When I was a new father, I had grand intentions of faithfully shepherding my family toward Jesus but no real plan for how to actually do it. I seemed to be surrounded by books and resources promising the best methods and the best results, but I wasn’t sure what would work for my family. I’d heard a story about a dad who installed a pulpit in his home so he could preach to his wife and children every night, and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be doing that, but otherwise, I was wide open. Along with being uncertain about the best way to proceed, I was also a bit paralyzed because of the monumental significance of the task. What could be more important than discipling the family God had entrusted to me? I’d better not mess this up!
Thankfully, some faithful brothers and sisters stepped in to help nudge me along. From my parents and in-laws, to older couples who befriended me, to my own peers who were trying to figure things out right beside me, God provided a community of people who pointed me to Him and encouraged me to do the same for my family. They taught me God’s Word and allowed me to see what discipleship looked like in their homes. This was invaluable for me as a young husband and father. As I learned from and imitated them, the mysterious aura surrounding family discipleship evaporated, as did the lingering suspicion that I was inadequate for the task. I stopped fretting over the best way to do it and simply enjoyed the privilege of telling the coming generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord (Psalm 78:4).
The passage that God most used to light the way for me was Deuteronomy 6:7—“You shall teach [God’s words] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” The thing that struck me about this verse is the sheer simplicity of it. There is no complex formula or detailed curriculum, just instruction to spend lots of time with your children and talk with them as often as possible about the wondrous God who saved you. Rather than heaping unattainable goals and expectations on yourself, just keep it simple and consistent.
In our home, one habit that has fostered these simple and consistent talks with our children is the practice of family worship. For us, family worship is a specific time when we all slow down, gather together, and worship God as a family. By developing and prioritizing this habit, my wife and I are showing our children a tangible expression of the fact that God is worthy of our time, our attention, and our affection. If you’re not familiar with the concept of family worship, it may seem rather foreign and difficult. Perhaps you’re wondering where the pulpit is supposed to go, but let me encourage you not to fall into the trap of imagining grand schemes you’ll never live up to. Don’t let the gap between the ideal and the reality stop you. Just keep it simple, engaging, and enjoyable.
In our house, that means we do three main things during family worship: we sing to God, we read His Word, and we open our hearts to Him in prayer. Every time I’ve tried to complicate it, we’ve found it unsustainable.
The specifics of how we read, sing, and pray have changed as our children have grown over the years. In a way, that serves as a good reminder that there’s no one right way to do it—family worship should look different in different homes and in different seasons of life. Here’s a glimpse of what we’ve been up to lately:
Read: We’re either working our way through a book of the Bible or we’re reading a good, Scripture-based storybook or family devotional. The kids take turns reading aloud and sometimes even lead the discussion. We ask straightforward questions to help us explore what we’re reading and apply it to our lives.
Sing: We usually sing one or two hymns, kids songs, or praise songs. We make it a point to sing songs that we frequently sing in church so that the kids will be familiar with them in corporate worship. Also, for good fun and Scripture memory, I cannot recommend Randall Goodgame’s “Sing the Bible” series highly enough.
Pray: We take requests and then try to encourage well-rounded prayers. From the title of a book, we sometimes pray in 3 broad categories: help, thanks, and wow!
Beyond the obvious benefits of spending dedicated time together in the Word, family worship is just loads of fun. It’s where we make some of our best memories. I also love that this time together acts as a catalyst for more informal discipleship that happens throughout the day. In keeping with Deuteronomy 6:7, the truths we teach when we sit in our house end up fueling further discussions when we walk by the way. What a beautiful way to pass on the faith!
Scott James and his wife, Jaime, have four children—Will, Kirstine, Benjamin, and Bethan. They have been members of Brook Hills since 2008, and Scott currently serves as an elder.