A couple of years ago I had a nagging feeling that I could be doing a better job leading my family in faith. I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, and I had very few solid role models in this department. Experience tells me most Christian men, especially those without theological training, feel similarly—but even going to seminary and being a pastor didn’t seem to be helping me much. I could prepare sermons, teach classes, and meet with people in the church, but I was having a difficult time consistently pastoring my own family.
It was around this time that I began hearing about something called ‘family worship’. I was intrigued by the idea. Sure, we said grace at meals and read storybook Bibles at bedtime, but it all seemed inconsistent and our progress was lackluster. The idea of regularly having a family time of devotion that looked more like what we do in church on Sunday excited me—but honestly, I lacked confidence about getting started. To make things worse, our time and attention spans were limited with all the demands of school and extracurricular activities. Ultimately I was convicted that this was not right. I should be able to get my family together to glorify the triune God as a matter of priority each day. Anything we were putting before this had become an idol to us, no matter how valuable it was.
So we started slowly about a year ago, committing to gathering devotionally as a family every morning after breakfast, Monday through Saturday (we don’t do Sunday because we gather with others at church instead). It has had a powerful impact on our lives. My wife and I often comment on how our personal faith has been strengthened, and our kids eagerly expect ‘Bible time’ each morning. They actually complain on the occasional days when we miss our time together due to life’s hiccups.
I want to note that although the label is becoming increasingly popular, I don’t think ‘family worship’ is altogether the best name since it doesn’t need to be strictly for families and neither is it strictly worship. I don’t have a better alternative, but to put it simply, it is a regular time to gather as a household devotionally by reading Scripture and praying. I would add that singing is a powerful and necessary third component, although I understand why this might scare off those who think they lack musical talent (like me). Other elements could be added, but Bible, prayer, and eventually singing are the three basics. It doesn’t have to be long, about ten minutes or so.
As I said, these devotional times don’t have to be just for families with children either. Anyone who shares life with other people could do it. Christian housemates, empty nesters, and married couples without children could consider committing to a regular household devotional gathering like this. Even engaged couples might want to think about beginning so they can get in the habit early. I wish we had!
The first step is to talk to your spouse, fiancé(e), or housemate(s) about the idea. If you're like me, you might be a little afraid of the awkwardness, not having the time, others not paying attention, and not being able to answer questions about the Bible. This is all normal. I imagine though that most spouses and children will be happy you’re taking the lead. Commit to doing it together, and set aside a time to get started. If committing to a daily gathering is too much for now, consider one or a few days a week at first. But having a near daily practice will certainly bear more fruit.
From there, take small steps. Don’t try to do too much in the beginning. Instead imagine where you might like to end up, and work toward this vision over time. Start by selecting some Bible passages to read, maybe using a storybook Bible if you have young children, and pray together. If praying off-the-cuff doesn’t come easily for you, then start with set prayers like the Lord’s Prayer. I suggest working toward including unrehearsed prayer though. Our kids have surprised us by what they pray for during our open prayer time.
Once you get the basics of Bible reading and prayer down, plan to start singing together. Singing has become the biggest blessing of our family’s devotions. We sing not only a hymn of the week, but also a catechism question and a memory verse of the week. We have been surprised to find that our children enjoy memorizing, and singing aids memorization. Lack of musical talent has not been a hurdle since so many resources are available for free online. We play all our music by streaming it, and we print out the words. It would be nice to have musicians in our family to lead us, and maybe one day we will get there, but what we have now works.
If you have never had the privilege of engaging in a regular devotional time together with your household like this, consider the prospect that God could use such gatherings at home to powerfully impact your home for good. Ours went from a place of being collectively stuck to daily growing together. Our focused time on God ministers to each of us throughout the day, and our time on Sunday at church has become richer with the children participating more fully. Things are not perfect by any means, but at least I now feel more confident about how I am leading my family in faith.