God has given men the responsibility to provide spiritual leadership for their household. Husbands are called to follow Christ’s example and facilitate their wives’ sanctification by the Word (Eph. 5:26). Fathers (and in their absence, mothers) are called to raise their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4; cf. Deut. 6:4ff). I think we know these truths. However, in my experience, few families spend the intentional time needed to obey these commands. In our busy world, it’s increasingly difficult! I know it has been for our family. I’ve found that family worship is something that just doesn’t happen without a good plan. We need to set aside dedicated time in our homes to grow in grace. This time can look as different as the families are that do it, but I think Donald Whitney’s suggestions are doable and adaptable for most families. He says that at a minimum family worship should include instruction in the Word, prayer, and, ideally, singing. We’ve created this guide to help equip you in leading your family in worship in these three areas.
Word. Our children need to have regular exposure to the Bible and the teaching of the Bible. Simply put, read the Bible in your family and explain what your read. In 1999, Pastor Tom Macy introduced our church to Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s Bible reading plan and the accompanying books written by D.A. Carson, For the Love of God, Volumes 1 and 2, which comment on one of the passages each day. (You can access these books in blog form here: thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/loveofgod.) Ever since, I have used this plan to guide my Bible reading and have loved the consistency and structure it provides to help me read “all of the Bible, all of the time.” In this plan, there are four readings per day. If you read all four passages, you will read the whole Bible once in a year and the New Testament and Psalms twice. However, if that pace is too fast for you or your family you can read two readings per day and complete the plan in two years. Whatever your pace, I’m confident you’ll grown in your love and understanding of God’s Word as you read it often and read it in its entirety.
Don’t worry if you get behind. It’s not as much about the plan as it is about being in the Word. If I miss a few days, I’ll just pick up where I’m supposed to be. I’m committed to this plan over the long haul. So over the course of time I’ll get to any chapters I miss! Or you can disregard the dates and just read the reading for the next day keeping track of where you are in the list.
I also highly recommend using catechisms in the home for teaching children (and adults!) the central teachings of the Bible. I’ve found the New City Catechism (NCC) to be good for all ages. Catechism is simply a question and answer format of teaching and usually includes memorization of the catechism. With NCC, the children’s answer is a portion of the adult answer and that’s noted in bold. You can also download the NCC app or go to their website (newcitycatechism.com) to find accompanying verses, videos, commentary, and prayers, in addition to more information about the catechism itself. This has been a great tool for our family. After we read a chapter from M’Cheyne’s plan, we take five minutes at breakfast most mornings to learn or review one of the questions.
Prayer. In response to God’s revelation in his Word, we should pray. In addition to praying for the immediate needs of our family, I like to pray the truths of the passage our family has read, or the truths in the catechism question, over my family. I also like to use the prayers of some of the great men in church history provided on the NCC app or in the Valley of Vision. Not only do our prayers teach our children how to pray, the prayers of the saints of old can teach them as well. And obviously it is important for our kids to learn the Lord’s Prayer and its meaning (the NCC teaches this). We should also allow our children to pray. This gives them practice and allows us an opportunity to guide their prayers.
Singing. We’re commanded to sing to one another (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). And songs are powerful portable theology! So, ideally, your family worship will include some singing. Our family uses songs we sing regularly here at First Free. We generally sing in the evenings a couple nights a week before bedtime. We’ve included song sheets of a number of our favorite hymns as well as a list of contemporary songs that we regularly sing that you can look up online (Google and YouTube are great resources here). If you don’t play an instrument, you can sing the songs a capella or sing along with a recording online. Talk about the meaning of the words you sing. We can learn so much through the songs we know. So let’s be intentional in what we learn through music.
Family worship/discipleship is not difficult, but it is difficult to carve out time for it, especially in our hectic days. But it’s God’s way of helping our families to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s worth the effort. It’s our hope that this book will help you as you endeavor to intentionally raise your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.