I said earlier that the best children’s ministry in town is in your living room. A big part of that for us has become “family worship.”
Our family has family worship most nights of the week. It has been one of the best things to happen in the life of our family. Before we started, we couldn’t imagine we would have time or energy to do something like this at the end of the day. Dinner-time and bed-time are wild enough with four young kids.
But family worship has actually brought a centering time to the ends of our days. Through it, I believe we’re bonding as a family, teaching our children orthodox Christian belief, and teaching them how to participate in Christian practices, or “holy habits.”
What we do is pretty simple:
Sing – We sing and dance. We have instruments (a triangle, cymbals, etc.) that we play while we sing. It’s a pretty raucous time.
John Wesley noted: “Our little children we instruct chiefly by hymns; whereby we find the most important truths most successfully insinuated into their minds.” It may not be that different for adults. How many sermons can you quote? Now how many songs? Not to mention what a great medium song is for our worship.
Read the Bible – We always have an Old Testament lesson and a New Testament lesson as part of family worship. Reading both of the children’s Bibles I mention in the resources below, we finish the whole Bible in about 3 months’ time.
Catechism – We teach our kids from a catechism – a summary of basic Christian beliefs. The one we’re using has 98 questions and answers. Our six year-old knows about 15 of them. Our four year-olds know about 10. Our two year-old knows two. I expect they’ll know all 98 by 5th grade.
I think teaching theology, not just Bible stories, is crucial. I explain why in “Why we’re teaching our kids a catechism” and “How Sunday School created a theologically illiterate Church.”
Pray – Praying together as a family has become a great blessing. Sometimes we let the Bible stories or catechism guide our prayers. We often share what we’re thankful for. Other times we have confession and say what we’re sorry for. We even anointed our daughter with olive oil and prayed for her one night when she was sick. Sometimes Emily or I pray, and sometimes the kids lead the prayer time.
That’s our family worship. Some nights we spend 10 minutes, others 30. At the least, we pray, read an Old Testament and New Testament story, and sing. Unless we’re getting home really late, it happens every night. The kids make sure of it now.
Parents: try it for at least a week with your kids. What a great way to share your faith with your kids and bring them up in the faith!
- Singing – Sometimes we sing a cappella, sometimes we pull up songs on Spotify and sing along. Some of our kids’ favorite songs: Doxology, Gloria Patri, This is the Day, Mighty to Save, Come Ye Sinners Poor and Needy, Big House. They especially enjoy VeggieTales versions.
- Scripture – Our kids are ages 6, 4, 4, and 2. For their ages, we especially like The Beginner’s Bible: Timeless Children’s Stories (good for 1-4 year-olds) and The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name (good for 3-7 year-olds). If they were a bit older, I’d probably use The Golden Children’s Bible. And by age 9 or 10, I’d consider just reading the Bible itself. We look for Bibles that attempt to tell the Scripture story in a straight-forward manner to familiarize children with the stories and characters (as The Beginner’s Bible does), or Bibles that interpret stories in light of our faith (as The Jesus Storybook Bible does – interpreting every story in light of Christ’s saving work). Beware of the several children’s Bibles out there that attempt to turn the Bible into a set of fables — teaching children simply to be good, moral people.
- Catechism – I worked with some friends to update and revise an old Methodist Episcopal catechism. It uses simple, Scriptural language and goes all the way from beliefs about God and creation to beliefs about death, judgment, and eternity in 98 questions. Asbury Seedbed recently published it. Find it here.
Disclosure of Material Connection: All links to Amazon here are affiliate links. Feel free to buy elsewhere.