How to do Family Worship
The Westminster Confession of Faith says that:
...God is to be worshipped everywhere, in spirit and truth; as, in private families daily, and in secret, each one by himself; so, more solemnly in the public assemblies, which are not carelessly or willfully to be neglected, or forsaken, when God, by His Word or providence, calls thereunto. (1)
It means that we're supposed to worship God in many different contexts - public worship on a Sunday, private worship in our own devotions, but also worshipping together in the home as a family. It's that third context that I'd like to focus on for a moment.
There's this lost art and discipline known as family worship. It used to be part of normal life for Christians of ages past. Before there was such a thing as TV - even before there was such a thing as children's ministries - families used to gather around the Bible, sing songs, and talk about Jesus. This usually happened on the Sabbath day. It was how children learned the Bible. Furthermore, every father and mother was a miniature pastor and worship leader within their own home.
This practice is by and large lost in the church today. But it can be recovered. My family has attempted to have something like this in our lives several times - and we've failed several times. But more recently we've been trying some new things and experiencing some success. Here's a few helpful pointers that we've learned:
Think of it as a miniature worship gathering
We've begun to plan out our family worship time very similarly to how a Sunday worship service would be planned. We include an opening prayer, song, Bible story, another song, and a closing prayer. Structured. Repeatable. Simple. This regularity helps children participate.
We do this once every week. There's not a magic number in terms of how often you should practice this, but whatever you choose make sure that you're consistent. It's important that this is a regular part of the family schedule and that your children get used to this structure in their lives.
Be as participatory as possible
Try to give everyone in the family a job to do during family worship. Again, this is not dissimilar to how Sunday worship works. Let little kids play tambourine or dance during the songs. Have different people do the opening prayer or prepare something for the story time. Let it be as participatory as possible to keep everyone engaged and make everyone feel needed.
Do a few songs
Songs have been helpful for us. If someone in your family is gifted with musical talent then this shouldn't be a problem. But if not you can always play mp3s. You'll have to choose age appropriate songs depending on how old your kids are. Songs for Saplings is a wonderful resource for small children.
Focus on stories
Whoever is preparing the Bible portion should focus on stories. That's easy because the Bible is full of stories. Each week I select a different Bible story and try to put it in my own words so that I can tell the story in an engaging way. Think of yourself as a story teller more than a preacher or Bible study leader. Try to tell a good story. This may mean that you have to study Scripture in order to prepare, but it shouldn't be too difficult. You can even include a few questions and thoughts to go along with the story you've selected.
The more, the easier
All of this can be pretty difficult for small families. I remember trying to do this when it was just me, Julie, and baby Henry. It was awkward. So if you've got a larger or growing family this practice becomes easier because when there's more people it feels like a more important event. But if your family is small, don't worry. You can do this with other people. You can either join another family who is already doing this or you can pair up with another young family or some single friends.
Do what works
At the end of the day you'll have to figure out what sorts of liturgies, story-telling, songs, and practices work best for your family at this moment in time. The most important thing is to be intentional about doing something. As long as prayer and Scripture are involved it's hard to go wrong. Feel free to be creative and to courageously take responsibility for this amazing task that God has given to us - to make disciples of our own families.
(1) Westminster Confession of Faith. Chapter 21. Article 6