Family Worship: Quick Tips for Shepherding Your Family

Moses commands Israel,

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

I’ve examined this passage elsewhere (see Parenting: Gospel Saturated, Loving-Discipline, & Jesus Loves the Little Children and Missional Living: Gospel-Saturated Parenting) but I’ve not talked much about the practical question about how to do family worship.

Honestly, family worship has intimidated me since my wife and I first had children. Sure I was trained theologically. Sure I loved to talk about theology; and usually two plus two equals four but it didn’t for me.

Our family worship was nearly non-existent for the first two years. But then I realized something. My trepidation revealed a misgiving in my own heart. I confessed with my mouth that the gospel had changed my life. I confessed that it had the power to change others’ lives. But I in my shepherding responsibilities as a husband and father I acted like it wasn’t enough.

Don’t lose heart parents. The gospel is powerful and saves but you have to apply it to the wound consistently.

So here’s my practical tips for family worship.

1. Get into a rhythm

I recommend having a loose routine that your kids can count on. For instance, we struggled to find a time that worked for my family for a long time. But then it hit me. When we eat dinner, I’m frequently done five to ten minutes before my wife and kids.

For us this works great. I eat my food. And it’s a natural time for our family to talk, share, and pray. Figure out what works best for you.

On the flip side, don’t miss the minutes here or there where you can share the gospel with your kids or speak into their lives. Don’t let the rhythm become an unbreakable rule.

2. Don’t sweat that busy week

Here’s the good news. You have your kids for eighteen years (at least). So if you miss a day or even a week it’s not the end of the world. Our rhythm occurs at dinner but if we have a friend who invites us out to eat, we don’t sweat it. We plan on picking up right where we left off as soon as possible.

Also, these busy days or weeks are a great time to take advantage of those minutes in the car or elsewhere that can be redeemed.

3. Read Scripture

Don’t neglect reading the Scripture. Paul says that the gospel has power through written words in Scripture. It doesn’t need to be an entire chapter. It can be just a couple verses. David Murray offers a reading plan for children’s. Check it out.

4. Ask questions about the text

The younger your kids are the more basic these questions will be. Don’t get fancy. Simple questions. You can even keep track of right answers with stars or something. But don’t let it get competitive or out of hand. Light. And fun.

5. Sing with your kids

For years I was really discouraged because I don’t sing well and I don’t play instruments. Neither does my wife. I guess we could’ve taught my kids songs without music but it just didn’t seem the same.

However, with the explosion of super smart smartphones and streaming music services we’ve found a great way to incorporate music into our family worship. We use Spotify to access our favorite worship songs and we belt it out. I actually snagged two journal/books from Together for the Gospel which has the lyrics to some great gospel-centered songs in the back and we’ve been moving through that.

6. Use Catechisms

Catechism are old school. Don’t hate the tried and true. They are a great way to teach your kids systematically through the big truths of the Bible. My personal favorite is the Westminster Shorter Catechisms.

Your favorite catechisms have probably been set to music too. Google catechism and music and you’re likely to find an amazing help. For the WSC check out The Westminster Shorter Catechism Songs: The Complete CD Set.

Also, Starr Meade has developed a devotional based on the WSC Training Hearts, Teaching Minds which is top notch.

7. Use story books

In addition to reading Scripture, there are also some big picture story books which will really help familiarize yourself with the big picture of Scripture. Jesus Story Book Bible, The Gospel Story Bible, and The Big Picture Story Bible.

Not a story book bible but also helpful is Bruce Ware’s Big Truths for Young Hearts which covers ten truths from Scripture for kids.

8. Pray for your kids and others

I’m guessing you already pray for them but pray for your kids in front of them. Here’s an example of what I pray,“Dear Lord, thank you so much for Claire and Maddy. You’ve blessed us with these children and they have truly been a gift. Father, we know you love to show yourself faithful in families and you have promised to keep your covenant to a thousand generations. I plead with you Father that you would work in these childrens’s hearts. Help them understand their need for Jesus. Clean their heart and draw them to yourself so that you faithfulness would be praised and your name would be made great. Do it for your glory Lord. Amen.”

But also pray for others. If you have a sick friend, pray for them. Pray for their pastors, teachers, Sunday school teachers. Have them pray for you. Have them pray for themselves.

9. Memorize Scripture.

Don’t stress over this. Small portions. Little bit at a time. Get in a rhythm. Do it as a family and talk about what the truth in that verse is. One way to make it fun is to use Seeds Worship which puts Scripture to music. Also, if you need a plan Desiring God offers its Fighter Verses which you can also download as an app for most smartphones.

10. Make it fun

Don’t be so up tight. Don’t be the family worship Nazi. You know what I’m talking about. Teach your kids to reverence the Lord. Teach them to honor God. Teach them He is holy. But don’t make him out to be the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Have fun. Laugh. Be joyful.

Mathew Sims is an average Joe who works a 9 to 5 and blogs on the side. He is an editor and writer for Grace for Sinners. He lives in Simpsonville, SC and loves spending time with  his two daughters, Claire and Maddy, and wife of seven years, LeAnn. He has a BA in English/Creative Writing and attended Geneva Reformed Seminary for two years completing nearly 40 hours hours of an Mdiv program. He and his family serve and are members at Grace Church. He loves reading, writing, the outdoors, music, cooking, and is an Apple fan boy. You can find him on twitter @GraceforSinners and Facebook. Please email me with any questions or comment below.