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’ve interviewed 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.
For a family with seven kids, Rob and Maria are some of the most laid-back, easy-going parents we’ve met. Rob is always quick to offer a laugh, while Maria is a constant wellspring of encouraging words. Their children fan out all over church on Sunday, and recently we’ve had Tahina join in the young adult homegroups during the week.
The Fuatas were one of the earliest families to join HBC after Peter Somervell joined as Senior Pastor (perhaps single-handedly doubling the Sunday School roll at the time!) They were one of the many families who welcomed us when we were still new to the church in 2008. I remember one Sunday service in that first year where we celebrated Maria’s baptism and profession of faith in Christ. Rob works in IT and is especially skilled in setting up WiFi networks (including our church’s), while Maria is an accountant by training but now keeps tabs on the Fuata clan full-time.
Maria kindly answered some questions about what family worship looks like in their busy home.
1. Tell us a bit more about your family.
We are originally from a tiny island called Rotuma (North East of Fiji); Rob and I were born and raised in Fiji and immigrated to NZ in 2003 with 3 kids. Fast forward 10 years and we now have a child in every level of the NZ education spectrum from Kindy (Tamia – 4); Primary (Tianne – 6, Tamara – 7 & Aaron – 9); Intermediate (Talia – 11); College (Wilson – 18) and University (Tahina – 19)!
I think each one of us brings something unique and special to what makes us a family. We love, share, fight, cry, laugh, joke, eat, play and hang out together 24/7, 7 days a week! Dad and the kids all love sports (mum loves cheering from the side). We also spend a lot of time with our extended family and are very involved in our Rotuman cultural group here in NZ.
2. So what happens in your home for family worship?
Over the years we’ve done our family worship first in segments and then together as a family. In the first segment, one parent reads a lesson and bible reading from John Macarthur’s “I Believe In Jesus” for the littlies (Tamia, Tianne, Tamara) while the other parent takes the primary/intermediates (Talia and Aaron) through “A Faith to Grow On”. We then do our full family worship where Rob leads our prayer using a list on his iPad. This is a real joy where as a family we discuss our prayer points from church, family and especially when prayer has been answered. We then tuck in the littlies into bed then carry on with the older kids (“Training Hearts, Teaching Minds” by Starr Meade).
However, recently we’ve started reading the Bible in chronological order as a family, which has been very enlightening for all of us. It was very interesting reading through Job together and while it seemed to drag on in some parts, I will never forget the littlies’ faces when we talked about how God made the lightning and thunder, galaxy and storm towards the end of Job, because it was during those stormy winter nights in Auckland.
Time is our biggest challenge – we have resorted to some days following our full family worship guide and the other days just the reading of a Psalm and family prayer.
4. How do you cater family worship for such a wide age range in your house, and have your kids involved?
I think it comes down to being flexible and willing to keep things interesting and engaging but at the same time providing a foundation and routine for what our family worship is about.
Using the different resources has definitely helped offer gospel truths tailored to different ages, while keeping it simple, interesting but sound biblically as well.
A couple of times Rob has played a “Way of the Master” video as our family worship or even read an article from “Voice of the Martyrs” newsletters about fellow believers being persecuted, this has been an eye-opener for all of us.
The kids take turns in reading a Psalm before we start our bible reading. It sometimes ends up in tears when we forget who read the last time (monitoring and tracking who did what last is a key to getting family worship on time in the Fuata household!) The kids are also given the opportunity to pray at the end of our devotions, as we feel we need to teach them how to talk to God and how important prayer is.
We have also found that it can be useful to use life-changing moments/events that affect our teens to bring them back to the gospel. For example, the recent suicide of a very close friend of our teens was an opportunity for us to address the issue for their salvation.
5. Do you guys incorporate singing in your family devotions?
Personally, I think praise and worship songs at the beginning and then at the end help set the right tone for our family worship. I am the one tasked with compiling our worship songs (though this is largely a work in progress!)
