The Church in Your Home:
Our kids are dropping out. A huge percentage of teens raised in evangelical Christian homes abandon the faith by the end of their freshman year of college.
Churches recognize this problem and have sought to stem it by various tactics: putting a greater emphasis on youth ministry; making their worship services more entertaining and thus supposedly more appealing to young people; promoting high octane events like concerts, youth retreats and summer camps. Yet all of these strategies have failed to stop the hemorrhaging.
While the American church, compromised as it is on so many levels, is no doubt a part of the problem, the heart of the trouble lies with Christian families. Parents have been looking to the church to carry out a task that God has assigned to them.
God calls parents, not the church, to be the primary vessel for transmitting the Christian faith to the next generation. In Deuteronomy 6:6-7 Moses commanded the Israelite parents, “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them 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.”
More specifically, the apostle Paul commands fathers to raise their children in “the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Voddie Baucham, in his book, Family Driven Faith, observes that “Just a few generations ago a man was considered spiritually responsible if he led his family before the throne of God in prayer, read and taught the Scriptures at home, and led family devotions (among other things). Today parents are considered responsible if they find the church with the best-staffed nursery and the most up-to-date youth ministry” (p. 95).
As God called Israel to “stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths…and walk in it” (Jeremiah 6:16), so families would do well to reinstate a practice that generations past have found to be an essential component for building godly children, strong marriages, and Christ-centered homes: the practice of family worship.
The Puritans rightly regarded the family as a “little church” and the father, if he was a believer, as its pastor. Here are five reasons why you should consider establishing family worship in your home:
Family worship is biblical
In addition to the Deuteronomy and Ephesians verses cited above, Scripture repeatedly exhorts parents to pass on the knowledge of God to their children. God called Abraham to “command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord” (Genesis 18:19). Joshua asserted, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). The psalmist, considering God’s glorious works, promised, “we will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord” (Psalm 78:4).
Family worship shows you care for your child’s soul
Christian and non-Christian parents alike have the same primary goal for their children: that they receive a good education (George Barna, Parents Describe How They Raise their Children). Most parents are also avid that their kids develop special skills and talents, hence their breathtaking dedication to involving their kids in extra-curricular activities like music, dance, and sports.
While it’s noble to desire our children to be well-educated and well-rounded, our chief passion should be for our children grow in Christ. Of what will it profit our children to gain the whole world and yet forfeit their souls?
Take time daily as a family to praise God, to pray, and to read and discuss His Word. The nineteenth century Presbyterian pastor James Alexander wrote, “The daily regular and solemn reading of God’s Holy Word by a parent before his children is one of the most powerful agencies of a Christian life….It is a constant dropping, but it wears its mark into the rock” (Thoughts on Family Worship, p. 35).
Family worship is simple
It requires no preparation. All you have to do is sing a hymn or psalm, read a Bible passage, and pray. Not all families choose to sing, but those who do etch scriptural truths onto their children’s hearts and better equip them to participate in public worship.
Many families read through a book of the Bible, covering a chapter or a smaller unit each day. Those starting out in family worship may want to begin with the gospels, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) or the book of Proverbs. Those with young children may choose to read through a children’s Bible story book.
Your children will also benefit from learning the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed. These too will enable your children to be more engaged in Sunday corporate worship. A great summary of the Christian faith for kids to memorize is the Westminster Shorter Catechism. If your children are between ages three and six, they would do well to start with the Children’s Catechism.
Occasionally you may want to vary your approach by reading a Christian biography written for children, such as God Made Them Great, by John Tallach (Banner of Truth). Each day read one chapter, have a brief discussion, and then pray.
Family worship is attainable
You will not have to rearrange your life. Most families meet for about ten-minutes a day, after a meal or before bedtime. On days when there is discussion it will happily run longer.
When seeking to establish the habit of family worship, the key is to start small and to strive for consistency. Have members of your family participate by reading the Scripture passage, praying, or choosing the song. Make the time conversational.
Many parents feel inadequate to lead in family worship. A father who does not know the Bible very well will likely be reticent about initiating family worship. Don’t worry. When you come upon something in Scripture that you do not understand or if your kids ask you a question you cannot answer, feel free to admit, “I don’t know.” You can later research the question. Be glad that your children are interested enough to ask questions.
Some adults feel awkward about praying in front of their spouse or children. A simple prayer from the heart is all you need. At the same time, work to develop your private prayer life so that you will be more comfortable praying before others. In our home, sometimes I pray, sometimes my wife prays, and sometimes we go around the table giving everyone an opportunity to pray.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to starting family worship is idealism. Don’t expect your children to sit at your feet like little birds waiting for you to drop morsels in their mouths. Expect resistance. Expect bad attitudes. Don’t be surprised when your toddlers spill their milk and your teenagers roll their eyes. Be of good cheer and press on.
Family worship is worth the effort
One day your children will look back with great affection on your efforts to nurture them spiritually. Dr. Douglas Kelly of Reformed Theological Seminary wrote, "Those of us who were raised in Christian homes where there was daily worship can never get far from our minds the sounds of our parents' and grandparents' loved voices lifting our very names in intercession and calling on the Lord to bless us in large and small matters. The memory of the parents' voices praying for the children and of the grandparents' voices praying for the children. There is probably no more effective way to influence our teenage and adult children for God than let them hear us praying for them by name and specific need on a daily basis while they are young. This says, 'You are important to your parents and you are important to God. God is the one who will help you.' If young parents will pray with and for their children now while they are small, it may pay rich dividends in preventing grief and alienation during teenage and adult years" (Worship in the Presence of God).
My family does not have the practice of family worship down to an art. Few Christian families do. But we continue to work at, and I encourage you to work at it, for God honors those who honor him (I Samuel 2:30).
Peter Kemeny, Pastor
Good News Presbyterian Church
P.O. Box 1051, Frederick, MD 21702