Millions of schedules just slowed down. Schools are closed, churches are online, and many are hunkered down with streamed movies and lots of toilet paper.
For those of us quarantined with our families, now is the perfect time to begin (or intentionally continue) habits of worship together. As parents, we must take an active role in shaping the spiritual climate of our homes in the coming weeks.
Worship with Your Church
As millions of Christians prepare to worship this week, many will be staring at a screen. Such technology is a wonderful gift that allows us, the body of Christ, to encourage one another, and we should be thankful. But we should beware of reducing the import of message because of its medium.
Worship is a participatory response to the glorious acts of redemption, grace, and mercy of our great God. It’s not just listening; it’s receiving and responding in song, fellowship, and prayer.
Worship is not just listening; it’s receiving and responding in song, fellowship, and prayer.
During this time, Christians should remain connected to their church by participating in the online services from their congregation. Try to fight the consumer mentality that sends you looking for the “best online worship experience.” If your church doesn’t have the capabilities to stream, the people of your congregation can commit to worshiping via the same livestream from another church. Whatever you do, make connection to your own congregation a priority.
Even if you are watching a service online, follow your typical practices: get dressed, open your Bible, follow along with Scripture readings, and focus your attention on the worship service. Allow these patterns to carry you through this season of separation from the body, helping you engage and respond to the Word of God preached and sung.
Moreover, allow your posture in your home to reflect your posture in your corporate gathering. If you normally stand to sing—stand. If you kneel to pray—kneel. It may feel uncomfortable to do these things alone in your home or with the members of your family, but this season of worship can draw us into deeper personal engagement with the Lord, making us more conscious of our worship.
Next, if your church is streaming a full worship service—or even if they aren’t—sing together. There’s a temptation to just sit and watch, but fight it. Dust off a hymnal, print out some song sheets, or call up lyrics on your device. Christians have readied their hearts and responded to God for centuries “singing and making melody to the Lord with [their] heart[s]” (Eph. 5:19).
As you worship, engage in prayer for the church as a church. In Paul’s prison letters to the churches in Ephesus (Eph. 1:16), Philippi (Phil. 1:3–4), Colossae (Col. 1:3–4), and to his fellow worker Philemon (Philem. 4), he quickly alerts them to the fact that distance and chains haven’t stopped him from praying for them: “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints” (Col. 1:3–4). Scripture reminds us that we can heartily join our brothers and sisters spread across our communities in praying together.
Finally, discuss the sermon. Ask the Spirit of God to use the Word of God in the hearts of his people. If you are in a home full of people, be intentional about discussing the message and how it affects your family. If you live alone, call someone in your church to check on them, and initiate a conversation about the teaching you heard.
Worship with Your Family
As we all know, home thermostats are vital little devices. As winter temperatures plunge—or summer temperatures soar—these mechanisms trigger the heating systems of our homes to regulate the temperature indoors. As leaders of families, we should strive to be spiritual thermostats that regularly “kick on” to maintain a healthy spiritual climate for our homes.
Whether we have children, teens, or other adults in our home, regular times of worship together reorient our hearts and minds to the eternal truths of Scripture and helps us fight temptations to worry or despair.
Thankfully, there’s no shortage of resources to help families begin practicing family worship. But if the options are overwhelming, take Donald Whitney’s sage advice in Family Worship and keep it simple: read, pray, sing.
Our worship as a family is centered on God’s revelation in Scripture. We know God because he has made himself known, and we start with his Word. With children spanning from teens to toddlers, our family has used different children’s Bibles and family devotionals. You can spot our favorites by their packing-tape reinforced bindings. Whatever we pick, we want to help our young children confront God in his Word.
With older children, we have used Bible study curricula for teens. These materials may be designed for individual students, but they can be used by parents and kids studying together. Whatever resources we choose, we seek to point our children to the sufficiency of God’s Word.
Whatever resources we choose, we seek to point our children to the sufficiency of God’s Word.
When in doubt, read the Bible. Pick a book you feel comfortable with and work through it together in age-appropriate increments. You might be surprised what sticks.
Engaging the Word of God readies us to respond in prayer. Leading our families in Bible-prompted prayer teaches them that we pray in accordance with Scripture. This pattern of prayer helps little ones learn that prayer is speaking back to God because he has spoken to us through his Word.
One of the books I’ve loved this past year is Nancy Guthrie’s What Every Child Should Know About Prayer. My 5-year-old and I have read it together three or four times now, and he has grown in his understanding of both God and prayer with each additional reading.
During family worship, try different ways of incorporating prayer. Lead in prayer, have younger kids repeat after you, or ask another family member if they’d like to pray. Prayer opens our families to candid conversations about spiritual things and helps us direct the spiritual environment in our homes.
Singing reminds us that the goal of Bible reading, prayer, theological reflection, and spiritual growth is thanksgiving and joy in God’s presence. Whether it looks like singing worship songs with a parent on a piano or guitar, or singing older hymns a cappella, the goal is to daily lift our voices together in worship to the sovereign Lord.
Opportunity for New Habits
As families and individuals, we often have deep ruts in our lives. We have well-worn paths of how we use our time, nurture our relationships, and practice spiritual disciplines. But, recently, many of our patterns and habits have been upended. While uncomfortable, disruption creates a wonderful opportunity for us to establish new spiritual habits in our families.
Disruption creates a wonderful opportunity for us to establish new spiritual habits in our families.
The COVID-19 crisis has inevitably pushed us out of our ruts, whether we like it or not. We can fill our days watching stats and worrying, or we can strive to establish new patterns of worship, prayer, and reflection, as people living in the presence of God—even in our homes.