Basic order for Family Worship
My wife and I started family worship when our first child was very young, and I’m so glad we did. We started by calling it “Bible time” (a term we still often use), we’ve had periods of inconsistency, and our methods have varied, but the discipline of gathering together each evening for Bible reading, singing, and prayer has been one of the most profitable exercises we’ve taken on as a family.
Over the years the order of how we’ve included various elements, and even what elements we’ve included, has changed. However, we’ve settled into a good routine, and I thought I’d briefly outline what we do each evening1. Hopefully this will stimulate your own thinking and give you ideas for what you might include in your family worship times.
One of the things I’ve tried to do is to model our family worship after our corporate worship with our church. I do this not only because the order has a gospel logic to it, but also because it instills habits in my children and prepares them for our weekly worship services.
We’ve often begun by singing a doxology, usually the Gloria Patri (which we sing weekly in church) or OLD 100th (the familiar “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow”). This begins our worship with a focus on praising God for who he is.
Confession and Forgiveness in Christ
Next, we frequently (although not always) have a time of public confession. This reinforces the fact that we are unworthy to draw near in worship on our own, and it also gives us an opportunity to confess where we have wronged each other as a family. This is a particularly humbling time. There’s nothing like having to confess in front of your children that you have been unkind to your wife! We then each pray a short prayer of confession, and I conclude with an affirmation that forgiveness is possible with Christ, reinforcing the gospel with our children.
Praise and Thanks
We respond with a brief song of praise, often the “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” refrain from “Angels We Have Heard on High,” as has been customary in historic liturgies.
Next we have our short Bible reading, followed often by a brief discussion. The length of the reading will depend on how much time we have. You can see here the Bibles we’ve used.
We then move to a time in which we review our catechism question for the week. I plan to write another post soon in which I’ll recommend various catechisms that we’ve used.
Next we take some time to memorize Scripture. I’ve recommended the plan we currently use here.
We always take time to sing as a family. When our children were very young, we simply chose one or two hymns we wanted them to be familiar with. As they grew older, each person in the family chose a favorite hymn to sing. As our children have learned to read, we have begun to use hymnals. Earlier this year, we sang through our entire hymnal (skipping some things). Now, we work each week to memorize all the stanzas of one hymn each week.
We conclude our time of worship with prayer. Most often I lead the family in prayer, but if either of the children ask to pray, I always let them.
This may look like a lot, but it rarely takes more than 30 minutes, and often far less. We are flexible, too; sometimes we just don’t have the opportunity to fit it all in, and some evenings we can’t do it at all. We’ve tried to make this a regular habit without it being oppressive or restrictive.
We most often have family worship as the last thing of the evening before the children go to bed. This provides a time for our kids to wind down before sleep, gives them a warm time with the family around the Word, and I like that what is on their minds as they get into bed is what we’ve done during those times.
If you regularly worship together as a family, what have you found helpful?
About Scott Aniol
Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is director of doctoral worship studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.
- Actually, we’re not doing a couple of the things listed below currently for various reasons, but this is the full, ideal picture! [↩]