Second Thoughts On Family Worship PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jerry Owen   
Saturday, 25 June 2011 15:06

I get asked regularly about what we do for “family worship.” Among Christians who love the faith and their kids, family worship becomes a topic of interest. My initial response is always ambivalent, encouraged on the one hand that someone wants to have a family culture that includes the Bible and devotion in the home, and slightly concerned because the common issues that plague “family worship” are considerable. For those considering implementing some version of family worship, here are some remarks that I hope are helpful.

Family Worship Isn’t Required by the Bible:

This might seem impious, but it’s really only impietistic. We simply are not required to have a set, formal, liturgical time of worship as families. I’m glad some people do this and benefit from it, and as far as they do, I’m for it, but no one should feel it is something they ought to do. This is not the same thing as saying parents shouldn’t read the Bible, pray and talk about God with their children. Of course they should. And it’s helpful if this is regular, methodical, and often. But some of the healthiest Christian families I know never had “family worship” formally conducted. They would read and discuss the Bible at meal and other times for particular seasons, sing and pray before going to bed etc, but these things were not done primarily in one sitting, not in what we would typically call family worship. I know there are lazy parents, particularly fathers, who don’t make time to regularly read and teach the Bible to their kids, and I know my point here will be used by them to justify and continue their laziness. This is what gracious biblical standards always do, and in response legalists try to curb sin by adding rules. So no excuses for lazy people, and no excuse for pietists combating laziness with legalism.

Family Worship, If Done, Is Not the Most Important Spiritual Thing You Do:

The Bible commands us not to forsake the assembly of the saints (Heb. 10:25) which refers to corporate worship together. It’s atrocious that Christians will feel worse about missing a quiet time or family worship than they do missing the called meeting of all God’s people on the Lord’s Day. Reformed Christians and those who would consider participating in family worship are usually less casual than the average evangelical and probably have a high regard for Lord’s Day worship. But even they will set family worship above it (see the first “extract” from the otherwise helpful talk by Joel Beeke on family worship). All of our devotion–unceasing prayer, dedicated times of prayer, singing, serving, eating and drinking to the glory of God–should prepare us to worship Him in Spirit and truth with His people together. That is the most important thing we do. Other things are practice, corporate worship is game day.

Family Worship Should Be Delightful for Everyone:

My biggest concern for parents are gung-ho on family worship is the tendency for it to be very “serious” and therefore unengaging and often no fun for the kids. This means that the most “spiritual” time the family spends together, supposedly the most important, the time spent talking and learning about God, is in fact the time that is least like experiencing Him. Moses forbids cooking a kid in it’s mother’s milk, taking the means of life and using them as a means of death (Deut. 14:21). When I ask people who have grown up in Christian homes, particularly Reformed ones, how family worship affected their faith, the overwhelmingly most common answer is that it was either boring or painful. Boiling milk. Counterproductive. This is what God, and devotion to Him, is like? Yikes! Parents have to keep it cheerful, engaging and fun.

There is a reason kids loved to be around Jesus, and it wasn’t because he was lecturing at length about the Torah or the Five Points of Calvinism. I love the Torah and the Five Points, so I try to make them digestible to my three year old so she can love them too. Good news should feel like it. This might mean singing one verse of a song, or just one song. It means all sorts of things for different situations, for people of different ages, for parents with different abilities. We need to be open to the idea that less is more. Better one verse read, enjoyed and digested, than 30 painful pious lecture minutes. One common response to this is “So you’re saying we should just dumb it down, make it “fun” like the rest of the shallow evangelical church does with worship?” No, not like that. I’m not saying the content should be effeminate drivel. I’m saying it should be a light burden. If your kids hate it, then change it. If they don’t enjoy it, fix it. They will have certain things to grow into, but our job as parents is to make the growing pains less, not more, and to be sure they are still growing.

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TNT (Registered) 2011-07-01 15:10:30

I do not completely disagree with anything you state, but it does seem to miss the real danger I see amongst the men I know. I get the grace versus legalism thing, but practically speaking I cannot think of one man I know of that is a)in danger of having to rigid or legalistic family worship, b) to legalistic or overzealous in leading his family (in the kingdom). On the other hand I can think of hundreds that need to do a better job of both(myself included).I need grace for sure, but I also need to hear the hard truth and more often need a gracious "kick in the pants" than to be "let off the hook". Thank you for helping me think about it!
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Last Updated on Monday, 04 July 2011 08:42