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On Reinvigorating Family Worship: A Mere O Project

April 12th, 2017 | 3 min read

By Jake Meador

I’m excited to announce a short series of posts we’ll be running in the coming days on family worship. I have had a growing sense of the need for this sort of series for awhile, due in part to the BenOp discussions, but due more, I think, to the larger questions about Christians in civil society. (I have a post coming in the near future that is attempting to index the various “options” we have as far as as practical political theology is concerned.)

One of the most pressing questions Rod raises in his book is how we ought to catechize our young people. As he has said many times, moralistic therapeutic deism is one of the biggest problems facing the church today. Many of our own children simply do not know the faith. Jamie Smith’s work on cultural liturgies has also been extremely helpful for similar reasons in that it helps highlight why MTD is so pervasive, even in theoretically Christian places.

Toward that end, we’re going to have a series of posts in the near future in which different families share what they do in family worship. I think one of the biggest obstacles people have in thinking about family worship is that they simply don’t know where to begin and they’re worried about failure. (Joie and I have only recently started trying to do evening prayers more consistently with our kids, so I understand both these fears quite well.)

There are two reasons we’re featuring family worship in particular for this project:

  • First, one of the most reasonable critiques of the BenOp conversation so far has been the lack of practical application. Pointing to communities already doing this stuff is great, because it gives a good sense of what the end game is. But most of us aren’t blessed to live in those sorts of communities. So we need some way of starting small. The home makes sense, then, because it is probably the place where most of us have the greatest level of control over schedules and what goes on and so it is more feasible than trying to organize something church-wide.
  • Second, in the big picture, we’re trying to reinvigorate civil society. Traditionally, many Christians have seen the Christian home as one of the key pillars of a broadly Christian society. So it’s not just that the home is a practical place to begin, though it is. The home is also one of the best places to begin because stronger homes will have a trickle down effect that produces stronger churches, neighborhoods, and enterprises.

What do we mean by “family worship”?

A note on what I mean by “family worship”: I simply mean a time where the family is together for readings from Scripture (and perhaps other valuable Christian books), prayer, and perhaps some kind of sort Scripture lesson, depending on the age of the kids.

Our family has been doing something very simple—once our kids are in pajamas and ready for bed, we all gather together in the same room (we’ve been doing Joie and my bedroom but may be moving that elsewhere in the near future) and we pray the Lord’s Prayer, read an assigned scripture reading from the Book of Common Prayer, and use this catechism with our kids in a basic kind of call-and-response style:

Me: Wendell (two-year-old son), who made you?
W: (loudly) GOD!
Me: Davy (four-year-old daughter), What else did God make?
D: All things! (Sometimes she’ll list things before she finally says “all things,” which is great because than when I am putting her to bed, while Joie puts Wendell down, we can thank God for those things when we pray.)

It goes on like that. It’s probably five minutes, maybe slightly more if the scripture reading is longer, but that’s unusual. We’ve been doing this off-and-on for about a month and it’s already been encouraging to us. Davy now knows a good bit of the Lord’s Prayer and can say a lot of it with us from memory. Wendell obviously does not do as much as Davy and it’s harder for him to sit still, even for five minutes, so we try to be flexible. It obviously doesn’t help anything if our kids dislike this time, so we try to make it a fun time and not just something that we do in a rote way.

In the next few days we’ll have more posts on this topic from a few different friends of mine describing what family worship looks like in their home.

Featured image via:

Jake Meador

Jake Meador is the editor-in-chief of Mere Orthodoxy. He is a 2010 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he studied English and History. He lives in Lincoln, NE with his wife Joie, their daughter Davy Joy, and sons Wendell, Austin, and Ambrose. Jake's writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Commonweal, Christianity Today, Fare Forward, the University Bookman, Books & Culture, First Things, National Review, Front Porch Republic, and The Run of Play and he has written or contributed to several books, including "In Search of the Common Good," "What Are Christians For?" (both with InterVarsity Press), "A Protestant Christendom?" (with Davenant Press), and "Telling the Stories Right" (with the Front Porch Republic Press).