Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,
I occasionally field an inquiry from a father with young children about getting started with family worship. Here are some thoughts that I invariably pass along.
– Starting now is a great idea. As in today. Young ones pick up more than we think, so waiting just delays a lot of benefit. Just be careful to start with a reasonable schedule (not too long, grow into longer times), so that it isn’t needlessly exasperating for Mom and child. These should be tender, wonderful times that shape your children’s memories of family life, not a chore that they come to dread.
– Nothing is better than the Bible itself, and nothing communicates your trust in the Bible more than just sequentially working through different books of the Bible, slowly and patiently. It makes sense to have a study Bible or commentary (or both) close by for when you hit difficulties or hard questions, but just refer to these when necessary, don’t rely on them.
– It couldn’t be simpler: sing a song together that is theologically rich, you (Dad) open in prayer, take turns reading verses of the Scripture text, talk together about what you read, then all pray together. In the early years, this might be 10 or 15 minutes. Much later it might be 30 to 45. At first, just read a few verses, maybe 6-10. I have older children (ages 10-21), so we try to tackle something like half a chapter to a chapter per day. My children all learned to read early because they wanted to be able to take their turn at reading aloud. That made them eager to learn.
– Make it worship of the living God! I have seen the same basic format done by some passionately and with a real heart of worship, and by others mechanically and lifelessly. Same routine, radically different results. This requires, of course, that you actually have a vigorous spiritual life yourself, and that you are continually repenting and dealing with your own areas of hypocrisy. This will prove to be one great blessings of your life. Don’t cheat it by settling for less than real worship.
There is more that could be said, of course, but I hope this is helpful to fathers who are just getting started.
If this is an area of interest, here is a post about my own journey to establishing family worship.