We also love to sing children’s praises with the guitar (Wilson plays the guitar) and the kids love to do action songs from Sunday School. Plus a family favourite is playing a worship song via the Apple TV with the lyrics on the TV like those on the Gospel Project.
Just recently I was amazed to discover some awesome old Rotuman hymns that sing of the gospel truths, so I’m excited to try and teach the rest of the family (who dont speak Rotuman i should add!)
6. How do you guard your times for family worship?
As the kids have gotten older, this has been more challenging, especially with club and school sports, extra-curricular activities at school, family meetings and gatherings, bible study groups etc. Plus juggling work, school runs, getting dinner done as well. We try to have one particular night in the week for all of us to be home and worship together.
What Rob has tried to instill into our family is that 7.15pm is family worship, and whatever you’re doing, it needs to stop, and you need to make your way to the sitting room. Sometimes this has meant half-eaten dinner after training, but it was the best time before the littlies start to get too tired and most kids would’ve have had time to shower after training. But on average, family worship time has really been at 7.30ish… which means we just get used to 1 or 2 littlies ending up horizontal by the end of the prayer!
7. Why is family worship important to you?
As parents we are the first teachers of our faith to our children and it is our God-given roles to do so. Teaching and leading our children to saving faith is our primary calling, and while we continue to care, nurture and love them, ultimately it is their salvation that we are most focussed on.
So family worship is a significant part of this responsibility in action. Of course, the truths that we learn from Gods word as a family also translates to how we live our lives each day and the every day reminders that we are sinners, of our we need for a saviour, and that salvation is only found in the person of Jesus Christ and what He did on that cross on Calvary.
Most importantly, its teaching our kids that we ourselves as parents are in much need of God’s grace as they are, for we are far from perfect.
8. Both of you became Christians after most of your children were born. Is it too late to start family worship once your children are in their teens?
We have been very fortunate to be exposed to solid gospel doctrine from the outset through Rob’s brother Nick who strongly recommended materials for our family worship and growing our faith. Rob pretty much took the lead making the change in our family. While it is difficult to start even at the Intermediate age, we have tried and continue to persevere, for we know as parents, that is our role.
Its a difficult one with pre-teens and teens alike, but I must say its very fulfilling and heart-warming when you can discuss these gospel truths with your teens, even if they still say they don’t profess their faith just yet. It’s definitely not too late because we know we have planted the seed. Our job is to teach them God’s Word and to be used to lead them to salvation. We have faith in the fact that God saves no matter what age or circumstances.
9. What resources have you found helpful in leading family worship?
- ESV and John MacArthur bibles together with the NKJ for footnotes where necessary.
- John MacArthur’s “I believe in Jesus” for littlies
- John MacArthur’s “A faith to grow on” book plus devotional bible for primary to pre-teens
- Starr Meade’s “Training Hearts Teaching Minds” – Family devotions based on the Shorter Catechism” – for older kids and parents together
- ESV Bible reading plan
It is so important to get good resources to use with your bible. We were blessed in this area – what seemed like a daunting task for a family of our size and mix, became easier than expected because of the gospel-centred resources available through Grace to You, John MacArthur. Denys Tomaselli from Grace Books in Hastings also played a significant part in getting us our resources, but also in our family finding a solid bible-teaching church home.
10. Any last words for readers?
While this all may seem like a lot, to be honest, we have not always been faithful and consistent in following this guide. But by using family worship as an opportunity to teach our children the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we trust they would be better equipped to stand firm amidst the influences and temptations of this world (particularly as our children attend state schools).
As a family we’ve struggled and many times felt like giving up, but there is so much joy when your littlies pray thanking Jesus for dying on the cross to save us (though it’s in God’s timing when He calls our children to saving faith).
Whatever the end result though, the fruits right now is definitely His moulding of Rob and I as parents, and the frequent reminders of our need for His grace each day!
Other posts in this series: