An Argument for Family Worship

Hands of family folded in prayer around open bible on table

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Quite frequently, we wonder how we are to combat a life of cultural indoctrination in our youth groups with a few, often lackluster, meetings. It is an encouragement to know that God can and will use even our weakest efforts, but that is no reason for us to be found lacking as well.

The natural outflow of youth ministry is family ministry, which we as a church have begun to understand. We must make this connection and begin to lead youth and their families to a deeper discipleship. This takes place in church but in family worship as well.

What is family worship? Ligonier has an excellent definition in which they say, “Family worship is the regular use of Scripture, song and prayer by a family unit, guided by the head of the household.”i

The Necessity of Family Worship

IT IS BIBLICAL.

In Job, the earliest written book of the Bible, Job functions as the chief priest of his home (Job 1:5). Abraham is charged with a form of family worship (Gen. 18:19). Family worship and discipleship are commanded by God to the Israelites (Deut. 6:7). Family worship and discipleship continue to be applied in the New Testament as well (Eph. 6:4, Matt. 28:19-20).

Parents must understand the Biblical necessity for family worship above all else. Otherwise, we risk selling them a pragmatic theology of how to raise their children.

IT IS HISTORICAL.

During the times of our Puritan forefathers, it was not uncommon for a family to be brought into church discipline, and sometimes excommunicated, if their children did not know the catechism. I am not arguing that we go back to Puritanical times, although it has its benefits. However, the church from its inception understood the necessity to raise up the younger generation. In fact, before the Reformation, there were not even children’s classes or programs in the church.

For the first 1,500 years, it was the normal practice for the parents to be the main ones responsible for the discipling of their children, which they accomplished through family worship. Just 100 years ago, it would have been unheard of for a family to be dedicated to a local church and not also practice family worship. Today, statistics show that the parents of our youth see no need to engage in private worship themselves, let alone lead their family to do so.

“Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church, consecrated to Christ, and wholly influenced and governed by His rules. And family education and order are some of the chief means of grace.”

–Jonathan Edwards

CULTURAL CHRISTIANITY VS. A DEEP DISCIPLESHIP

We must understand, and the parents that we minister to, that their children will be influenced by them to a certain degree. Research has found that the majority of Christians pass down Biblical morality to their children but not a true faith.

But also reflected is that when you read your Bible at least four days a week, discipleship increases (231%), evangelism increases (228%) and the risk of cultural sins decreases immensely, such as drunkenness 57%, sex outside marriage 68%, pornography 61%.

Parents’ personal devotion and coming to church frequently and habitually are essential. Equally important is “parents talking with teenagers about religious matters at home during the week.”ii

On average, any child has a 24% chance of going and graduating from college, a 6% chance to have a full-ride and a 0.029% chance to become a pro athlete. Yet there is a 100% chance they will stand before God Almighty.

The parents that we minister to must understand this as well as ourselves. Do not be afraid to hold parents accountable especially when all the desires that they want for their children will be burned up (1 Cor. 3:12-15).

Empowering Parents

Do the parents of the youth to whom you minister know and understand the calling and responsibility of parenthood? Many congregants in our churches are Biblically illiterate, and therefore we can no longer expect them to recognize the simplest of Christian duties. The same principle applies to Biblical parenting. Many of the parents we serve likely know and acknowledge that they should parent Biblically, but they have no idea what that looks like. Many of them have never heard of family worship.

Do the parents of the youth that you minister to know what you are teaching them? “Well, of course! I’m teaching them the Bible.” No, rather do the parents of the youth know exactly what they are learning that night with an exact Scripture reference, outline and questions for the parents to follow up with on their own?

Do they know how they should disciple their children? Do they know how to teach their children to pray? Study the Word? Lord willing, this will prompt you to ask the parents of your flock and see what is lacking. From there, prayerfully empower the saints to do the work (Eph. 4:11-12).

Set an example for your youth parents and the rest of your church by leading family worship for your family. One of the main ways that we can empower our parents is by our example. If we are not willing to do it ourselves and we are the pastor/minister, why should they do it?

Family Worship for Outliers

We are in an age where the vast majority of teenagers do not come from Christian households. There are two ways that the youth pastor or minister should engage this: (1) Evangelize the parent(s)/guardian(s) that they do have. (2) Have a strong family in your church, if not your own, “adopt” them. They must have someone fill the role of spiritual parenthood in the absence of Christian parentage.

Resources

FOR CONDUCTING AND LEADING FAMILY WORSHIP:

Family Worship Bible Guide, by Joel Beeke
The Family Worship Book, by Terry Johnson

FOR RESEARCH ON FAMILY WORSHIP:

A Man as Priest in His Home, by Sam Waldron
Christian Directory, by Richard Baxter
Family Worship, by Donald Whitney

i “Family Worship 101.” Ligonier Ministries, www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/family-worship-101.

ii Trevin Wax is vice president of research and resource development at the North American Mission Board and a visiting professor at Cedarville University. A former missionary to Romania. “Parents, Here’s the Best Way to Hand Down Your Faith.” The Gospel Coalition, 14 Sept. 2021, www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevin-wax/hand-down-your-faith/.

Jayden Carlos serves as student pastor at The Church at Eastern Oaks, Montgomery.

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