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Getting Started: Family Worship

Traditions, Cultures, and Values:

Traditions are essential in formulating culture within family-units. It shapes the confines and values of home-life while guiding future trajectories toward further development. Culture can be understood as the aura or mood in which family life marinates; that is, it is the attitude that governs the how and why to daily practices. The Apostle Paul charges parents, then, to “bring [your children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4, italics mine). Thus, Christian homes must be intentional about how traditions and cultures are implemented in order to instill a worldview that is consistent with biblical teaching. Simply put, the measurement of reality is girded upon the Word of God. Moreover, Christian homes must foster an environment that is conducive to their fundamental values. These bedrock pillars—especially amid a hostile and secular age—will not establish themselves! Parental oversight must think deeply, pray earnestly, and plan diligently in preparing a family atmosphere that will equip and train children to excel against a contentious and militant age (cf. Rom. 12:2; Gk. αἰών). The responsibilities are weighty, and the consequences are severe. How do we start, then? What does it look like practically?


As the famous Chinese proverb goes, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!” Though the stewardship afforded to parents can initially be a bit cumbersome, the Lord has not left His covenant members to themselves. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Ps. 1:1-3). The primary means used by the Spirit to conform His people into the image of Christ is the Word of God (cf. Jn. 17:17). Thus, the agency of Scripture is paramount in fashioning a culture and, in turn, a worldview that defines all reality. A consistent and intentional dose of Spirit-wrought-Scripture must, then, drive the worship that propels the family toward Christ conformity. What are the undergirding principles that direct the practical outworking of family worship? How should I posture myself as a parent and, in turn, lead my children?


One Step at a Time:


A fundamental approach to fostering a consistent and manageable design toward family worship starts with four S’s. These principles are more practical than philosophical but nonetheless serve to kickstart an active engagement in formulating profitable traditions. Though its is necessary to navigate through the philosophical mores, the aim of this article is focused on pragmatic prose. In saying that, the guiding principles of family worship can be condensed down to keeping them short, simple, sweet, and steady.


SHORT. One of the central aims, i.e., a gamechanger, in family worship is manageability. An inability to foster and maintain effectiveness in gathering the family is in large part due to the misconception surrounding its outworking. Let me, therefore, gladly burst this bubble! Family worship does not have to be extravagant nor excessive; that is, more is not always better. Or phrased positively, less is more.


A few reasons as to why brevity serves to enhance family worship. First, as was stated earlier, it makes the project feasible. Meaning, it limits the time needed for preparation while at the same time afford parents the option to engage positively with their children. Secondly, it is consistent with age appropriateness and/or attention span. Most young families, especially those who have multiple children under the age of 12 (Me! Me! Me! Me!), find it difficult to sit all together for a long period of time. Keeping it short and concise benefit families who find themselves in this particular season of life. Thirdly, instead of imposing complex argumentations similar to sermons and/or bible studies, the family can meditate upon one central theme. That is, brevity force families to dig deep rather than wide. Simply put, the family spotlights one central motif and, in turn, hammers that point home. To this point, family worship does not have to be an hour long per se. On the contrary, it can be as short as 15 minutes (I hope that number give you a sense of hope). Remember, less is more!


SIMPLE. Keep it simple! With brevity affirmed, the concept of simplicity should rise to the surface. Central to family worship is not complexity, but rather the elements themselves. Elements, in this regard, are the items necessary for the gathered occasion, namely the Word of God and the family itself. Once gathered, technological advancements (ex. smart phone or smart TVs) can serve the family in providing avenues to sing worship songs (with lyrics), access biblical texts, and/or catechetic apps (for more on catechism please click here). For example, the McFamily, on a regular night, gathers to sing one worship song (through our smart TV). Next, we review one question from The New City Catechism via YouTube. Lastly, we spend the remainder of the time in prayer. Prayers can range from needs/celebrations for family members/friends, upcoming events (doctor appointments, test/exams, illnesses, etc.), the church family, and more. All of this could be accomplished within 15 minutes and, at the same time, be filled with meaning and purpose. Remember, keep it simple!


