As the kids have gotten older, Kate and I have tried to find ways to raise the kiddos in a way that causes them to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. Some of the time we feel as though we’re doing great, other times…not to much! Much of this is just a matter of disciplining ourselves to make time and make it a priority.
To that end, I wanted to pass along a helpful excerpt from RC Sproul, Jr. on the topic of Family Worship. He has many helpful suggestions that were encouraging to our family, and hopefully will be encouraging to yours!
Simple Steps for Family Worship
by RC Sproul, Jr.
Right now in our lives, we practice family worship right after supper. We used to have family worship right before the kids went to bed. Either one is fine for us, but there is a practical reason for doing it in that time frame. Every day, no matter what, we eat supper and we go to bed, so we have a pair of alarm clocks that tell us we cannot escape our call to do this. We think, “Oh, we just finished eating, it’s time,” or, “We’re about to go to bed, it’s time.”
After supper, I’ll ask one of the children, “Please gather the things for worship.” We have a place where we keep the worship materials, and one of the children will go and get the stack of books and things, and place it on the table in front of me.
Away From Home Or With Guests
By the way, if we’re not at home, we modify things a little bit. We have worship in the car sometimes. If we’re at a friend’s house or even a stranger’s house, we don’t impose on him or her and say, “Well, thank you for supper, it’s now time for the Sproul family to have worship.” If we have a guest at our house, we try to make an assessment of his or her spiritual maturity and then make a decision. We might ask ourselves, “Will this make our guest angry, or will he like this?” If it likely will make him mad, we probably won’t do it.
When we are at home, we start with our catechism work. Catechism is a word that is unfamiliar to many today. A catechism is simply a tool for teaching basic biblical content to those who are young or new to the faith. A catechism typically consists of questions and answers. The parent asks the child a question, and the child gives the answer.
We use two different catechisms. We have a children’s catechism that consists of fifty questions. Each of the questions is five or six words and each of the answers is about three words. I ask my son Reilly, who is three years old, “Reilly, who made you?” Reilly says, “God.” I say, “What else did God make?” He says, “Everything.” As you can see, the questions and answers are very short. We teach these to the very small children, and when they learn these things, we celebrate. We don’t bribe. We don’t buy them off. But we do celebrate. When one learns the entire children’s catechism, the whole family goes out for ice cream, because Daddy likes ice cream.
When the children get bigger, we move to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which has slightly longer questions and answers. There are 107 of these. When the children master them all, I take them skiing, because Daddy likes skiing.
We have a “sophisticated” system by which we do the memory work. It goes like this. I say to the children: “Daddy says, ‘What is man’s chief end?’ You say, ‘Man’s chief end …'”
They say, “Man’s chief end …” I say, “… is to glorify God …” They say, “… is to glorify God …” Finally, I say, “… and enjoy him forever.” They say, “… and enjoy him forever.”
We do that, and after a couple of days they get it. As I said, it’s a terribly complicated system.
Then we move on to Bible memory. We have a “complicated” system for that, too. Right now our family is working through the Psalms, so every day we recite one of the psalms we have learned and we work on a new psalm. Don’t be overly impressed; we are only up to twelve. I don’t know what we’re going to do when they get really long. When we get to Psalm 119, then you can be impressed. But again, we use the same system. I say a verse or part of a verse, and the kids repeat it. My older kids make fun of me because I have my Bible open as I’m helping them learn these things, but they know many of the psalms by heart.
Then we move to Scripture reading. We have done our Scripture readings in different ways. Sometimes we read a book of the Bible. Sometimes, when we have a new child who is very small, we use one of the children’s Bible storybooks. I want to give them a very basic understanding of the flow of Scripture. Right now we’re going through one of those Bible storybooks where Jesus has eyes that look like Ping-Pong balls.
I read the story, then I give my sermon, and my sermons are typically twenty to thirty seconds long. I give the children some sort of lesson from the text. I want to bring the text to bear on their lives and mine.
This gives me an opportunity to practice the first corollary to the “R. C. Sproul Jr. principle of hermeneutics.” Hermeneutics is the study of interpretation, and the R. C. Sproul Jr. principle of hermeneutics states that whenever you are reading your Bible and you see someone doing something really stupid, you must not say to yourself, “How can he be so stupid?” but “How am I more stupid?” The first corollary to this principle is that whenever you are reading a story in the Bible and you wonder who you are in the story, you are the sinner. If you are reading a story and there is more than one sinner, as in the parable of the prodigal son, you’re both. So we read our Bible text and I ask: “Children, how are we like this person? And how are we like that person? And how am I like this person or that person?” That’s the sermon.
After the sermon, I take prayer requests. I ask, “Children, what would you like Daddy to pray for tonight?” Now, I encourage my children to pray. They pray before they go to bed. They pray at times during home-school. They pray on many occasions. But when we gather together for family worship, they don’t pray. Why not? From the beginning, I have done the praying at family worship because I want to communicate to them—and, more importantly, to myself—the importance of the father’s priestly role in the home. I am saying to them and to myself, “I am responsible, as the head of this home, to take you before the throne of God, to beseech the God of heaven and earth for your wellbeing.”
In fact, when the children were younger, we even had a posture to help communicate this—again, more to me than to them. I would ask the little ones to come sit on my lap. I would take one on each leg, put my arms around the children, put my hands over their heads, and pray for them. I would ask God to bless them specifically. My son Campbell would ask every night, “Please ask God that we would grow in grace, in the fruit of the spirit, and in wisdom.” God has blessed him with wisdom.
Then we move into singing. Again, the children are invited to participate by choosing what we are going to sing. We sing the service music from our church’s liturgy. We sing the Gloria Patri. We sing the Doxology. We sing the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed. We sing the Song of Simeon, which is how our church closes its service.
Let me tell you about something that is even more practical. When visitors to Saint Peter Church try to find the nursery, we tell them we do have a nursery, but we hope they won’t mind serving in the nursery on that particular day. We assure them that if they’ll look after their children, we’ll be fine. You see, we worship together—parents and children. Visitors are afraid and puzzled about this. They think, “What kind of weird thing is this?” Then, when we in the congregation stand to confess our faith together and little two- and three-year-olds ardently recite the Apostles’ Creed, suddenly our visitors see the beauty of it.
We let our children pick the songs they want to sing. We do have one rule—only one child’s song a night. Reilly always wants to sing “Hallelu.” I’ll ask, “What do you want to sing tonight, Reilly?” and he’ll say, “Hallelu.” It’s a very simple song: “Hallelu, hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah, praise ye the Lord!” We divide the family in half, and half of them are the “hallelus” and half of them are the “praise ye the Lords,” then after the first verse we switch and do it faster. But we sing only one of these a night.
That’s it. It’s not complicated. It’s not time-consuming. It’s not a duty. It’s a joy, a delight.
What If I Haven’t Been Doing Family Worship?
At this point, you fathers might be thinking, “OK, R. C., I see this. I see that I ought to do this. I see how to do it. But what do I do about the fact that I haven’t been doing this?” Here’s what you do: Gather your family together, sit them down, and then tell them that you are sorry for failing them in this way. Show them what repentance looks like. Then tell them that Jesus Christ came to suffer the wrath of God the Father for failures such as this. Give thanks for that provision. Pray in thanksgiving for that forgiveness. Then sing in thanksgiving for that forgiveness. That is day one. If you have done this in the past and have fallen out of the habit, simply follow the same instructions.
But I’m Too Busy for Family Worship
But if you are too busy, here is what I want you to do: stop being too busy! What could possibly be more important? The God of heaven and earth, the self-existent, transcendent, holy God, is inviting you to walk with Him in the cool of the evening. Will you say to Him, “Thanks for the invitation, Lord, but I’ve got my bowling league tonight.” Would you tell Him, “I’d love to meet with You tonight, but I have a meeting with someone important.” No one is too busy to draw near to the living God. No one is too busy to give up the less important, the less rewarding, and the less joyful for the source of all joy.
The glory of the gospel is that the high, transcendent, exultant God, because of the work of Christ, has drawn near to us and to our children, and will continue to do so. Therefore, don’t do this in order to be holy. Do it to be happy. In the end, it’s the same thing. Our austere pursuit of personal holiness doesn’t impress God one bit. But God delights when we delight in Him. Bring the children; suffer the children to come unto Him (Matt. 19:14). Do this so that you might glorify and enjoy Him now, for this is what we will be doing forever.
This series has been adapted from material in R.C. Sproul Jr.’s contribution to Holy, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God.
If you’d like more resources to assist you in the area of family worship, please consider:
- Family Worship (Paperback) by Joel Beeke
- God’s Alphabet for Life: Devotions for Young Children (Paperback) by Joel Beeke
- Tabletalk Magazine
- The Case for Family Worship (Hardcover) by George Hamond
- Train Up Your Children (Video) by R.C. Sproul Jr.
- The Heidelberg Catechism (Paperback)
- The Reformation Study Bible
- The Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms (Hardcover)
- Trinity Hymnal (Hardcover)
Orginally found at: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/simple-steps-family-worship-part-1/