“Family Worship.” If that’s the first time you’ve heard that term, you’re not alone. But, as unfamiliar as family worship is to our ears, the concept was commonplace less than 100 years ago. In fact, as one Christian author put it, “In the history of the church, family worship has been one of the Christian family’s strongest characteristics…and was once part of the DNA of Christian families.”
So, what is family worship? Simply put, family worship is when those living under the same roof engage in worship together by reading the Bible, praying, and singing together. This is different from personal worship (when we individually read the Bible, pray, and meditate on Scripture), and corporate worship (when a body of believers gather to worship God on Sundays). Instead, it is worship reserved for Christian families.
The Reason for Family Worship
There are many values that were ingrained in me as a child. My love for sports, commitment to sportsmanship, and respect for elders are just a few of the values my parents passed on to me. Sometimes my parents explicitly taught me about the importance of sportsmanship and the necessity of respecting those in authority over me. Other times, my parents simply modeled these values and made them a rhythm of our life.
Similarly, when the Bible speaks about family worship, it speaks about it in two ways. First, it speaks about family worship as a basic rhythm of life—a modeled way of life that helps parents pass on the faith to children. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says,
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.
When it came to passing on God’s words and commands to the next generation, Moses reminded parents to teach their children in every dimension of life. When the family was in the house, when they were traveling, before they went to bed, and at the breakfast table, the people of God were to make conversations about their faith a basic rhythm of life.
Moses also reminds parents that this rhythm includes explicit teaching. He encourages fathers and mothers to do more than simply live out the faith, but to “diligently teach” the commands of God to their children. That is to say, parents were to see teaching the Bible as a joyful responsibility—to read the Bible, to share the stories of Scripture, and to remind their toddlers and teens of the great truths of God!
How Can I Start?
Admittedly, while the Bible may be clear about the need for family worship, the practice can seem daunting. Several years ago, as a new father, I felt utterly unequipped. I didn’t know where to start, and any attempt I made to begin a rhythm of family worship failed amid the chaos of our breakfast table. Wiggling toddlers, hungry infants, and distracted preschoolers made family worship time seem like an impossibility. If you feel similarly, here are three tips on how to start:
1. Keep it simple.
Read, sing, pray. Start there! You don’t need to sing 18th-century hymns, preach a 15-minute sermon to your family, or orchestrate a family choir. Simply read a short passage of the Bible, pray, and sing a short song. At our home, we typically read about 10-15 verses of the bible, pray for what we’re thankful for or ways we need God’s help, and sing a song that the kids can participate in. These little efforts have a big effect. One or two big chops of an axe won’t bring down a tree, but 365 small chops with a hatchet will!
2. Stay flexible.
Sometimes you may be able to accomplish family worship in one sitting. Other times you may only have the chance to pray and sing before something else calls you out the door. Remain diligent and strive to make family worship a core part of your life, but realize that life circumstances will often force you to adjust.
3. Trust God.
Not every family worship time will end in a feeling of triumph. In fact, many times it simply feels ordinary and unproductive. However, God is the one who will make your efforts worthwhile. You may not feel like you’re making a spiritual impact on your children, but it’s God who works through his word. So, trust him with the results, and know that he loves your children far more than you do!
 Jason Helopoulos, A Neglected Grace (Scotland: Christian Focus, 2013), 13.