SWEET. As families, we want to nurture an environment where being present is cherished, revered, and enjoyed (which can be a difficult task in this technological age). Consequently, family worship should be sweet! The bible has a great deal to say about spiritual affections. Notice that I did not use the term emotions. Emotions can simply be understood as joy, sorrow, hate, and fear. They are existential realities found within persons. Affections, on the other hand, though having corresponding factors are not merely feelings that are provoked. Rather, affections are informed dispositions. Affections are anticipatory; emotions are responsive. The aim of family worship, then, should not be motivated by a sheer transfer of information but, simultaneously, a shaping of affections that are tied to theological foundations. This can be done by encouraging curiosity and magnifying wonder in the Creator God of the universe (cf. Gen. 1:1 Ps. 8:3; 33:6; 104:24).[1] Questions, if corresponding to the central theme of the night, should be marveled upon and mined for the hope of divine treasures. Thus, we should encourage our children to navigate through those theological curiosities and stretch their minds to meditate upon the teachings of the Lord. Christ Himself called His disciples to love Him, among other things, with their minds (cf. Matt. 22:38; Mk. 12:28-34; LK. 10:27). We, as parents, should do and teach the same! This, in turn, can be demonstrated by modeling proper delight toward righteousness and great sorrow toward sinfulness. Genuine repentance, then, is a great model to showcase your imperfections and, in turn, your total dependence upon the finished work of Christ upon the cross. Family worship are sweet times indeed!


STEADY. Easy and steady does it. Undergirding the previous three S’s is the fourth and final S, steadiness. It assures foundational formation that supports the threshold of further development and growth. This steadiness, then, asserts consistency and repetition that seeks to shape heart affections and intellectual development for godly truths. Thus, God’s charge to Israel—His covenantal people—was captured in Deuteronomy 6:5-9 (italics mine) by saying,

5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them 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. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Family worship, then, should be a part of the ebb and flow of life. Yet, as the famous idiom goes, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” To this end, it would be wise to assign two/three nights a week for family worship. This is not meant to be held legalistically nor should your conscience condemn you if the family misses one or two days. Rather, under the guise of wisdom, the metric is a guiding force meant to assist families in developing faithful traditions. As the culture of family worship is imbedded, your children will begin to yearn and anticipate singing, reading Scripture, and prayer. As a word of encouragement, stick with it and you will see the fruit of your labor! Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Continue to lay one brick at a time and by the time you know, you will have formed a spiritual fortress for you and your family. Easy and steady does it.


Blessing the Generations:


Psalm 145:4 (italics mine) cites, “One generation shall commend (Heb. יְשַׁבַּ֣ח) your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.” A better rendering from the original Hebrew is “shall praise;” that is, through affectionate worship for the covenantal Lord, the following generations will learn of the mighty deeds of God and come to know Him by the worship and adoration of previous generations that have gone before. What does this passage assert? Family worship matters! It matters for the worldview development of coming generations. It matters for the ethical and moral stability of generations to come. It matters for the safeguarding of a pure and unadulterated message of the Gospel. It matters for the joy of every tongue, tribe, and nation. It matters! And family worship though small plays a fundamental role in the furtherance of the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. God is using the mundane things of life to leverage the development and formulation of theologically rich and affectionately anchored men and women to advance His kingdom to the ends of the earth.


Therefore, raise world-changers empowered by the Holy Spirit. This is not done by superstitious means nor animistic ploys. Rather, it is knitted together through the ordinary means of grace granted to the covenantal people of God in the life-giving Word of the Scriptures. Saturate the hearts and minds of your children in the Word of God and allow for the consistent practice of family worship to be ground-zero for the development of the next generation of disciple-makers. May it be done for the glory of His Name and the joy of His people. Soli Deo Gloria!

 

***footnotes***

[1] See Barnabas Piper. The Curious Christian: How Discovering Wonder Enriches Every Part of Life. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017.

 

McYoung Y. Yang (MDiv, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; ThM, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the husband to Debbie and the father to McCayden (12), McCoy (11), McColsen (9), and DeYoung (5). He is a Teaching Pastor at Covenant City Church in St. Paul, MN and a homeschool dad to his four children. McYoung is continuing his doctoral studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO. His ambition is to use his training as a means to serve the local church in living life through the Gospel lens.

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