The Parent as Theologian: Family Worship

Josh Buice

Parents Are Responsible For Family Worship

Suppose you were in the midst of praying as a congregation as your church went through the tedious process of selecting the next pastor who would lead you each week in preaching and teaching the Word.  If a man stood in the pulpit and had a pure heart and great zeal, but his ability to handle the Word was subpar and he couldn’t explain the Bible properly, you would not support him coming to lead your church.  Why not?  Although this man may have a great personality and you may connect with he and his family well, what you need is more than a good friend – you need a pastor.  The main objective of being a good pastor consists in his ability to explain the Word of God.  The pastor is expected to be capable of training and equipping people through his preaching of the Scriptures.  That’s what is expected in the church, but unfortunately, this isn’t so much expected in the home in these days.

The Theological Calling for Parents

Did you know that God has called parents to be more than friends and taxi drivers for their children?  In fact, we must go a step further.  Parents are called to a greater responsibility than teaching their children how to be an all-star ball player too.  It is the primary duty of the parent to be the Bible teacher for their children.  That responsibility does not fall upon the shoulders of the Sunday school teacher or the children’s ministry leaders in the church.  God did not design the youth pastor and other volunteers in the church to bear the burden of your child’s spiritual wellbeing.  The church is to come alongside parents in the task of discipleship, but ultimately, it’s the role and responsibility of the parent.  This is a sobering reality to consider.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 – “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

You may not be called to be a “professional theologian” in the sense of researching biblical truths and writing books, but as a parent to your child – you must seek to know the Word of God and lead your family in the footsteps of the gospel faith.  You may never take once seminary class, but you’re called to the task of becoming a Bible teacher in your home.  Family worship is the process of instructing your children from the Bible and praising God through prayer and song.  Teaching involves different aspects – including prayer and praise.  Joel Beeke defines family worship as “instruction in the Word of God, prayer before the throne of God, and singing to the glory of God.”  Think of shrinking the main aspects of your corporate worship time into a small segmented time in your living room with only your immediate family.  In Deuteronomy 6:20-25, the children respond by asking questions about the Scripture.  It’s during those times that you have time to dig deeper and point to the cross of Jesus Christ and explain the story of our redemption.

Today, like no other day in history, parents have a massive amount of resources available to them.  Family worship has really never been easier than it is today.  With smart phones, iPads, and other sources of technology, it has never been easier to choose a passage of Scripture and a song to sing in the home with the family.  Hymn books for the iPad and Bible apps make the work of preparation painless.  Two really good resources to use in your family worship include the iPad app for hymns (Baptist hymnal) and Look at the Book from the ministry of John Piper.  Even if you don’t want to use Look at the Book in your family worship, it can still be an aid to help you grasp the main point of the passage as you prepare to explain it to your family.

The Real Challenges

Jonathan Edwards once said, “Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church.”  Quite honestly, there are many times when my family gathers for family worship and it feels more like a wrestling match than a worship service.  We can’t read and learn about family worship from the lens of a sterile environment of peace and tranquility.  Family worship is difficult at times and more so when the children are young (like my present situation as my four children range from 9 years to 1.5 years).  Real challenges to family worship exist, but the challenges can be overcome with proper planning and organization.

The challenges to Bible reading may be met by more interaction with the text as opposed to straight lecture style.  Reading and asking questions or involving the children in the story can be helpful.  Additionally, choosing smaller sections of Scripture for the family worship time can be helpful – especially when you have short attention spans to consider.

The challenges to prayer often center upon keeping the children focused while the prayers are being prayed.  I often lead the prayer time and seek to model how to pray before the children.  I do allow them to pray too, and as they pray, I try to listen to how they articulate their needs and their praises toward God.  In recent days, I’ve been trying to teach the children to address their prayers to the Father in Jesus’ name.  While we pray by the power of the Spirit, our access to the Father is through Jesus Christ and I’m working to teach that truth to my children.  Likewise, I’m trying to teach them to move beyond cyclical repetitions as they grow in their knowledge of God.

In our home, the main challenge to our singing together involves the choice of song and my lack of singing ability.  This is where my wife plays a major part in helping lead us in song.  I typically follow her lead to stay on key, and the children follow as we sing.  At times I will choose a hymn and then allow the children to choose a song that we will sing together.  This seems to work well for us, but each time we get together for our family worship I try to remember the importance of flexibility.

The Lasting Fruit

Voddie Baucham, in his book, Family Driven Faith writes, “70-88% of teens, who profess Christianity, walk away from their faith by the end of their freshman year of college.”  That’s a troubling statistic that should catch the attention of all parents.  What are we as fathers and mothers doing to cause this trend?  The answer….not much.  The reason many children who grew up in the church walk away from the faith has to do more with what we aren’t doing rather than what we are doing.  When a family focuses on their faith on Sunday morning and then closes up God in a little box until the next Sunday morning, that spells disaster for the faith of the children.

As we live out our faith during the week and have times of family worship where we get together and read the Bible, pray together, and sing praises to the Lord, it will leave an indelible mark upon the children.  While Proverbs 22:6 is not a blanket promise, the general principle is true – “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

What would happen in the home if a father and mother determined to have family worship each week with their children?  As they press through the challenges each week, it will lay a firm foundation for their faith in their home.  This will establish the truth in the hearts of their children and will cause them to see the reality of their parents’ faith.  The fruit will be lasting!  The aroma of Christ will permeate the air of the home.  The gospel will be central, and the children will not be able to rise up and cry – hypocrite!

The children will not be able to claim that their parents didn’t take their faith seriously.  No matter what challenges the children face on the university campus, they will remember the Bible being opened and explained in their home.  As they’re forced to make decisions, they will remember the Word of God that came to them in Word and song.  As they struggle to stand firm on their own, they will recall the deep moments of sweet prayer as their parents turned to the Lord for guidance, wisdom, and strength.  During those moments when their children are figuring out life and making big decisions, they will look back and remember their father’s faith like the tree that was planted and rooted by the streams of water (Psalm 1).  They will likewise recall their mother’s unwavering faith like that of the Proverbs 31 woman.  

Perhaps not all stories end well, and tragically, we know this to be true.  Some children walk away from the faith and never return.  But we know when children walk away from the faith and a home that was saturated with the gospel, regrets are few in the hearts of the parents who consistently labor to make Christ known in the home.  Likewise, the child who rebels has to walk away knowing the faith of his father and mother was the real thing!  It was no Sunday morning faith – it was genuine.

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Author The Parent as Theologian: Family Worship

Josh Buice

Pastor Pray's Mill Baptist Church

Josh Buice is the founder and president of G3 Ministries and serves as the pastor of Pray's Mill Baptist Church on the westside of Atlanta. He is married to Kari and they have four children, Karis, John Mark, Kalli, and Judson. Additionally, he serves as Assistant Professor of Preaching at Grace Bible Theological Seminary. He enjoys theology, preaching, church history, and has a firm commitment to the local church. He also enjoys many sports and the outdoors, including long distance running and high country hunting. He has been writing on Delivered by Grace since he was in seminary and it has expanded with a large readership through the years.