Family worship can help parents give their children a full view of God in all his beautiful person and wonderful works.
Our heavenly Father greatly desires our children to know and love him. As earthly parents, we want the best for our children, and the best we can give them is a full view of God in all his beautiful person and wonderful works. We should glorify God—“make God big”—in the eyes of our children and encourage them to respond in reverence and love.
How do we do this? Thankfully God has provided us with his own written Word, whereby he “
has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises” (2 Peter 1:3–4). Our gracious God has revealed himself in the pages of Scripture, written down for us as the infallible record of his person and work in history. In the Bible we learn truth—“what really is”—about God, ourselves, the world he made, the mess we’re in as sinners in a cursed world, his provision of the Savior Jesus Christ, the promise of salvation for those who believe, and much more.
As parents, we want to help our children interpret life from God’s perspective. In this way we must have a God-centered worldview based solidly in his Word. So we must teach and meditate upon the Scriptures constantly, both individually and as a family.
Many people refer to this practice as “family worship”—the regular practice of devotion to God in Scripture reading, praying, and singing, for the purpose of glorifying God and growing in his grace. The Apostle Paul noted that this was Timothy’s experience: “
from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).
What do my children need to know about God in this situation?
Family worship flows from hearts that love God. It is to be the practical expression of consciously living in the presence of the Lord. As such there is no one correct formula, setting, or schedule. Rather it should be a natural part of our families’ lives, as we ask ourselves, “How can I speak God’s Word into this moment? What do my children need to know about God in this situation?”
Within the greater context of living at all times for God’s glory, there should also be regular, formal times in which we gather our families together for Bible reading, prayer, and singing. Let us be sure to read the Bible and not just books about the Bible, honoring the Scripture as our God-given authority, our source book. We may also intersperse our reading with questions to encourage comprehension like, “What does this passage say? What does it mean? How must we respond?” We should pray also, blessing God, confessing our sins to him, giving thanks to him, and asking him to work in specific ways. We may also want to sing “
psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” as a further means of “
teaching and admonishing one another” (Colossians 3:16). This “agenda” is not difficult, but it can result in eternal dividends.
At the inauguration of the nation of Israel, just before they were to cross over into the Promised Land, God explicitly commanded the parents (and grandparents) to carefully teach his Word to the next generation:
Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son's son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:1–9)
Here we see God’s plan that multiple succeeding generations would learn and observe his commandments as the practice of devotion to him. Such a great work had to start with the individual (most of the pronouns “
you” are singular), as each person would love God wholly and hold God’s Word in his heart. Such a heart would then overflow in daily practice and conversation, teaching God’s Word to the next generation at various times and situations of life.
These informal, everyday conversations centering on God serve to counteract the worldly teaching that comes through so many different forms of media. So much of television, music, websites, books, magazines, and the rest advance a godless worldview. As parents we must wisely restrict the access such media has in our homes, and perhaps more importantly, help our children (especially as they mature) to discern truth from error while interacting with these resources. For example, when a children’s cartoon refers to “millions of years,” we should take the opportunity to present the truth of Scripture and God’s creation in six literal days. Let us evaluate our media consumption and commit to bringing God’s Word to bear on these powerful teaching venues.
It is the parents’ primary responsibility to rear children, with the father taking the lead.
A similar expression of this important parental task appears in Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church. There he commands fathers in particular, “
do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). We see here that it is the parents’ primary responsibility to rear children, with the father taking the lead. Others in the extended family and church will necessarily assist in this process, but the weight of responsibility rests with the parents.
Fathers are not to “
provoke” their “
children to anger.” Unfortunately there are so many ways that fathers can do this, like scolding them too frequently, teasing them inordinately, making promises and then not keeping them, being violent, and withholding love and praise. The parallel passage in Paul’s letter to the Colossian church warns fathers against discouraging, disheartening, or otherwise exasperating their children (Colossians 3:21).
In contrast, Paul says that fathers are specifically to “
bring them up,” that is, to nourish and feed their children, providing them with tender care so that they would grow to godly maturity. Fathers are to do this by two explicit activities: “
discipline and instruction.” First, fathers must “discipline” their children, comprehensively teaching them truth (cf. Acts 7:22; 22:3; Titus 2:12). Sometimes called “formative discipline,” this happens both by verbal instruction and by personal example (cf. Hebrews 12:7). Second, in what may be called “corrective discipline,” fathers must instruct their children, verbally correcting specific areas of their children’s lives that are out of line with the truth they know. In both instances the Scripture must be central, as Paul affirmed:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16–17)
Many factors challenge our consistency in family worship. Perhaps we fail to plan when to meet, what Scriptures to read, how to pray, and what songs to sing. But many helps are available to assist us in this matter, like the Answers Bible Curriculum.
Perhaps we fear we are ill-equipped to lead family worship. Surely this is understandable, but it is not permissible. If you think you are not equipped to lead, then strive to be better equipped! When your children ask you questions that you don’t know how to answer, it is best simply to say, “I don’t know, but I will find the answer.” Then go study and report to them what you find. (See below for some recommended study resources.)
Another factor is that we are typically not consistent, plodding kind of people. We do get passionate and excited—for a short while. Throw into the mix busy, irregular, or even tumultuous schedules and it’s no wonder we often fail in leading family worship. Nevertheless, we must persevere, for the danger of failure is great!
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:13)
While considering all these factors, ultimately we must acknowledge that the root problem and solution is our personal devotion to God: How must we grow in love, affection, and worship of our great God? The truth is that we do what is important to us, for good or for bad. Let us prove our love of God in the practice of our devotion, particularly in family worship.
Scripture should always be in our minds and ready to be enacted by our hands. Let us prove our love of God and our children as we strive to be more faithful in ministering the Word of God to one another, so God receives the glory and we grow in grace. May we pray as Moses prayed, “
Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children” (Psalm 90:16).