Both kids were finally all cleaned up, in their pajamas, and ready for bed. We were actually making pretty good time and there hadn’t been any tears thus far. My two kids (2 and 5) were snuggled up next to my wife and I in preparation for our family devotion/worship time. As I began reading from The Gospel Story Book, every member of the family appeared eerily attentive. Could this be? Had we made a spiritual breakthrough? And then in the midst of my reading…my 5 year old stopped me mid sentence. It sounded serious.
“Daddy?” she asked. “Yes sweetheart?” I replied with hopeful anticipation that she was about to ask a profoundly deep theological question. “I need to tell you something,” she replied. “What could it be?” I wondered. Had my seminary training finally paid off? Eagerly I inquired, “of course…what is it?”
“I tooted!” So close…
I’ve written previously about the difficulty of family devotions and the dread that can wash over parents as we anticipate such an endeavor. And even as a pastor, I can say…I get it. It’s hard. It’s frustrating. And sometimes it seems downright pointless, which is why I am so grateful for times of encouragement when I receive a renewed sense of the importance in spending time each day worshiping in the Word with my family.
Recently, I finished a great little book entitled A Neglected Grace. In it, author Jason Helopoulos reminds us of the eternal significance of family worship and he gives a number of super practical tips. As a church, and one that believes that discipleship begins and ends in the home, this book is a phenomenal tool for all types of families. Here are the key components to understanding and applying family devotions/worship:
- Understand the reason for family discipleship –
“Because the Bible says so” doesn’t always sound helpful, but it is certainly a good reason. All throughout Scripture (Old and New) the Bible is littered with exhortations to parents to train up their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. We’ve talked extensively before about Deuteronomy 6:6-7, but also take note of Psalm 78, which reads: “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” Check out Genesis 18:19 or flip to the New Testament and see what Paul says in Ephesians 6:4. God has uniquely given parents the task of spiritual formation in the lives of their children and He has uniquely placed them as shepherds in their home.
- Take the right approach to family discipleship –
It’s all about setting your expectations rightly. As a Philly sports fan I’ve learned to set my expectations low every year…and I’m never disappointed. The idea of gathering 1 or 2 or 3 kids together daily for 15 minutes of complete and uninterrupted silence where you have a nightly revival in your home is probably a little misguided (to say the least). Instead, start slow, stay disciplined, and leave room for grace. That means you don’t have to jump into a full 60 minute worship set…drums, guitars, and all.
Start with 8-10 minutes a night when you read one chapter in the Bible and say a simple prayer. Do this every night for a month, at the same time and preferably in the same place. And…heaven forbid you miss a night…don’t beat yourself up. Just start back up the following night. Helopoulous helpfully reminds us, “Family worship is an instrument or a means of grace, not a burden that our family is to struggle under.” 1
- Start looking for methods to apply family devotions/worship –
It’s been encouraging to see a resurgence of churches and families with a desire to see the home as the main mission field for kids. This means there are a host of great resources and tools at your disposal. At Mercy Hill, you can visit our family resource page to find devotionals, Bible story books, and articles to equip you as parent. One immediate and easy application is to download our 12 Day Advent devotional for families. This devotional is simple, easy to use, and profoundly helpful for starting good gospel-centered conversations leading up to Christmas day. There’s some Scripture to go over, a few questions to prompt discussion, a prayer, and even a fun activity to help the content stick.
Lastly, we are going to be rolling out a new resource to parents at the beginning of the New Year. It will be a detailed guide to help your family set up a meaningful and lasting devotional/worship time. Our hope is that as your family makes the God-honoring priority to spend time each day in the Word – you would feel both encouraged and equipped by your local church.
Above all…it is our desire that we would see generation after generation of kids who – because of the conviction and discipline of their parents – realize there is no more exciting life than a life lived for Jesus.
-Jeremy Dager (Pastor of Age-based Ministries)
1 Helopoulos, 86.