Two months ago, many families were huddled around Advent wreaths, reading the Christmas story by candlelight, or adding to their Jesse trees each evening and singing carols. Christmas is a wonderful time to create routines and to celebrate the wonder of Jesus. But what about the rest of the year?
Parents, we have a responsibility to worship God with our kids and teach them the Bible all throughout the year. We can’t leave the training to children’s pastors, youth group leaders, or Christian school teachers. Psalm 78:4–6 says, “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders he has done. He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children.” Let’s not be the generation that neglects this important task.
But how do we do it? How can we create a worship routine that sticks? I suggest keeping it simple by including just three core elements: reading, praying, and singing. Sometimes I think parents avoid family worship because they’re making it too complicated, or because they have an ideal in their head that they don’t think they can replicate. But it doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy. Simply read the Bible, pray, and sing, and you’ll discover it to be a sweet time of worship together.
Creating Family Worship Routine in Five Easy Steps
1. Pick a time and be consistent.
The first hurdle is figuring out how to carve out the time. Our family has chosen to worship after dinner. Maybe yours does too, and maybe you call it family devotions. Great! Or maybe you prefer morning when everyone has a bit more pep, or perhaps you’d like to all be cozy together before you go to bed. The important thing is consistency. Make sure everyone in the family knows what to expect.
Tell your kids, “This is the time we worship God and it’s important. We don’t schedule other activities during this time, and we try not to skip it. We want everyone in the family to be there.” I realize this gets harder as the kids get older. At this point our family is intentionally not involved in a lot of activities so that we can make our family worship time a priority.
2. Include the core elements.
The main elements of family worship are reading, praying, and singing. In our house, we use the Bible as well as various devotional books geared towards our children’s level. We like to mix it up so that we’re not always catering to just the four-year-old or just the twelve-year-old. For prayer we take turns. Each child has a specific day of the week that is their turn so they each get practice praying aloud, and the rest of the week the adults pray.
As far as singing, we usually sing acapella, often singing a song related to the day’s reading if possible. Our kids love to help us come up with ideas! If you don’t know what to sing, make a list of songs or hymns you’d love for your children to know by heart, and start with those. If singing intimidates you, don’t be afraid to use a CD or YouTube.
3. Don’t stress when it doesn’t go as planned.
Inevitably something will go wrong. The baby will need to eat right as you begin to read a Psalm, the toddler will want to sing “The Wheels on the Bus”instead of “Jesus Loves Me,” and right before you pray someone will need to go potty. It’s bound to happen, and that’s ok!
The important thing is you’re developing a routine and teaching your kids that this time of family worship is important. God is still glorified by your efforts if things get messy and chaotic, and the kids will likely still learn something even if they don’t absorb every single word.
4. Make connections.
You don’t have to be a seminary graduate to comment on the day’s reading. Simply talk about what comes to mind. Perhaps the passage reminds you of Sunday’s sermon or something you learned in your personal devotions. Or maybe the passage offers hope or guidance to a situation your family is facing. Talk about that.
Whenever possible, make connections to Jesus. Help your children see that the Bible is one continuous story, the story of God’s redemption plan for his people. And it’s true! Make historical and cultural connections when possible by pulling out maps or looking online for images of whatever you’re studying, such as an olive tree or an ephod.
5. Make it memorable.
If your family had a wonderful Advent routine, what was it that appealed to you the most? Does your family like lighting candles? Acting out the story? Doing motions to a song? Playing instruments? Doing something tangible to respond to the Scripture? Let your answers to these questions shape your family worship routine.
Maybe you want to memorize a long passage of Scripture together that your children can carry with them the rest of their lives. Maybe there’s a catechism you’d like them to learn, or maybe you’d like to cozy up after reading, praying, and singing for a chapter of a classic like Pilgrim’s Progress. If you make the effort to do something special as a family as a part of your routine, I promise your kids will remember.
Not everyone’s family worship routine will look the same, and that’s ok! And your routine may not look exactly the same this month as it did last month. But the key is to make it happen. Pick a time and be consistent. You’ll be glad you did.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”Proverbs 22:6 ESV
Who is Jesus? 40 Pictures to share with your family
How do you help a child get to know someone they can’t see and hear? Thankfully, God gives us a whole Bible of word pictures to help us get to know and love Jesus. In Who is Jesus?, Joe and Kate Hox combine illustrations and deep thoughts simply shared to bring forty word pictures of Jesus to life.