I’m pleased to publish this contribution to our family worship series from Shane Anderson.
“The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous!” (Psalm 118:15)
Our minister, Arie, grew up in a Reformed church tradition where daily family worship is the norm, generations of believers worship together every Lord’s Day morning and evening, and a child who falls away is a rare exception.
About a decade ago, I began arriving at those convictions and practices the hard way: humiliations, repentance, preaching, and the testimony of other Christian families. Slowly but surely, in God’s kind grace, our little tabernacle is now a place where “the voice of rejoicing and salvation” is regularly heard, and our three little girls are now in their teens, serving the Lord–and there is no greater joy! (3 John 4)
Here’s some of our advice about family worship.
Family worship has three main aims: instruction, praise, and prayer.
Instruction – Teach God’s Word diligently (Deut. 6)
Our children need to learn the content of Scripture. If you are able, read sequentially through books of the Bible together, with dad teaching briefly on the topic. This has especially worked well for us these past few years as our daughters are older.
We have also spent time particularly going through the 10 Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and our church’s catechism. This makes it easier to go back to those core texts as the years pass.
These are some ways that we have found helpful in engaging them: Ask them questions about details in the text to help them understand and discover what they’re reading, have them summarize the verse in their words, bring up a particular family or individual situation that relates to the text, ask them if the text reminds them of another in the Bible, tie in the discussion into something from the NT or OT sermon from Sunday (if you’re blessed to have that), or tie in details from the text into one of the creeds or prayers we read in church.
Make sure to apply God’s word to the family’s lives.
When the girls were younger we would memorize Psalms together. Discussing and memorizing a verse at a time, sometimes over the whole week. These are still very familiar to them, though exact memory of them has faded away.
Praise – Rejoice with thankful praise before our Savior! (Psalm 47:6)
Use the psalms and hymns of the Church. Have copies of your church’s hymn book or psalter, or use hymnary.org to print copies of your church particular settings. This not only facilitates singing at home, but it assists in corporate worship as the children will already know and love the songs.
It helps to learn a couple of regular family hymns that fit the setting: “Now Thank We All Our God”, “O Trinity Most Blessed Light”, and Psalm 23 have been long-term standbys. We sing different songs as the occasion fits, if we have a guest, or to simply learn a new song. When the girls were little, some favorites were “Around the throne of God in heaven thousands of children stand…” and “When the roll is called up yonder…” sung really fast! The point being that songs assist the mind and affections: they teach, they stir, they settle the heart.
Learn how to sing: listen to the hymns on youtube. Start with a couple of familiar tunes. Sing the doxology or other service music that is regularly sung in corporate worship.
Prayer – Learn to pray without ceasing (Philippians 4:4-7)
For prayer we use the ACTS acronym (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication) and I ask the family to offer suggestions for each part and then I write them as they suggest–we pass the little journal around and the goal is to pray for each part as each wants but cover all the things we’ve written down.
Make sure to pray for the kingdom of Christ, the needs of the church, and the needs and concerns of the family. Writing these down provides a record that can be looked back on as prayers are answered–encouraging more prayer!
Some more practical advice:
It’s important to connect family worship to another regular routine: breakfast, dinner, or bedtime seems to work best for most people. Immediately after dinner, while still at the table, works best for us.
Remember that the flesh wars against the spirit, so we need to make straight paths for obedience: regular time, space, and each person (even a little one) is responsible to encourage each other to it. We have a stack of Bibles near our table ready to go with the journal where we keep track of what we do.
In all of these things we have sometimes been more and sometimes much less consistent–I’ve found that the world, flesh, and devil align themselves against these practices. But at the same time, I think they have been greatly blessed by the Spirit in our lives. Especially in keeping us from hypocrisy.
“May the LORD give you increase, you and your children! May you be blessed by the LORD, who made heaven and earth!” (Psalm 115:14-15)
Shane Anderson is married to Georgi and has three wonderful daughters. He is a Ruling Elder at Providence Presbyterian Church OPC in Greensboro, North Carolina, where Arie van Eyk V is minister. Arie and Wilma have six children and eight grandchildren, with more on the way!