piety more than strict rules and regulations.
Another important preparation to make is to turn off distractions atleast half an hour before your time of worship. Why? Obviously you don’t want your young child ruminating the last game he played when you’re trying to teach him “seek ye first the kingdom of God”. That half an hour could be used to help yourself and your family tune out of their everyday chores and tune in to God. Again, try. This is no hard and fast rule. Begin by turning them off atleast while worshiping and making sure you get your family’s attention. Once your desire for worship increases, God will grant you grace and mindspace for the kind of preparation that I’m talking about.
Leadership and Accountability
fatherhood, leadership in the home, family worship leadership, who's the head of the home?There’s one thing I’ve noticed thus  far in my Christian life: the only time I’ve seen a woman go astray is either when she’s headless, or her head is heartless. A man who leads his family, and that with a rod and a staff as the occasion demands, will have his family walking closely behind him. If the man of the family fails to prayerfully initiate and keep the practice of worshiping as a unit, then it won’t be long before the practice dies a natural death. The husband or father has the God-given mantle to train up his household in godliness (1Tim3:4,5,11,12 ; 1Cor14:35). Before the time of worship, the husband needs to beckon the family together, and encourage them to put away distractions. The husband also needs to invoke in his family a love for the things of God instead of merely commanding them to align. Furthermore, the elders of the local church also play a crucial role in developing faithful families for God. Think about what would happen if a man taught his family things contrary to Scripture and was left unchecked? Not only would he make his children double the sons-of-hell, but he would become a gangrene in the church. This is where elders take a regular stock of religious duties of the head of the family even as they equip him for leadership in the home. It would also help if the pastor or elder of the church takes in a few families into his care and often shows them how to conduct family worship. In this fashion leaders are built for service in the church and society, by learning to lead their own households in godliness.
Expect Exceptions.
joint family,  large family worship Not all families are alike. Traditionally a family comprises of a husband, wife, children and perhaps in larger families, dependent parents or in some towns and villages or some clans in India, even household servants. However, we will find that there are also single mothers, couples without children, widowed fathers, etc. in our midst. So how can we help them too benefit from this practice? Where there is an absentee father, let the mother gently lead the young in the teaching and worship of God. Occasionally, an elder in the church can visit along with his wife to lead worship times in such homes.  Where there is an orphan child or a young adult who’s separated from his family, let a family in the church foster him under their care and bring him up as their own, in the knowledge of God. When children are shunting between the homes of their father and mother, let that parent who has believed on the Lord be helped by the church in conducting family worship. When we start seeing the pastoral applications to biblical principles, we will be more charitable to those who may read this post and think “It’s not for me, It’ll never work in my family!” and help them see that they too can practice what God desires of them. Most of us try to make exceptions the rule and play pragmatic tactics with Scriptural principles, whereas we must all strive to see our infirmities in the perfect mirror of Scripture and seek to align our ways as best as we can.

Soch ka Bhoj

Food for thought

After reading my three long posts on this subject, you may feel awkward -perhaps weary, challenged or just plain indifferent. You may also feel these are lofty concepts, but practically worthless. There’s something worth interjecting here, a thought that a friend of mine recently shared with me: the pain of staying the same ought to be greater than the pain of change, for lasting change to happen.  Your family may be hard-pressed or broken, and you know it’s because you haven’t learnt to play or pray together. Unless this bug bites you sore, you’ll never be able to get around it. Let me leave you with an inspiring story that will, perhaps, change that way you think about Family Worship.
A friend of mine who  was a Christian went to church with her husband and her two little boys desperately hoping that the church’s Sunday school will help turn her children to Christ and would simultaneously relieve her to soak deeply into God’s word. The church did have a Sunday school, however, it was not functioning during the time of public worship because they desired that children too receive the preached word and observe the administration of the sacraments. This dear sister had her hands full with two active children running around the church building while the pastor was laboring over the word of God and one wondered as to who was more restless: the congregation, the children or the mother.
What do you think would have happened next?
Perhaps, the pastor would drive all the children out, and with them two women who’d likely miss the service and run behind these children, trying to get their attention with strange looking creatures, while their mothers breathe a sigh of relief, atleast for the next hour or so.  Strangely, that didn’t happen. Instead the elders of the church undertook to help this young couple bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph 6:4): they introduced them to family worship. Although the husband was an unbeliever, he sat down every day with his family to lead them to God in worship and read the Scriptures everyday at home. During such a time questions emerged, and answers were scarce. They quickly saw the need to find answers and used every opportunity after the Lord’s Day service to quiz the elders and get answers. The husband grew in his understanding of God and the Bible and the wife grew in faith. Soon, a spectacle happened.
The husband believed on the Lord Jesus and his fervor to worship God increased. The practice of Family Worship continued. A few months down the line, this is how the public assembly looked:  the two little children sit quietly with their parents and listen to God’s word. The older one asks his mother “Mummy, what does burning in heart mean?”. The younger one perceives the church as his ‘second home’ and waits eagerly every week to come to church. What made the difference? If not all the difference, yet family worship played a crucial role to train the children to listen to and obey God’s Word and train up parents to equip their children in the things of God. If you want your children to emulate your faith, then you need to lead them into it and family worship is where it all begins and ends.
Additional reading ( if you have the mind space and are not yet bored! )
  1. William Gouge on Domestic Duties (1622) -Part 1 and Part 2. This  is a comprehensive and well-rounded document that also addresses common problems faced within the home unit. Read especially chapter 8
  2. The Westminster Directory for Family Worship. The Puritans spearheaded family reformation in the 16th and 17th century and this little manual spells out their deep commitment for the restoration of the spirit of the family.
  3. Thomas Manton’s preface to the Westminster confession of faith (larger and shorter catechisms ). This one was honey to my soul. Read it and be blessed!
  4. Joel Beeke on Family worship – An excellent contemporary mini-book on the practice of family worship. Pastor Beeke has dealt with a lot of practical aspects which I could not address.
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8 thoughts on “Family worship Part 3: How to conduct Family Worship

  1. Loved what you shared Shammi 🙂 God bless you for your efforts and your desire & zeal for God’s Word! We have watched families do this and count it a blessing & honor that we too as parents can ‘pass this baton of faith’ to our kids ! May you be blessed with many children & may they all love & follow the Lord fervently 🙂 God bless you!

    • Thanks Rajju for visiting my blog. I’m glad we both have similar experiences and learnings in this regard that we can share with others who do not yet have it, and be blessed. Thanks for your encouraging words.

  2. Thank you Sarmishta. The story in the end reminded me of yet another story in John 4 where through the healing of the official’s son, the official’s household was saved.

    Blessings!

    • Yeah, that’s a poignant story that connects well with the idea here. We often underestimate the power of consistent family worship in the conversion of our children, and sometimes even unbelieving members of the household, such as in-laws, household servants, etc.

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