“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4).
Perhaps you have heard this statement: “The family that prays together, stays together.” There is a lot of truth in that statement. One could probably also add, “The family that worships together, stays together.” My experience bears out that those families who are regularly involved in a good church environment have a more solid foundation and support system than those who are without spiritual involvement. In many families, unfortunately, the church is basically the only source from which the family receives its spiritual nurture.
However, the New Testament does not place the primary responsibility upon the church to provide family worship. That responsibility rests with the father. He is to be the spiritual leader in his home. He may choose to delegate some aspects of the family worship to his wife and to the church, but the ultimate responsibility rests with him. The command in Ephesians 6:4 is specifically addressed to the fathers, who are the God-ordained leaders of the home.
Certainly part of his responsibility is to have his family actively participating in a good local church. This is one of the ways each family member can hear the gospel, grow spiritually and mature as a believer. But this spiritual nurturing must begin in the home.
Sadly, there are far too many spiritually passive fathers, who leave the responsibility of the spiritual upbringing of the children to the mothers. Often the mothers are the ones who pray with the children, discuss spiritual matters with them and see that the children are taken to church.
This is a sad state of affairs. Dad is charged to lead both his wife and children spiritually. He is to first lead by setting an example before his family by his walk before the Lord, by his prayers, by his Bible study and by his church involvement. Only as He is personally faithful to the Lord can he truly lead his family spiritually.
Then he is to lead his family by verbally teaching them. The best way to lead his family verbally in spiritual worship is to talk to them in all the natural settings God gives to him. He can discuss God’s role in creation as he explores with them the natural world around them. As they learn of events in the world he can talk to them about how the Lord is not only the Creator but also the Sustainer and Controller of all events. When they see and experience the sinful world around them, he can talk to them about original sin and the effects of the fall of man. As they see hopelessness and despair among people, that can lead to discussions about how Christ came to redeem us from the curse and to bring about genuine hope. As they hear of people who have died, he can talk to them about the blessed hope of the resurrection. This type of spiritual instruction and leadership is an excellent means to reach the individual members of his family.
But there is also another dynamic in which he can corporately train and instruct his family—by collective family worship. There are some specific ways in which he can incorporate family worship in his household. Though each family will be different and each one will have its own schedule of activities, here are some suggestions of what can be done and what to avoid:
• Eliminate some activities which take up too much of the family’s time and thus prevent family worship. There is nothing wrong with spending fun time with our families, but we do need to constantly examine our priorities to make sure that we are living in light of eternal realities.
• Choose a proper schedule. It may be impractical to plan a family worship time every day of the week. If so, perhaps four, or five times a week would be a better possibility. You may find that the evenings are better times to get the family together. The mornings can be a bit hectic in getting everyone off to school or work.
• Vary the contents. The actual worship time probably is more effective if the activities are varied from day to day, or week by week.
• Make the event meaningful. Some components might be: individual prayers, Bible reading, explanation of the passage (along with specific application), praise time for the Lord’s goodness and for prayers answered, Bible memorization, biographical studies, missions concerns, Christian martyrs, discussing recent news events from a biblical perspective, even costumes or lessons with unusual visual aids, questions and comments, singing of familiar hymns or choruses and brief assignments to the family members for future worship times.
• If the children are small, some of the many good Bible storybooks could be read in which the interesting narratives of the Bible are covered. During those times the father could also provide additional details and interesting applications.
• Visual aids are very helpful and often will stimulate interest.
• Application of the truths covered should be brief, clear and on target.
• Involve each member. Encourage interesting and natural conversation back and forth among the family members during these times.
• In the Bible study portion, good interpretive and presentation skills must be followed. Passages should not be taken out of their context; otherwise the children will learn poor interpretive skills.
• Use a faithful, clear modern translation which the children can easily follow.
Here are some things to avoid in your family worship:
• Do not begin a session until family squabbles have been properly settled.
• The amount of time spent should be reasonable. Children will lose interest quickly and will begin to resent the entire session.
• Don’t use the session as an opportunity to correct the children.
• Do not allow members to complain about each other during these times.
• Keep your prayers brief. Remember that children’s attention spans are short.
• Do not embarrass family members. If you must deal with specific areas in their lives, do so individually and privately elsewhere.
Family worship can be wonderful experiences during which good, healthy spiritual relationships are built. Once you have started on such a program, stick to it. Vary the activities frequently and do not give up. Persevere in your plan, though you may not initially see positive results. Remember that you are embarking on a long-term goal. As a father, your responsibility as the spiritual leader of the family is to be faithful. The ultimate results are in the hands of Him who, alone, can bring about true spiritual change.
This article is an excerpt from Curtis Thomas’ book – Life in the Body of Christ: Privileges and Responsibilities in the Local Church. A new hardcover edition is now available for pre-order for $19.98 at press.founders.org