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You Cannot Worship with Your Church, but Don’t Skip Family Worship!

family devotions

It’s been said often over the past couple weeks, but we truly are living in unprecedented times for society and for the church. Not the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 have churches in America cancelled services like they are doing now and never has this happened on such a massive scale. Obedience to government, love for neighbor, and wisdom all say that churches are doing the right thing. But that decision comes with a price tag.

Corporate worship is a gift, and God’s grace flows to us when we worship as a church. Corporate worship edifies us (1 Cor 14:3-5; Col 3:16), builds our faith (Ps 73:17), stirs up love (Heb 10:24), and protects us from sin (Heb 3:13) among other things. The church would not be the church without it! Corporate worship is commanded in the Bible (Heb 10:25), so we dare not forsake it or replace it with our own digital substitute. Sadly, for now, the substitute is the best we can do.

That is why now, more than ever, families must worship together.

Throughout church history, Christians have recognized three forms of worship: personal, family, and corporate. When extremely unusual circumstances cause us to suspend church worship temporarily, the other two forms become all the more vital. So what are you doing for family worship?

Many Christians are at a loss when it comes to family worship. They don’t know what to do, so they don’t do anything at all. However, worshipping together with your family doesn’t have to be complex! In fact, the basic elements are simple and easy to do–just read the Bible, sing, and pray!

Here are some ways we’ve done those things in my family.

1. Bible Reading – We’ve read the gospel of John and we’ve also read a few Bible story books. The Bible story books are especially helpful for younger children. The New Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes, The Jesus Storybook Bible, and Leading Little Ones to God are three of our favorites. The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung is excellent, though it only has ten chapters. The Ology is a good one for older elementary aged children.

When I was a kid, my dad also read us Pilgrim’s Progress, and we read several missionary biographies. Any of these options would be great, as well! Just make sure you are teaching the Bible and not just books about the Bible.

In addition to reading the Bible, we also memorize the Bible in family worship. We choose a verse or passage to work on and say it together whenever we meet until we all have it down.[1]

2. Singing – For many families, this can be the most awkward part of family worship, but I would urge you to push through, because singing is an important aspect of worship! Even if your family is not musical, you can make a joyful noise to the Lord!

In our family, we usually sing one or two songs per night, repeating the same songs often so that our children learn them well. We sing hymns as well as children’s’ Bible songs. If your kids can read, you might consider buying some hymnals so that they can see the words.[2]

3. Prayer – I try to make the prayer time purposeful in one of a few different ways. For instance, one night, I may ask everyone a question like, “What’s one thing you’re thankful for?” or, “Name a lost person for whom we can pray.” We’ve also started praying for unreached people groups using the Joshua Project “UNREACHED of the Day” app. You may want to keep a family prayer journal.

Other Considerations

Choose a regular time and place. Some families like to meet in the morning. Others meet after dinner or before the children go down to bed. It doesn’t really matter when you meet as long as it works for you!

Optimally, husbands should lead in family worship. Wives, if your husband is uninterested in leading, I would encourage you to choose a time that works for you and the kids and invite him to join you in Bible reading and prayer. (He probably won’t want to sing, so don’t push it.) If he doesn’t come, just go ahead and do those things by yourself or with your children.

At the same time, be careful to guard your heart on this issue. Christian author Lou Priolo says, “Very often, wives will expect their husbands to lead family worship on a daily or almost daily basis. This expectation, when unfulfilled, can lead to sinful anger, bitterness, or resentment if you allow it to. And it can even tempt a woman to begin to start doubting her husband’s spiritual leadership. Guard your heart against any “letter of the law” legalism which thinks, ‘If my husband doesn’t conduct a formal family worship time every single day, he is not doing his job.’” He goes on to say, “Don’t turn this good desire [for you husband to lead in family worship] into an idolatrous one,” and, “Guard against comparing your husband or your family to anyone else."[3]  You won’t find the command to have family devotions anywhere in the Bible. It’s a good thing, but don’t let it ruin your marriage and don’t become bitter.

Start small and stick with it. Better to meet for ten minutes, four days a week than to try to meet for an hour per night and never get to it! Dad’s, don’t feel the need to the prepare extensively and don’t hold your family hostage for longer than is reasonable! You don’t have to be John MacArthur! The important thing is that you are visibly leading your family in following the Lord. That fact alone will speak volumes.

You probably have more free time right now, and you’re almost certainly spending more time at home! Are you capturing this moment for God? Why not take the opportunity to build a new, invaluable habit for you and your family? In the absence of regular church activities, it will fill an important void.

During this highly unusual season, let’s give a special priority to family worship.


(If you’d like to read more on this topic, check out A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home, by Jason Helopoulos.)


[1] If you want to incorporate Scripture memory into family worship and you have a young family, some good verses to start with are Genesis 1:1, John 3:16, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Ephesians 4:32 and 6:1-3, and Philippians 2:14. If you want to memorize a passage, consider Psalm 1, 23, 46, or 100, anything from Proverbs 3 or 4, Isaiah 53, Matthew 6:9-13, Philippians 2:1-11 or Hebrews 11. Of course, you can’t go wrong with any verse or passage!

[2] Our church hymnal, Rejoice Hymns is available here.

[3] Lou Priolo, Teach Them Diligently: How to Use the Scriptures in Child Training (Woodruff, SC: Timeless Texts, 2000), 154-157.

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