I have mentioned previously how my wife helped me to man-up and start to lead our family worship times. It was embarrassing that I needed the help, but like with the lady in our GPS unit, I’ve learned not to argue with the voice of reason.
Let me issue this vital disclaimer: I am no expert. I seriously have little to no idea what I’m doing. We haven’t been at this for years, but for the past few months it’s been pretty consistent. And our kids love family worship. They ask for it. That can’t be bad, right?
Also, we’ve only test-run this on tiny tots. My kids are 4.5, 2.5, and newborn (he’s just there as eye-candy, and so the other two remember to pray for the baby).
We’ve been at it for about 6 months.
So here is what we do, which may be of some help…
- We use a routine. This has been the key to our consistency. I need this as much as the kids do. Every night after bath, before bed time, we gather in the same place, the couch in our living room. The kids have come to expect this, and often prompt me as I;m deliberating whether or not to use the precious ‘exception’ for when I’m exhausted. Turns out, their beaming expectant faces cures all fatigue. Exceptions are for the rare nights I’m out before the kid’s bedtime. Then Mom fills in the gap.
- Dad reads a short Bible story from a children’s Bible. I try to be expressive and funny, with lots of voices and accents. We use the Big Picture Bible which emphasizes Christocentricity throughout the Scriptures. We also use the Jesus Storybook Bible, and the Word and Song Bible, and a couple of others. Select an age appropriate Bible. No ESV for 2 year olds. I hunt for Bibles that include the lesser-known passages like Naboth’s vineyard and the Witch of Endor. I usually check the flood story to see why God wiped out the world. Some say “To clean the planet.” Yuk. If it says to wipe out wickedness, now we’re cooking.
- Dad draws one application. I do this by asking some simple, multiple choice question that starts, “Do we learn…” as in “Do we learn that God doesn’t mind our sin, or do we learn that God hates sin and wants to punish it?” For my older boy (4) I ask questions that probe deeper insight and I have been repeatedly blown away by his comprehension. Kid’s aren’t just sponges, they are processors. He once responded, “But if God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, why didn’t he un-harden it and give faith to the Egyptians also trust in the Passover lamb?” Unconditional Election. Yikes. Mom?
- We all take turns praying for one thing we are thankful for and one need someone else has. If one of the kids has a need, we let the other one pray for that need. I’m not against personal petitions, but if the prayers get too long, they tend to derail. So we keep it simple.
- We sing a song or two, or three. We try to teach them a song they hear in church, and sing it every night for a week or so, as well as another song they already know. Now we take requests. Oh Lord My God, You are Holy, I Lift My Eyes Up, and other deep songs are favorites. But we also try to do one lighter song with actions.
- We keep it short. Seriously, this can make or break it. 10 minutes goes quickly with singing, praying, and story. And sometimes they beg for more. That’s a good sign. If they are gnawing at their wrists to end the misery of your 45 minute exposition, you know you’re making no impact.
- We keep it light. The tone is light, fun, and expressive. When the subject matter is more somber, like discussing the crucifixion, we are more serious, but we end on a hopeful, joyful note.
- We mix it up. We use the same Bible for a few nights in a row, and then change to another one. We rotate through four. We sometimes sing first or pray last, or whatever.
Let me know what you do. We can use all the help we can get.
I cover some more of this topic in my book, The Home Team: God’s Game Plan for the Family (Kindle or hardcopy).