Worship Begins at Home
According to a Barna Group survey conducted in 2016, nearly 60% of teens who grow up attending church walk away and become part of the unchurched population after graduating high school (roughly 45%). These numbers aren’t great; in fact, there are many that find them concerning and seek to offer solutions to the issues that are causing our youth to drop out of the church. Some of the studies that have been done on low church attendance among youth point to the need for revitalized programs and systems. If only the church would have a stronger youth ministry, or a greater focus on discipleship, or a more relatable sermon, or edgier worship music, or this, or that. While youth ministry is good and serves a good purpose, and while other programs and structures seek to serve the body in specific ways, the problem is not within these systems. The true issue is within misplaced responsibility. For too long, many have expected the church to do what is the God-ordained responsibility of the parents. Yes, the church makes disciples. Yes, we go to church to worship a God who is infinitely worthy of our praise. The primary disciple-makers of our youth, however, is not the church, it is the parents. Discipleship begins at home. Worship begins at home.
Now, this may seem foreign or strange to you. Worship at home? I know that when I was first introduced to this concept it seemed odd to me, but what I soon discovered is that our faith has a rich heritage of families worshiping together in their homes. This practice is called family worship and it is primarily rooted in the Bible.
Deuteronomy 6 contains something called the Shema. “Here, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deut. 6:4–5). This was considered to be Israel’s greatest command, and in verse 7, we see who was responsible for handing down this command to future generations. “You shall teach 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.” We also see in verse 20 that parents were to explain to their children the meaning of the things that they were commanded to do. These were not commands given to the Levites, those who were set apart as priests, but to the parents of children.
Something we also see in Scripture is that worshiping the Lord in service and obedience begins in the home. Joshua 24:15 contains the often quoted verse, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” And in Proverbs 22:6, we read, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” There are countless other verses that I could point to, like 2 Timothy 1:5 where Paul explains how Timothy was exposed to the faith from a young age by his faithful grandmother and mother, but let’s move on to what family worship looks like.
Family worship is quite simple. As the name suggests, it is gathering together as a family to set aside time to worship God. Donald S. Whitney, in his book Family Worship, provides a very simple outline, which is the model that my family and I use, and it is this: Read, pray, sing. That’s it. Read. Pray. Sing.
When we come before God as a family to worship him, we do so by first opening his word. As Christians, we believe that the Bible is the word of God. It is divinely inspired, the final source of authority, certain, infallible, and sufficient, profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). So, by coming to the word of God, we are actually reading and hearing his words; by reading the Bible together as a family, we are establishing a rhythm of listening to and learning from God. When we open the Bible, we are allowing God to inform, transform, and speak to us.
Reading the Bible together as a family also gives us great opportunities to instruct and explain the things of the Lord to our children. Often when we read, questions will arise. Take the time to teach your children what God has revealed and what you believe. Raise up your children in the ways of the Lord.
Now, this piece of family worship will look different depending on different family dynamics and situations. If you have small or young children, you may read less and you may have fewer questions. That is okay. Some families may choose to read a short section of Scripture, while others may read entire chapters. I have a 2-year-old, and I am fairly confident that she doesn’t quite understand what is going on, and that is okay. Reading together is not so much about the length as much as it is about establishing the rhythm. As our children grow, they will come to know that this is just something normal that my family does; we come together to worship God by opening his word.
If reading the Bible is God speaking to us, prayer is us speaking to God. When we pray, we come before God in adoration, thanking him for what he has done for us, we confess our sins to God who is able to forgive, and we pray for others. As we pray as a family, we are teaching our children what it is to pray and how we pray. We are showing one another what it looks like to be completely dependent on God.
Something else that you may discover as you read and pray as a family is that you begin to pray through Scripture. For example, if you read Mark 8:27–30, you may pray something like this: Jesus, we believe that you are the Christ, the anointed one, the Son of God. We believe that you died for our sins, that you were buried, and that you raised on the third day, and we believe that you are coming back. Help us to love and know you more. Amen. When we pray through Scripture, we are saying, “God, this is what you have revealed. Thank you. Now help me to respond.” This has been something that has been truly enriching in my family’s spiritual walk together.
This piece of family worship may seem the most strange to some of you reading this. Are we supposed to sing together in our home? However, I know that some of you are probably singing constantly around the house already (I have been known to sing a tune or two when I am making dinner), so it really isn’t all that odd. The difference between our singing around the house, or in the car, or wherever, and the singing we do together as a family is that it is more focused and intentional; when we sing together as a family, during this time, we sing as a form of worship.
In Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3, Paul tells his readers to sing hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs to God with thankfulness in our hearts. This is why we sing to God as a family: to express our thankfulness and gratitude to God for what he has done in our lives. Again, this will look different based on any given family situation. Maybe your family is musically gifted and someone can accompany you as you sing. Perhaps you will sing acapella (without music). You could sing one song, you could sing three songs, it really all depends. Again, it isn’t about how you do this, it is simply about establishing the rhythms of worship in your home.
Maybe this outline will not work for you, and that is fine. What family worship should never become is something that we feel has to be done in a certain way. What I have sought to provide is one way that you can gather together as a family and worship God in your homes. If you already have an established rhythm to do this, don’t feel like you have to abandon what you are doing to adopt this method. If you don’t have a rhythm established, may this serve to encourage and guide you as you begin to worship God together in your home.
As we raise our families, our children are watching us. As they are watching us, they are learning, through observation, what is most valued to us. Let us prize Christ supremely so that our children will see Christ as supreme. If Christ is seen as most glorious in our lives and the lives of our children, they will also see the blessing that it is to be part of Christ’s body, his bride, the church.
Family worship will never be done perfectly, but it can be done faithfully. We can all set aside time, be it in the morning, afternoon, or evening, to worship our great and worthy God in the word, prayer, and song as a family. If we believe that God deserves to be worshiped everywhere, throughout all of the earth, then he deserves to be worshiped by us in our homes. May the love of God and our thankfulness and gratitude for what he has done in our lives, and our families’ lives, compel us to this end.