Before having my own children, every time someone would talk about having a ‘family devotional’ or ‘family worship time’ I would silently cringe and mock them in my heart. It sounded like it would be so canned and rehearsed. So bland.
Or, I had in my mind another imaginary scenario where all the six children (I only currently have 2) were sitting around the table, all sitting up properly with their hands folded together, plastic smiles on their faces and then they all say in unison, “teach us dearest father from thy holiest of scriptura…”
Both of those scenes are clearly distorted.
Leading a family devotion, as I have come to learn, is a lot more informal than I imagined and a lot more messy and difficult than I imagined. It’s also been more rewarding than I imagined, and I believe that God honors the parents that are at least trying.
BE INTENTIONAL EVERY CHANCE YOU GET
Intentional discipleship is a lot more clearly defined in the Bible than I thought it was originally. Here are a few scriptures below that clearly give us directions and mandates as parents:
- “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” - Ephesians 6:4
- “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” - Proverbs 22:6
- “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done….he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they would set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments..” - Psalm 78:4-8
- “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children…” - Deuteronomy 6:6-7
And then, as if that wasn’t enough to convince us that we have a responsibility from God, we can look at the new Testament and look at the life of Timothy. Timothy was discipled and trained up by his mother Eunice.
“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” - 2 Timothy 1:5
We can see here that the Bible is making connections between parents and children and the role parents have in shaping the theology of their children. Our intentionality will not save our kids, only God can do that, but it is an important tool the Lord uses in building the home and His kingdom.
DON’T FOCUS ON THE ‘HOW’
We know that God has an expectation that we would do what all the verses above have told us to do, and train up our children, but the Bible will remain extremely silent on the form of how that happens.
That’s why you could never say that having a family worship time was biblical. It’s just not there. Jesus never said to gather around the dinner table and have a little worship service together. So we should definitely not go down the road of commanding what the Bible doesn’t, but we also need to make sure we don’t fall off the horse, the other way, and be passive about it.
Some ways that parents can be passive about this is to assume that by taking the family to church regularly that that will somehow be enough to disciple and train their family. Others might think that putting them in a Christian school, where they have daily Bible class, will be sufficient. Both are wrong. The primary disciple-makers for our children, in our homes, should be their parents.
We must be intentional. We must decide how we will do this within each of our individual families. And let’s all just say outloud what the pink elephant is in the room, “Time…! Busyness!”
Everyone fills their schedules with what they love and prioritize. And because we are following a principle of scripture (intentionality) and not a prescription of scripture, it gives us the freedom to apply family worship/discipleship inside of the context of our own lives.
Maybe you are running all over town, each day of the week, dropping kids off here and there, and you get home at midnight each night and then you wake up to do it again the next day. If that’s the case, maybe you decide you’re going to use the commute as an intentional discipleship time. So you turn off the radio, take away any electronics from the kids in the car and start to ask them deeper questions on the way to and from your activities. Maybe you review catechism questions that teach basic theology. It’s not what you do, it’s that you do something.
For my family, we try to have a regular time of Bible reading, prayer, and song. And most of that happens after dinner, but there are so many other times that we take advantage of regular events in our home like pre-bedtime bible stories or trips in the car. It’s just a natural rhythm that comes out of Angela and myself that we hope and pray God uses to train our children to know and love what we have come to know and love.
It’s not easy. The other night I was trying to talk to Angela about my day, and the kids were being so loud that I just literally put my head down on the table. I gave up. Ha. I just couldn’t speak over them. And then, when we got to our devo time, I’m pretty sure someone got disciplined...it just never ends. But God honors it. He honors the intentionality.
So, be intentional with your family. We know it’s hard, and we know we all need a community of people to do this together. That’s why I co-lead a local ministry called GospelFamily. Gospel Family exists to ‘bring the gospel to hearts and homes.’ We do that through our books, our music and our weekly Devotional Guides for families.
Every Monday Gospel Family sends out a simple weekly devo (via email) that breaks up one chapter of the Bible over five days. We break it down into a READ-PRAY-SING model, allowing you to walk through the passage with your family, pray over it and other things going on in your lives, and sing a gospel song.
It’s not complicated. We have a few helps here and there to get you started (should you need it), but we don’t want to tell you what to say. We want you to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit to allow you to see what the Scriptures are teaching you.
Right now we just started the book of Daniel. We would love for you to join us. It’s completely free. The leadership at Genesis Community Church has been more than encouraging to us at Gospel Family. They would like to see many families from Genesis sign up for these Devos and start being intentional.
Gospel Family also has music that can be purchased on their site that teach basic truths about God. If you are a regular attender of Genesis Community Church then there will also be free download codes at the back of the auditorium for you to take and download for free!
Get any resources you find helpful, and start being intentional about family worship.
Josh Walker is a deacon at Genesis Community Church. He is also the co-leader of Gospel Family. He is the writer and author of music products such as Family Devo, Grammar Time and Hymns For Selena. He is married to Angela and has two beautiful children: Nathan and Charity Joy.