Family Worship with Young Children
Biblical Mandate to Parents
The Bible makes it clear that parents are responsible for teaching their children God’s Word and passing on news of His greatness to the next generation.
“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. Deuteronomy 6:4-7
Maybe no one else has this problem, but my little family struggled for several years trying to figure out how to do this. Our kids just couldn’t sit still. We attempted to use several different storybook Bibles geared toward kids, and we even tried to just read a few sentences from the actual Bible each night for several months. Nothing was keeping their attention. Little by little we made several changes to what we call “Bible time”, and now it is a time that each of us look forward to.
Of course every family is different and every family will hopefully be able to find something that works for them. I’d just like to share what has been working for us. Our kids are Taylor, age 4 and Hudson, age 2.
Timing of Family Worship
We have discovered that if we do our “Bible time” at the dinner table right after dinner, we can not only keep the kids contained, but also prevent them from goofing off with toys. Also, we keep each element of our worship short. I mean, very short! Here are the sections we think are important:
Last year Taylor was in a Scripture memory program at our church. She had a Bible verse every week to memorize and a story to read. She loved going, and we loved it too because it was such an easy but effective way to learn Scripture. This year my husband and I both felt we wanted to have a more active role in teaching her Bible verses. So instead of participating in the church's program, we have a dedicated time during Bible Time to teach verses. We are using a book called Truth and Grace Memory Book. This is a great little book that my sister shared with us. By the time the book is finished, each child will have memorized entire passages of Scripture, catechisms, hymns, and the books of the Bible.
Jesus replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." Matthew 22:37
Hudson, age 2. Obviously we're still working on this one!
I print out each verse from the book on a card for the kids. When they can say the whole verse without any help they get a sticker. Then they have the opportunity to say a previous verse and put a small star sticker on the back of that verse’s card. Side note: stickers to my children are like new outfits to me :)
Another side note: when I was young we memorized everything in the New International Version of the Bible. Now I notice a trend toward the English Standard Version (ESV). I used to think people were really stubborn when they said they couldn’t memorize or read anything other than the New King James Version. And now I guess I am old and stubborn as well. We are using the ESV, but I am definitely struggling with making the switch!
I really love that memorizing Bible verses is now a family event instead of just a program for the preschooler. Hearing my kids ask to say their verses is one of the highlights of my day.
Next we read a story from The Beginner’s Bible. Each story is about 2 minutes long and has a picture. These stories are short enough that we still have enough attention from the little ones to ask a couple of questions about them.
Usually my husband or I say a brief prayer. Once in a great while, our 4 year old will want to pray, saying something like, “Dear God, thank you for Jonah. Amen” And our 2 year old will say “the end”. We always hold hands while we pray. Does everyone do that? I hope so. I think it is so sweet to have a soft little hand resting in mine!
At the beginning of each week I get an email with the next Sunday’s worship schedule. We pick one song that we will be singing the next Sunday and use it for our song during the week. The kids pick up on these songs so quickly. Our reason for doing this is so that Taylor (who sits through the worship services with us) will be able to sing at least one song each Sunday. She is too shy to do this right now, but maybe someday she’ll be different.
At this point in Bible Time, we all migrate to the living room. My husband and I can’t sing. So we sing along to a version of our song-for-the-week on iTunes :) (or youtube if we don’t own the song). The kids usually spin around in circles while the song plays.
Years ago my husband’s aunt gave us a little book called Family Worship in the Bible, in History, and in Your Home by Donald S. Whitney. It is an easy read that has been very useful to us. I definitely recommend it for every Christian family.
I’m guessing that our Bible Time will continue to change as the kids get older. The purpose in writing this article is not to advocate for a legalistic routine for worshiping the Lord as a family. And it is definitely not meant to say that our way is the only or best way. My goal is to hopefully encourage some parents who have been struggling trying to find something that will work for their family. And I also hope this will encourage other families who have not yet considered having a family worship time. God is worthy of our worship!