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How to Do Family Worship

Terry. L. Johnson
How to Do Family Worship

It is not uncommon for families to be convinced that they ought to do family worship, to want to do family worship, to talk about doing family worship, and yet fail ever to establish a consistent pattern of actually doing family worship. Men in particular seem easily intimidated, seeing themselves as inadequate, fearful they won’t know what to do, or that they won’t know what to say. We assembled The Family Worship Book hoping to alleviate these fears. All the necessary resources may be found there (an outline, hymns and Psalms, Bible reading record, resources for prayers, catechisms, etc.). Here is what we recommend for those who wish not only to get family worship started but to keep going (see The Family Worship Book, pp. 17–21).

First, establish a set time. Whether its morning or evening, establish a consistent time for the family to gather. Then adjust for the regular weekly calendar conflicts. When our children were school age, we gathered at 7:00am at the breakfast table every weekday except Tuesday (I had a 6:30am church prayer meeting) and Saturday (the children slept in). Those two days we met at alternate times. Sundays our devotions were with the whole church.

Second, keep it short. 10 to 15 minutes is achievable. Don’t plan for failure by aiming at hour–long family devotions. Even a half–hour may stretch the capacities of younger children and challenge the patience of distracted teens. 10 to 15 minutes a day adds up to an hour to an hour and a half in a 6–day week. Multiply that over 52 weeks, over 18 years, means a lot of Bible covered, a lot of praises sung, and a lot of prayers offered.

Third, keep it simple. Family worship is not complicated:

–        Sing – begin by singing the first stanza of the hymn/psalm of the month, and then the first stanzas of the previous couple of months (see The Family Worship Book, 196–197).

–        Read – balance Old Testament, New Testament, historical narratives, epistles, poetic books, prophets, and wisdom literature. Record so as to trace and evaluate progress (The Family Worship Book, 49–60). Read a chapter a day. Divide longer chapters. Initially skip Levitical instructions, genealogies, land allotments, and so on. In the course of just a year a harmony of the synoptic gospels and the rest of the entire New Testament may be read. Over a little more than two years, the Old Testament may be read. A family on this schedule may read through the entire Bible several times in the course of 18 years of child–rearing.

–        Pray – finally, pray following the easy to remember acrostic A – C – T – S / adoration – confession – thanksgiving – supplication. Let this prayer be brief, yet comprehensive and specific, including the particular needs of the family.

[T]here is nothing to getting started like actually getting started. … The benefits gained through family worship are not easily duplicated, and not easily replaced.

Remember there is nothing to getting started like actually getting started. Everything worthwhile requires discipline. Important disciplines all become routine (eg. brushing teeth, bathing, grooming). Maintain the family worship routine throughout the 18 child–rearing years and your children will have committed to memory the first stanzas of 120 hymns and psalms, heard the Bible read clean through several times, and learned absolute dependence upon God for all things, spiritual and otherwise, through daily family prayers; and absorbed many other lessons as well. The benefits gained through family worship are not easily duplicated, and not easily replaced.

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Understanding Family Worship

Its History, Theology and Practice

Terry L. Johnson
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