What is Family Worship?
Family worship is reading Scripture, singing hymns, and praying with your family. Why practice family worship? In my home, we have regular family worship to make disciples of our children, to worship as a family, to behold God with our children, and cultivate an environment of edifying discussion, all while pointing our children to the sufficiency of the Scriptures. We use this time to answer our children’s questions and to model what prayer, repentance, and regular study of the Bible should look like in a Christ-exalting home. The point of family worship is to disciple our children by worshipping God together. Think of your family worship time as a little church, where your husband is the shepherd leading the family in the Scriptures, singing rich theological hymns, leaving room for a time of discussion, and closing with prayer.
Family worship was a regular routine in Christian parents’ lives during the Puritans’ time. Some Puritan churches would go as far as to discipline members if they neglected the regular practice of family worship in their homes. This is much different than our current church culture. Many parents have decided they are not qualified to disciple their children and leave the Bible stories and the discussion to the experts, namely the Sunday school teacher and the youth group pastor. But what if we, as Christian moms and dads, took back the Biblical mandate to raise our children in the admonition of the Lord? What if we viewed programs in the church as supplemental to our responsibilities in training our children in truth instead of primary?
The youth group movement and the creation of the Sunday school class are not necessarily bad to be a part of in and of themselves, but we would do well to remember their origins. These movements were born from the need to teach and evangelize unchurched children. It was designed to be an outreach program to the lost, not the main discipleship program for Christian families in the church. While youth programs and Sunday school classes are beneficial, they can create an “expert” mentality. Many well-meaning moms and dads feel ill-equipped to teach their children Biblical truth and cultivate a discipleship environment in their homes. The reasons for this range from not having this example in their homes while they were growing up to not having confidence in their ability to lead, lacking confidence in Biblical literacy, or answering the hard questions their children will ask them. These problems can be overcome, but many parents feel they lack practical application of how to live this out and would rather trust someone else to take this responsibility in their home. We must remember that the youth group leader and Sunday school teacher will not give an account for our children. We will. One week at Vacation Bible School will not hold a candle to day-in and day-out discipleship in the home. This leads me to my next point: What should family worship look like in your home?
Demystifying Family Worship
Family worship is going to look different for every family. Family worship should occur regularly at a specific time of day, which builds family worship into the routine of family life. Some families find that mornings work better than evenings, and visa versa. The timing is less important than the consistent discipline of making this a priority. Some families feel that family worship is impossible due to their schedules. Still, I would propose making the schedule fit family worship time instead of family worship time fitting your schedule. Before you commit, ask yourself and your husband: Will this interfere with our family’s intentional time in the Word together? This can be a hard shift in priorities, but one I believe will reap a harvest of spiritual fruit in your family’s life.
What is more important to you in the raising of your children? Take an honest look at your schedule. This intentional family worship time can range from minutes to hours in your home, depending on the day or the season of life. We should be practical with this time, as children, regardless of age, have short attention spans. This does not necessarily need to be a drawn-out time or a performance put on by us as parents. Prayers can and should be appropriate in length. The longer the prayer, the more trouble you might have keeping short attention spans. One rich theological hymn is going to be more beneficial than a repetitive contemporary worship song, so consider buying a hymnal or singing the Psalms. Scripture memory songs are a favorite go-to for our family if you have young children. We also utilize a catechism that is a simple question-and-answer format that helps lay a solid theological foundation (we love The Truth and Grace Catechism by Tom Ascol).
Young parents, family worship time, can seem futile in these early years, but if you stick to it and make it the pattern of your life, your children will grow with you in the knowledge and understanding of what it looks like to follow Christ. Seasoned parents, it’s not too late to start today. Confess and repent to Jesus and ask your children to forgive you for not leading them in the daily practice of family worship. But waste no time. Start today. Start with a few verses, a hymn, and a simple prayer. Do not let the sin of the day keep you from family worship. Often, we will feel that our outburst of anger or any other sin has unqualified us from family worship time. This is just not true. Use this time to model repentance and move right into family worship anyway.
A Mother’s Role in Family Worship
What if your husband has never led family worship? Prayerfully find ways to support him and encourage him here. Provide him resources, and share with him some sermons covering Family Worship. Joel Beeke has some sermons and books that are helpful. If this concept of family worship is new to you and your husband, consider sending him some of these resources and asking him to discuss this with you. Do not forget to ask your local church for help; your pastor, elders, or a trusted Christian couple can give you some hands-on and practical advice.
Wives have a fantastic ability to build up and help their husbands to lead their families in a way that cultivates an environment where he feels able to do so. Ask yourself if your husband feels ill-equipped to lead family worship, if it is because he feels he will not lead the way you want him to, or if the home is your teaching domain. He may stumble through this. First, we, as wives, can encourage and build him up. Let him imperfectly lead your family in worship and watch as the Lord grows him into a family shepherd that leads well. Our husbands might want to shirk this huge responsibility because we haven’t encouraged them that God can use them here and that we aren’t expecting perfection.
Wives with unbelieving or husbands who refuse to lead, add your husband to the top of your prayer list. Continue to teach your children as you go about your day (Deuteronomy 6:5-9), and we can be submissive and respectful to our husbands even when they are not leading us in this (1 Peter 3:1-2).
Single moms, go ahead and lead family worship. Be encouraged by 2 Timothy 1:5, “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelled in our grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.” Notice there is no mention of Timothy’s father here. Surely a single mother can raise God-fearing children and be encouraged.
Family Worship and Raising Apologists
Family worship is the perfect opportunity to cultivate a Biblical worldview for your children. This time can be used to train your children to think critically through all the ideas they have been presented that day. When we set aside time to pour over the truth of Scripture, we will be surprised at topics like gender, sexuality, family, why we are here, what is our purpose, why we can trust the Bible, what is truth, and how do we go about finding it are covered in the Word of God! Many more topics will inevitably be normal topics of discussion around our time in Word! To raise apologists, we must ground our children in the sufficiency of the Word. Family worship keeps us engaged with our children’s hearts and questions, strengthens our trust in Truth, and edifies us as we direct our children’s young impressionable hearts and minds to the unshakable foundation of God’s word.
Mothers, be encouraged that God will bless your efforts regarding family worship. Encourage your husband, keep it simple and remain steadfast in prayer. We can raise a generation who contends for the faith, pours into their own family, and fears the Lord. May God be glorified through our family’s worship.
Angela Mitchell is happily married to Brandon Mitchell. She has three children and is a stay at home homeschool mom. Angela has a heart for training her children in truth, equipping them to spot cultural lies, and teaching them to have a Biblical worldview. You can find her online ministry to women on Facebook and Instagram @raisingapologists, where she seeks to encourage moms to equip their children to think Biblically.