Pastor Michael Bowman
For many of us, life hasn’t changed that drastically yet. I am thankful to God for all of you in hospitals and any other part of society that hasn’t shut down. Your hard work is not going unnoticed. For many others, though, life is very different now that social distancing has been set in place. Most of us are spending more time at home, even if that is simply because you have stopped commuting to work or going out in the evening. While we have this time, we want to be careful that we do not waste it by spending it on things that will pass away. One of the most practical and helpful activities you can do while you’re forced to be home more, is to establish a regular pattern of family worship. In my mind, family religion is one of the top signs that you take your faith seriously. I include you who are single in this as well; your family will just be a bit smaller, and we would typically call it personal worship. Everything that follows is something you could start implementing in your life as well.
One of the things that becomes clear when people talk about family worship is how much we have to grow. Most of us just don’t know where to start even if we do see the need and have a desire to implement it in our homes. Toward that end I wanted to give some practical help. I’ve reached out to some families in our church who I know practice regular family worship and asked them to answer some questions about it. I will be publishing those answers over the next week or so. To start, I thought I would share what we do in our home. This has been a learning experience for us. We by no means have the answers, nor do we feel that we totally know what we are doing. But if I am encouraging you to start worshipping with your family, it’s important that I myself have some skin in the game. Hopefully this is helpful.
After 4 years of trial and error, this is our normal routine for family worship. We tried to do something daily but kept failing the huge goals we made and decided to start slow. How we did that was by implementing one day a week where we have extended family worship (between 30-60 mins). We do it on Thursday because that is usually my family day during the week. Here is our “order of service”:
- Hymn Singing
- Memory Verse
- Bible Reading
- Singing the Gloria Patri to close
We open with several hymns. Right now, we sing the songs that were played at each of the children’s baptisms (Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus, A Mighty Fortress is our God, Good is the Lord and Full of Kind Compassion). We repeat the same hymns each week with the goal that we will all actually memorize them over time. We let the kids move around during this time.
After singing, we open in prayer. I have the boys try to sit during most of the rest of the time as practice for the Sunday Service (which has really helped on Sundays, especially when Dad is preaching and not sitting with them in the pew). We are always memorizing a passage of scripture together which we then recite. We memorized Psalm 23 and repeated it every week all last year. Now we are working on 1 Corinthians 13. We have used the music of “The Corner Room” to help us memorize them (they have both passages put to music directly from the ESV).
We then read some Scripture. We have an ESV reader’s edition which we have made our “Family Bible” that we use for this. We read a selection from the Old Testament and then from the Gospels (usually pretty short depending on the day). We started reading Genesis at least a year ago, if not more, and are still a couple chapters away from finishing, if that helps you understand the amount that we read. After doing only an OT passage for a while, we then added in some from the Gospel of Matthew, usually just a paragraph or so. We talk about any questions the kids have while we read. I should also add that each of the boys has their own Bible (an ESV economy bible) so they get used to opening it, holding it, trying to follow along. I bought the cheap ones because let’s face it, they are going to get pretty beat up.
We then work on catechism using Westminster Shorter Catechism. We have worked through memorizing the first 20 or so questions. My wife and I put each of the answers to a common tune that the kids know already, which makes it easier for them (for instance, the answer to Q. 1 is to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star). I also often let them get up and move around a bit while answering the questions. However if it gets too wild and rowdy (which is often) I will have them sit. Depending on the question, we could go a couple of weeks working on the same one though ideally, we like to be doing one a week and memorizing throughout the week.
We follow this with family prayer. With the boys’ help we pick couples from our own family on both sides and people from the church to pray for. Finally, we sing Gloria Patri to close it out, usually ending with the boys jumping on me.
Building from our big Thursday worship time, we have added daily time as well. Each morning at breakfast, I read the boys one Proverb (starting in Proverbs 10:1) and talk about what it means. We have also started to learn a hymn in the morning which right now is “Be Thou My Vision” because we heard it at a wedding and the boys wanted to learn it. At the dinner table while everyone is eating, we also read a little. We focus that time on learning about prayer, and right now we are reading a collection of prayers by C. H. Spurgeon. We have also started trying (though often failing) to walk through the Sunday Service on Saturday night so the boys are prepared. We simply read the Bible Passages that will be used, sing the hymns, and spend a short time in prayer.
So that’s what we are currently doing. Hopefully it’s not overwhelming if you haven’t even started yet. Realize that it took Emily and I the last few years to really get into a routine of these things and I’m a Pastor. Be encouraged that you can do it. A couple of recommendations: routine and repetition. Work it into your routine so that it is natural and harder to miss. We do it regularly enough now that when I am negligent and don’t lead my family well in getting us to do family worship, I will often hear my rule following first-born say, “Hey, we forgot to do family worship!” Repetition just means keep repeating stuff. Read the same Bible passage over and over together until you really know it. Repeat the same catechism over and over.
You don’t have to be doing the most glorious and amazing family devotions in the world, but you need to do something. If you want to see your family grow and if you want to see true Reformation in our world, that starts with you and your family. Don’t do it as something dead and cold, but out of true faith. Just do something. Start somewhere. Sing a hymn together. Read one chapter of the Bible together. Start somewhere. As I said, I will get some other voices of encouragement in this area published soon.
*This is the fourth article in a series that will hopefully be helpful in shepherding our church through this season that God has placed us in as a people seeking peace in pandemic.