Series introduction: Family worship doesn’t save; only Jesus can do that. But I’m convinced that the practice of coming together as a family to worship God in the home is sorely needed in our homes today. Because there’s no specific to-do list in the Bible about family worship, I’ve struggled this year to work out what it looks like for us when I’m leading my own growing family.
To encourage myself and others about this, I decided to interview a few families that Cheryl and I respect and look up to, learning from them what they do, what they don’t, how they struggle, how they persevere with intentionally leading their families to know and love Jesus Christ.
I can’t quite remember when we first met the Richardsons. They’re a lovely family in our church and lots of fun to be around. When we’ve had meals with them, they’ve been a treat to hang out with. Ruth coordinates the children’s ministry at HBC and teaches a Sunday School class. Cyrus helps share devotions with the kids and is also a passionate bible reader in our main services (all this in between going fishing, hunting and trapping possums!)
1. Tell us a bit more about your family.
Three children: Elsie (8), Avi (10) and Josiah (12). Ruth and Cyrus (older by the minute). We’re a busy family with ordinary issues and interests. We like camping, being with friends and playing in the bush by our house. Mostly we love reading and learning more about stuff that makes us curious. We serve The Lord.
2. For many of us this is not something we’re familiar with. Describe for us what you do when you worship together as a family.
Cyrus: Ruth does bible reading, discussion and prays after dinner several times a week. I pray with each child every night when they get their goodnight cuddle – about the events of the day, for friends, for concerns, for forgiveness. I help the kids to also pray themselves. We stand in for each other when needed.
Ruth: We read the Bible together after dinner – going through a book in ‘logical’ sections, stopping at points of change in the action, or when we think we might need to debrief to keep it understandable.
We start with a recap of what we read before, and sometimes this takes a quiz format. We keep a record of the number of questions the kids can correctly answer and award prizes or rewards when they get to 100 points.
Then one of us will read a section (usually me, sometimes one of the kids or Cyrus if I’m too tired). Question time comes next. We start with simple recall questions and then move on to interpretative meanings and then finally to application. Its very free flow, not formal at all and everyone is expected to contribute. Our kids really enjoy this and its surprising what insights they have, and which one has the insight on occasion! Then we finish with prayer, sometimes all of us praying in turn, sometimes just one of us.
The whole thing takes about 30 minutes.
3. So you don’t use music at all?
Ruth: Our family devotions do not really include music. Music has always been my thing, not Cyrus’s. He would not relish the idea of a sing along and I suspect trying to do so would be a source of friction in our family rather than a positive.
I do often sing around the house and play worship songs on the piano. I leave it to the kids to choose if they want to join in or not and sometimes they do. Recently I introduced my youngest to some of the songs and CDs I listened to when I was a girl. We spent all afternoon trawling the internet for examples, listening and singing along. She’s been singing many of the songs since!
4. Did your parents practise family worship when you grew up? What did it look like?
Cyrus: No. With one very antagonistic schizophrenic in the house (who at some points banned church-going) and two unbelieving parents for most of my childhood at home, there was no opportunity for family devotions.
Ruth: We had a daily Bible reading lead by my father in the evening after dinner. Sometimes we would end with a song together, which my family relished, given much we liked to battle each other with the harmonies. We were pretty immature, despite the veneer of holiness. We often had visitors to our house for spiritual counsel with my Dad and we’d sometimes have impromptu or organised worship sessions as a family.
5. What convinced you to start family worship in your home?
There is no other way to protect our kids than to actively teach them the Truth that can counter the message of hopelessness that the world offers. Their sinfulness will lead them the same way that all others will go, and loving parents should battle to give their children knowledge of hope.
6. Have you done these things the same way since you started?
Ruth: No, in the past I have been more thorough and planned.
For a couple of years I did morning study sessions with the kids; with worksheets and memorising and all that wonderfulness, in the mornings before school. It was fun and I was encouraged and energised by the Lord in those years.
However, I hit a technical snag in the studies at the same time that the kids requested a later time for study so they could move a bit slower in the mornings. Combined with other dramas it just became a bit too overwhelming to carry on. However, I would love to take this up again in the future and continue writing devotional resources for other families to use.
7. How do you fit all this into your schedules?
Well we don’t do our family devotions every night. We stick mostly to weeknights and we sometimes give ourselves some variation in the routine.
Ultimately we don’t want to be legalistic about it or give our kids the message that family devotions impute holiness to us or them. We stress the idea that Bibles are also for reading on your own in your room, in the lounge, dining room, toilet, pantry, garden, schoolroom, library and everywhere else. Also that God is for talking to when you’re alone as well as when we’re together.
We do not want our kids to see us as responsible for their spiritual growth. We want them to learn to slowly take responsibility for that in the same way we are teaching them to take responsibility for showering, cleaning rooms, practicing good character qualities, doing chores, being timely etc. At the same time, of course, we want to show them how you do that and provide time in the schedule (after dinner) when that can happen while they’re learning responsibility.
8. Do you use the Bible, or other books?
We only use the Bible and whatever worksheets I make myself. Your kids can understand it!
9. What advice would you give to someone wanting to serve their families in this way?
Having a mindset that using what God gives you (all of it) for his glory is WORSHIP can help you to feel the freedom you have as a parent to delight God with what you and your family can offer him. I offer my time and commitment to God daily when I take my place at the table with my kids and open the Bible.
It is for my kids, yes, but it’s ultimately an expression of my love for God who SAVED my life and gives me hope daily! That gives me energy to do it because I feel so aware of the delight this gives Him.
Other posts in this series: