We have become a nation of specialists and outsourcers. There’s not much that is made here at home in the U.S. anymore. It seems like every item I pick up from the store today is marked with the words “Made in China.” We outsource our manufacturing, labor, and customer support. We hire specialists to oversee marketing, financials, and employee training. And this pattern does not exist only in the business world. We see the practice of outsourcing to specialists trickling down into the very heart of the family. Parents outsource their childcare to daycare centers and their children’s education to the public school system. Everywhere we turn, we are outsourcing labor that was once ours to someone else.
Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t wish to say that these things are inherently wrong. The public school system educated me, and the parents that provided for me were specialists in this system. However, it is in this context that we find a problem in our churches. Because of the climate we find ourselves in, parents often expect to be able to outsource the spiritual development of their children to the church. However, this must not be so. God has given parents the primary responsibility of discipling their children (Deut. 6:4-7; Prov. 22:6; Eph. 6:4). As youth pastors, we must refuse to take that responsibility from them. Instead, we must focus on empowering them to embrace this God-given responsibility. But how do parents go about doing that? What does it look like for parents to disciple their children? I believe the answer lies in family worship.
What is family worship? Simple. It is gathering together as a family to worship God. We all recognize the importance of regular private devotionals with God. Family worship is essentially a family quiet time. It is a time for families to read Scripture together, pray together, and sing together.
The biblical precedent for this is overwhelming. Abraham commanded his children to follow the Lord (Gen. 18:17-29). Moses commanded families to teach their children diligently about the things of God (Deut. 6:4-7). Joshua committed his household to serve the Lord (Josh. 24:15). Job would send for his children and offer sacrifices on their behalf (Job. 1:5). Paul instructed fathers to bring up their children in the Lord (Eph. 6:4). Peter called husbands to love their wives well so that their joint prayers will not be hindered (1 Peter 3:7). And even young Timothy was instructed by his godly mother and grandmother (2 Tim. 1:5).
In our day, family worship seems to be a bit of a lost art, but this has not always been so. There have been times in church history when it was common practice. As youth pastors, we must help equip parents to intentionally disciple their children through family worship. We must help them resist the temptation to outsource the spiritual development of their children to the church and take ownership of this God-ordained responsibility. As you prepare to equip parents, here are some tips for leading family worship.
- Establish Regular Times
The key to success in choosing a time for family worship is flexibility. The time that works when your children are young may not work as they get older. Some families prefer to meet in the mornings before school. Others may want to gather immediately after dinner. And still, some may want to incorporate this into their nighttime routine. There is no right or wrong time to do family worship.
- Have a Plan
A good plan takes out the prep work. Many parents are very busy and feel overwhelmed at the prospect of having to plan family worship. There are many great resources available to help keep your plan simple and eliminate the prep work. All you have to do is show up. As youth pastors, we should be ready and willing to help our parents develop a good and simple plan. I have included a list of helpful resources below.
- Keep it Brief
Family worship should not be longer than 10 minutes. This is not an in-depth Bible study. This is a time for you to gather as a family, read a small portion of Scripture, pray together, and sing praises to God.
- Encourage Participation
When leading in family worship, the parents should take steps to actively encourage participation from all family members. Have your students take turns reading Scripture. Have everyone voice prayers over the requests brought up. Encourage everyone to sing, even if it’s just with a worship song on YouTube!
- Don’t Give Up
Realistic expectations are key to being successful in family worship. Like everything else families do together, family worship will often be filled with chaos, silliness, and distractions. In those moments, parents may feel like they aren’t making a difference. That is okay! Regular family worship is like exposing an acorn to the elements. One day of sunshine will not make an oak tree. But years of sunshine and rain in their season will produce a mighty oak. Let your family worship be regular and consistent, allowing God to cause growth through the shine of His Word and the rain of your prayers.
Family Worship Devotional Guides
Exploring the Bible Together: A 52-Week Family Worship Plan, David Murray
- This book contains a simple 5-day reading plan with simple discussion questions to allow families to read through the main themes of the Bible together. It is realistic in that it involves only about 5 verses per day and should take a few minutes to complete. It also contains two interactive questions for a range of ages, a spiritual lesson, and a short prayer related to the passage.
A Guide to Family Worship, Ryan Bush
- This guide is simple, approachable, and repeatable for families of any makeup and age. Parents don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to family worship. In this guide, Ryan Bush compiles help from hundreds of years of Christian history to help you and your family read, memorize, catechize, pray, and sing.
Truth and Grace Memory Books 1-3, Tom Ascol
- These books are designed to help those who are striving to raise their children in the Lord. It contains catechisms, Scripture memory, and hymns. These resources are tried and true.
Raising Cross Formed Kids, Phylicia Masonheimer & Ryan Coatney
- This podcast is a collaboration between two parents in the thick of raising kids. Their passion is to equip parents to become the primary disciple-makers in the lives of their kids. After all, raising Christian kids is always a miracle, but it’s never an accident.
The Briefing, Albert Mohler
- This podcast provides a daily worldview analysis of the leading news headlines and cultural conversations from a Christian worldview. This podcast will help to equip your parents to be able to deal with the cultural issues your kids are wrestling with.
The Culture Translator, Axis
- Each week they look into teen culture to help your parents and faith leaders have meaningful conversations with Gen Z.
Share your thoughts with others in our YM360 community:
- Do you currently do anything to equip parents to spiritually lead their children in the home? What works well?
- How could you encourage your parents to take more responsibility in how they lead their children? Have you seen this modeled well before?