The purpose of this article is for Christian families to discover ways to form regular habits of family worship. Hopefully, you will be encouraged to find that you are already worshiping as a family. We also hope you discover ways to cultivate more consistent rhythms of worship in your home.
Worship involves intentionally and consistently looking to God in all that we do and say. To maintain this Godward focus, there are things we can do as a family to remind ourselves of God’s goodness and express our delight in him. These patterns and habits of worship counterbalance our tendency to forget God and all he has done for us.
Our days, weeks, and years typically fall into a routine—a predictable pattern we come to expect and follow without really thinking about it. Our routines become so natural that we are thrown off when they are disrupted. For example, think of how a morning goes when you wake up late or how a week goes when your child is ill.
Our routines can be as simple as the way we make coffee in the morning or as complex as how we celebrate the holidays each year. Our habits form our routines which form the traditions shaping our families. For this reason, worship must be a thread woven into all of our routines.
Let’s look at examples of daily, weekly, and yearly habits that may help us create this rhythm of worship in our family.
Create Daily Habits
The most obvious example of a habit of worship is mealtime prayer. Eating is something we all must do throughout the day, so meals are an obvious time for Christian families to remember God’s goodness and thank him for his care. In this way, something as mundane as sitting down to mac-and-cheese becomes an opportunity to acknowledge the Lord. Connecting prayer to meals ensures that we stop, remember God’s generosity, and thank him at least three times each day. Many Christians have a habit of praying in the morning and evening for this same reason. The natural course of sunrise, sunset, and our own sleep patterns become a rhythm for worship.
These natural times to pray together (prompted by meals or bedtimes) also provide a consistent opportunity to read the Bible. Reading the Bible informs how we pray. It helps us approach God with a growing understanding of who he is and what he has promised. Family Bible reading doesn’t need to be complicated or long. It doesn’t need to be particularly somber or sentimental. In fact, it’s good if it’s commonplace—part of our regular, everyday lives. It’s normal and expected. Keep a Bible on the kitchen counter or next to the dinner table, and read a few verses or a chapter after the meal is finished. As your kids get older, have them read. Family worship can be that straightforward. If your family is musical, sing a song. If your kids have questions, take time to answer them. However, don’t add so many “frills” that family worship becomes unsustainable. Keep it simple. Keep it regular.
As children get older, many families struggle to keep up with complex and competing calendars for work, school, church, sports, music, drama, etc. Family life becomes a whirlwind of activity. At the same time, daily routines are worth fighting for. If family dinner is constantly interrupted because of sports practices or part-time jobs, carve out another fixed time. Would breakfast work? Or maybe an evening snack? At some point, bedtimes change, and parents call it a day before teens do. Instead of letting bedtime prayer become a fond memory, make Mom and Dad’s bedtime the prompt for evening worship. As kids get older, encourage them to cultivate their own routines for prayer and Bible reading. In this way, your children may adopt habits cultivated within the family as their own rhythms of worship as they leave home.
Create Weekly Habits
Our daily rhythms encourage private habits of worship, but our weekly routine should draw us together with other believers. It is essential that our kids grow up belonging to a local church. Active involvement in church is a non-negotiable aspect of family worship (Hebrews 10:24-25). Daily devotions cannot replace the fellowship, instruction, and opportunities for service that we find in our churches. Attending church and spending time with other believers should be an expected part of our family routine.
Belonging to a community of other Christians helps our children know that they are part of something bigger than just themselves or their families. In church, they are taught and loved by people who love God. Their family is extended and enriched by the people of God they see around them and by the stories they learn of Christians through the centuries.
No church is perfect. Our kids will witness the various ways sin infects even the most mature Christian communities. But Lord willing, they will learn the gift of repentance, give the gift of grace, and embrace Jesus as their ultimate hope, rather than learn to put their hope in their community.
Create Yearly Habits
Just as daily and weekly routines prompt and sustain worship, yearly traditions can as well. Another example of worship that is already woven into our routine is holiday celebrations. In American and European cultures, the Christian holidays double as our cultural holidays. Christmas and Easter arrive each year with a flurry of decorations, music, and promotions in every shopping center. We cannot miss the significance of the season; however, we can miss the opportunity it provides to worship.
Christians have set these special times aside to celebrate our faith heritage. During the holidays, we retell and reenact the story of God’s faithfulness throughout history. Advent and Christmas remember God’s promises through the Old Testament which were fulfilled in Jesus’ birth. These winter holidays also anticipate Jesus’ return as King and celebrate the coming kingdom (Hebrews 9:28). Lent and Holy Week remember Jesus’ death on the cross and consider the great cost of our own sin. Easter rejoices in the fact of Jesus’ resurrection and in the secure hope of our own (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
The societies in which we live have invented many charming alternatives to celebrating Jesus. Everywhere we look we see Santa, reindeer, and Easter bunnies. It is not wrong to participate in these secular traditions, but as Christians, we don’t want to get distracted from our true celebration. As Christian parents, we have a wonderful opportunity in the holidays to worship with our children by remembering Jesus.
Establish a Rhythm Today
Worship begins in transformed hearts, but it is sustained by an ever-sharpening, Godward focus in our lives. We cultivate this Godward focus through regular routines of worship each day, each week, and each year.
Take a moment to consider your own family’s routines. Are there ways in which you have already cultivated a rhythm of worship (perhaps mealtime or bedtime prayer)? Then consider how you could add to your regular routines to help focus your family’s minds and hearts on Jesus through these habits of family worship.
Think creatively and intentionally about how to incorporate worship into your home in a way that is joyful, simple, and sustainable so that it becomes a natural part of your family life.