When a family decides to implement family worship and devotions, the question always arises “What do I do?” Here are several practical suggestions for family worship.
All family worship and devotions should begin with prayer. Seek the Holy Spirit’s help and counsel in your time together. Opening with prayer is a good opportunity for the head of the household to model dependence upon the Holy Spirit.
The Bible is God’s revealed will to men, so it should be the supreme treasure of the Christian home. In a family worship, the Bible should be the centerpiece, with every other resource acting in a supporting role. Books and writings about the Bible or about theological topics are valuable and good, but in the context of family worship and devotions, the Bible itself should take center stage.
Reading the Bible together can be a blessing to all family members. Take a book of the Bible and read it aloud, each person taking turns. Read a chapter a day or a paragraph a day, whatever works best for your family. But read it! In my house, we read a chapter, and either I teach a little about the verses, or my wife or children will pick a particularly important verse or concept in our reading and we will discuss it. This is often as simple as describing the principles in the verse clearly, or showing how these principles are to be acted upon by us now that we have heard them. We are particularly fond of reading through the Proverbs. There are 31 chapters in the Proverbs, so you can cover the whole book in a month.
Bible Reading Plans
A Bible reading plan that maps out a course for reading a Bible through in a year, or in chronological order, can be helpful in some instances, but I suggest that these are better used in your private reading time. Avoid the temptation to read for the sake of keeping on the schedule or to check off the day’s assignment. Also, the sheer volume of reading is often difficult to accomplish in the context of family worship and devotions. There will be many times when reading will inspire questions and open opportunities for meaningful discussion or prayer. These opportunities for discussion and prayer should be taken.
Family Devotion Journals
For some families, a journal will be useful. Each family member can log what they have learned from the Bible reading or for record insights that have been gained by the family discussion.
Working together on a memory verse can be immensely edifying. In my home, we will take turns memorizing a passage, each person repeating a section of the verse in turns. Before too long, we have hidden a section of the Word in our hearts.
Catechism is a time honored teaching tool that has been used by the church since the earliest times. Catechisms are just a list of questions and answers that teach the basics of the faith in a form easily memorized. A good catechism always has scripture references for the answers. As always, catechism and any other tool for devotions should be a support to the Word of God, and never an alternative.
We have used various catechisms for our children, mostly the simple “Catechism for Boys and Girls“ (PDF available here), which helps teach youngsters sound doctrine in easy to remember questions and answers. Catechism makes and excellent and fun tool for family devotions.
Workbooks might have use in the family devotional time if they take the family to the Bible as the primary focus of our hearts. A workbook that teaches on Biblical principles and merely quotes portions of scripture in the book text does not encourage the act of opening God’s Word. There is more substance and value in demonstrating to your children the primacy of the Bible in the home. One example of a workbook that requires us to open our Bibles with every page is Paul Washer’s “The One True God.”
Hymnals, Songbooks and Audio
Singing is an integral part of worship as described in scripture. Having a good hymnal or songbook can be very useful. Family singing can provide a great opportunity for up and coming musicians to serve their family. Recorded music can be used as well, or families may enjoy singing a Capella. Family Worship is a good time to learn new hymns and songs your church may be introducing, or for learning the classics of the faith. My church sings from the Trinity Hymnal Baptist edition, so my family can use this online resource to learn the music and tune together.
A good practice for family worship and devotions could be a sermon review. Family members can take Sunday evening or Monday to speak about what they learned from their pastor. Looking up the scriptures and asking questions is helpful, and meditating through the week on what was preached that Sunday is one of your pastor’s hopes for his flock.
No family worship or devotion should go without prayer and intercession. Fathers should ask all of their children and family to communicate areas in which they need prayer. Sometimes young children do not have the maturity or understanding to seek prayer from their family members, and these little precious gifts should be given something to pray about. Little ones should be involved and encouraged to participate as much as possible in prayer, even if they do not know how to pray well. Giving them a share of the family prayer time equips them with something important and builds them up as contributing members of the family.
During prayer times, each person should pray. We find it useful to go one after another in order, each one having established before hand what we will pray about. We often pray for one another, our church family, special needs, and for missionaries. We have prayed repentently, confessed sins to God, wept, laughed, and praised His great name in prayer. Prayer should not always be needs and intercession. Simply praying praises to the glorious Lord and offering worship by prayer to Him is immensely valuable. On some days, my family spends perhaps a third or half of our family devotions in prayer, and these times are often sweet, convicting, profound and joyful.
Don’t Squelch the Spirit
In family worship and devotions, there are surely many other tools and practices that are edifying and useful. One final suggestion is to never be too rigid, program driven, schedule-minded or task-oriented that you cannot perceive the Holy Spirit’s prompting to address special or immediate needs in the family. Occasionally we have abandoned all plans because the Holy Spirit was moving and working in our midst and we were brought directly to prayer, confession, teaching or searching the Word.