Worship defines our churches and our personal lives, and it should mark our homes. In fact, family worship has a long pedigree in the Protestant church. Along with corporate and private worship, it’s considered one of the regular routines of the Christian life. And the benefits are eternal.
The Word and prayer are the means Christ employs to bless and minister to his people. As parents, we want to keep putting our children (and ourselves) in the way of Christ by engaging in his means of grace. Without some regularity, structure, and purpose, we often assume we’re encouraging our children in Christ more than we actually are. Structured family worship seeks to daily encounter Christ by these means of grace—together.
Shape of Family Worship
There are many reasons why family worship is important. And thankfully, it’s not hard! Finish dinner, clear the table, move to the family room, open the Bible, read a short section, and pray. Keep it brief. It doesn’t have to be intimidating, it doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, it shouldn’t be.
Structured family worship seeks to daily encounter Christ by these means of grace—together.
Here are some suggestions for what your family worship time could look like depending on how much time you have available.
5 Minutes: Prayer
If it’s been a trying night and time is limited, simply gather your family together and pray for five minutes. Ask everyone to share one thing they were thankful for in the day or one request they’d like another to pray for them. And then pray. Even five minutes before the throne of God matters. Time in prayer is never wasted.
Now, this isn’t ideal for a regular routine. But something is better than nothing. There are some nights when five minutes is all we have in the way of energy, patience, or time. That’s fine. Remember, this is a means of grace, not a burden. Seize the moment, enjoy it, and make the most of those five minutes.
10–15 Minutes: Prayer, Word, Song
From my experience as a father, husband, and pastor, this time frame is ideal. Family worship doesn’t need to be long to be effective. Most families will find that 10 to 15 minutes emerges as a sweet spot.
If your children are young, consider reading a short account from a narrative portion of Scripture for five minutes, praying for a few minutes, and daring to sing for two minutes. Narratives connect with children—they love stories. Use that to your family’s advantage. Ask each person to request one thing for prayer and have the person on their right or left pray. Even a 2-year-old can pray that Mommy would “love Jesus more and more.”
Finish with singing. It can be intimidating, but once a family begins to sing together they’ll always sing together. When children are young, “Jesus Loves Me” and “The B-I-B-L-E” will be favorites. Mix in “The Doxology” or “Amazing Grace.” As your family grows in age and experience, you can extend your repertoire.
15–20 Minutes: Prayer, Word, Discussion, Song
If your family is a little more seasoned, both in age and in the experience of family worship, you can attempt 15 to 20 minutes in family worship. This extended time allows for more elements and interaction. Work your way over the course of weeks and months through a book of the Bible. Read consecutive passages but always with the aim of understanding the overall message and delighting in Christ together.
Once a family begins to sing together they’ll always sing together.
Some of the extra time can be used to ask questions about the passage read that night. Ask age-appropriate questions and allow discussion to happen. Afford your children the opportunity to ask questions as well. Be assured, you don’t need to have all the answers. In fact, it’s refreshing for children when their father or mother says, “I’m not sure how to answer that, but I’ll take time to study it and report back.” Your children will benefit from knowing you take their questions seriously.
Consider adding different types of prayers to make your family worship time more robust. You could pray a prayer of adoration, confession of sin, confession of faith, thanksgiving, and various prayers of intercession. In our family, we often select different countries to pray for— each person prays for opportunities for the church and the gospel in that county.
20–30 Minutes: Prayer, Word, Discussion, Song, Memorization
Very few families should attempt 20 to 30 minutes in family worship on a regular basis. Consistency over time will pay more dividends than making family worship onerous by extending your family further than they can bear.
However, some families can and should aim for 20 to 30 minutes. If that’s realistic for your family, consider adding memorization of Bible verses and a catechism to your regular family worship time. Memorizing the Word allows for meditation. And meditation upon the Word leads to being shaped by the Word. Memorization, meditation, and imitation is a natural flow in the Christian life.
Blessing also comes by taking the time to memorize a catechism (e.g., Westminster Shorter, Heidelberg, New City) together. This will add to your family’s understanding of the Word and how to articulate it.
No practice in your home will prove more beneficial to your family than daily family worship. Christians worship; that’s what we do. As a Christian family, that’s what we want to do. Try it.