By Caleb Archer
I have led my family in daily worship for almost a year now. It’s rarely at the same time each day and it certainly doesn’t look like what I imagined it would. Before I began, I planned to sing three psalms from the Scottish Metric Psalter, read three chapters of the Bible aloud to my wife and son (sharing deep, expository thoughts on the passage), and pray multiple prayers from The Valley of Vision—ending with personal requests and prayer time from everyone in the household.
If your family is anything like mine, you know this regiment is practically impossible. The first few weeks of family worship were a wake-up call. Discouragement ensued, and I wanted to quit. So I ignored my duty to lead my family in worship because it couldn’t be the way I’d imagined. My sights were obviously set too high; I expected too much from my family.
Many men want to give up family worship because it’s difficult. They desire perfection, and since they can’t have it, they give up. Instead, they should conduct family worship without the bells and whistles.
If you’re one of these disillusioned men, start by asking yourself some questions:
1) Are your standards too high?
Family worship is challenging, but not impossible. Joshua was 100 years old when he said, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Israel was plagued with idolatry, and he knew his family must swim against the cultural current (Josh 24:14-15). Joshua knew it would be difficult to lead his family in, but there’s a difference between being difficult and being impossible.
If your children seem frustrated or bored, pray about what steps you should take to help them understand the passages you’re reading. Are they too long? Are your children tired? Is the teaching on their level? Think about what steps you can take to help everyone understand the words of the Lord. This leads us into our next question:
2) Does your family understand what you are reading and teaching?
Reading long or difficult passages of Scripture during family worship may be gratifying to you, but confusing or exasperating for your wife and children. Hold their hands; guide them, and you may find that your worship is richer and deeper.
3) What steps can you take now to be faithful?
When I began family worship, I wanted to read just over three chapters from the Bible every evening to get through all 66 books in a year. It was too difficult for my family at first; I had to scale it down. I had to remind myself that my expectations were not necessarily God’s expectations.
God requires worship, but He doesn’t say I’m required to meet a chapter and verse quota. So we evaluated our vision and settled in to reading a few verses every day. Currently, we’re on track to read the entire New Testament each year.
If the Lord blesses our patience and allows us to read more, that’s great! But I want to make sure my family doesn’t feel like they’re drinking from a fire hydrant every time we have family worship.
4) Do you look forward to family worship
This is a big one. Even though our family goes through seasons, I can say that family worship is my absolute favorite part of our day. My son doesn’t sit still; our family can’t sing well, and my $25 guitar sounds mediocre. Yet worshipping the Lord in our home with my family (and leading them in it!) is an unparalleled, incredible experience.
After I realized I was too astringent with my expectations, I had to make quite a few adjustments to allow my wife and son to stay awake and focused. But after making those adjustments, I have loved family worship more than any other time of my day.
5) Are you actually worshiping?
We often focus on what’s next in family worship, forgetting that we’re worshiping the Lord our God. It’s better to pray for one or two things than to lift a lofty 20-minute prayer to the Lord while your family takes a nap.
It’s better to read a few verses your wife and children can personally apply than to read long passages without any intentional application afterwards.
Family worship is not as difficult as we sometimes make it. Yes, you will be discouraged that your infant would rather eat the psalter than sing it. Yes, there will be times your wife is chasing your children down instead of focusing on the lesson. Some nights, all you can do is read one verse, pray, and go to bed. This shouldn’t discourage you. It should inspire you to move forward and look toward the continued sanctification of your household.