Five Simple Ideas for Family Worship
Let’s face it: family devotions can be challenging. For beginners, the discipline of gathering as a family each day can be daunting; even those who have done it for a while may weary of the same routine. Fortunately, each family has the freedom to find a method that works for them, and that stimulates their faith. Here are five simple ideas that you can use in your family worship. Before I mention them, let me ask one foundational question.
Is family worship important? Admittedly, there is nowhere in the Bible that specifically mentions ‘family devotions’ or ‘family worship.’ However, God’s Word clearly indicates that Christian parents, and especially Christian fathers, have an obligation to teach their families the Word of God.
In ancient Israel, God commanded fathers, “You shall teach them [my Words] to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 11:19). In the time of the early church, Paul counselled fathers to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Not only does family worship help parents to obey these commands, but it provides families with an opportunity to jointly honor the God who has brought them together. Yes, family worship is important.
With that said, here are five simple ideas for family worship:
(1) Take turns reading and commenting. Simply taking the time to notice what you are reading helps to cement it in your mind. As a family, choose a passage of Scripture and take turns reading in a circle. Each family member reads 1-3 verses (whatever you have decided beforehand) and then shares a comment – anything that stood out to them as they read.
Advantages – This is a simple and easy method that requires no advance planning. Using this method will help younger family members take a more participatory role in family devotions.
Disadvantages – Depending on the ages and maturity of family members, the depth of the comments could shallow, with less benefit to older family members.
(2) Read a commentary along with a Biblical passage. It can be hard to prepare a new teaching each day for your family. Thankfully, there are some excellent books that provide teaching and can challenge every member of the family, including you! Read a section of the Bible and then read the corresponding section of a commentary. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible is a five-star resource that will challenge everyone’s faith. Spurgeon’s Treasure of David provides excellent commentary on the Psalms. Some books are not so much commentaries as biographies from the Biblical text – Krummacher’s Elijah and the Tishbite or Hamilton’s Moses, the Man of God are some of my favorites.
Advantages – Everyone in the family can gain something from good commentaries. Solid Biblical teaching will be directly linked to the Bible passage. English skills and vocabulary may also increase depending on the book that is chosen.
Disadvantages – If you choose a book that is difficult for younger people to understand, they may not profit from it. Reading extended sections may seem like ‘daily sermons’ to young children.
(3) Turn a Bible passage into a play or dramatic reading. Young people can grow tired of sitting – God made them full of energy and enthusiasm! You can take several days to work on a specific Bible story. Read the story, assign family members to play the part of different characters, and work together to reenact the story. The story will be more memorable for younger children, while older children could memorize specific Bible passages to quote during the reenactment, increasing their Bible intake. If you don’t feel like acting it out, then read (or quote) the Biblical passage dramatically, using different family members as different characters.
Advantages – Young children will love the opportunity to move around, and it will help them use all their senses to learn the Biblical stories. In fact, everyone involved will get a better understanding of the Biblical narrative as they go over the details and think through how to reenact or read the section dramatically. Plus, the amount of detail and memory involved in the reenactment allows both younger and older children to participate.
Disadvantages – Older family members may be less excited about reenacting a passage. Further, this method works best for narrative sections of the Bible, and may not help much when you get into Paul’s epistles, for example.
(4) Rotate teaching from a passage. We all learn more when we teach others, so encourage each family member to take a day and teach the rest of the family. You can choose the passage beforehand, or ask each family member to choose a passage in advance. On that person’s ‘day,’ they will read the passage and then share something that they learned.
Advantages – Each presenter will be challenged to think through a Biblical passage and present it. The amount of teaching can vary depending on the family member’s age – young children might only have a few sentences, while older members could share for 5-10 minutes. This is an excellent opportunity to work on public speaking skills in the safety of the home, where mistakes can be worked through.
Disadvantages – Children who are unaccustomed to this may dislike the public speaking aspect until parents enforce the expectation. Younger children may not have a great depth to the lessons that they present from a Bible passage.
(5) Prepare study questions. Family worship presents one of the best opportunities for families to have deep, edifying discussions on important topics. If you take some time beforehand to think through and write down some questions from a passage, you might be able to jump-start a valuable discussion that challenges everyone.
Advantages – This method works well for all age groups because you can vary the type of questions that you ask – you might only ask for specific details from the passage when talking with younger children, while asking more open-ended questions for older audiences. When you have good questions for older audiences and don’t have ‘right answers’ in mind, it can lead to thought-provoking discussions.
Disadvantages – If you don’t take the time to create quality questions, this will feel more like a pop quiz for older children. Beware of trying to lead the conversation too much – it will come across as a teaching disguised as a conversation.
These five ideas are only meant to get you thinking about the immense range of possibilities. If your family worship time feels stale, it never hurts to try one of these options for a while. In fact, your family will probably enjoy the variety!