I was surprised at the response to my Tri-Moms post on family worship. I'll admit I was nervous about addressing the topic because the reaction to our decision to worship at home has not always been positive. Several of you have asked questions (about tithing and communion and fellowship). I will get to those later this week, but for now, this is a look at our family devotions time.
Family devotions at our house is a weekly event, much like going to church would be. We pray together daily as a family and during the school year, the kids and I daily work on our memory verses and read the Bible together, but our more in-depth study as a family is a once-a-week affair. Brian has been struggling for years to find something that all of the kids-- from the youngest to the oldest-- can engage in together. We don't like fluff, but we still want something to engage them on their level.
For about a year now, Brian has been working with them through Shirley's Dobson's My Bible Coloring Book. Each page lists the Bible reference for a particular story and he reads to us straight from the Bible (either the NIV or the NLT). We all discuss it and Brian usually asks questions and asks someone to tell the story back to him. After we are done, we pray together and then the kids run to the table to color their picture.
Several weeks ago he chose to take a break from the coloring books to work our way through The Answers Book for Kids series written by Ken Ham. We chose this series as a continuation of the worldview study we began in the winter. Each of the four books in the series addresses a different general topic. (Volume 1 is Creation and the Fall. Volume 2 is Dinosaurs and the Flood of Noah. Volume 3 is God and the Bible. Volume 4 is Sin, Salvation, and the Christian Life.) The books are recommended for ages 6-12, but Owen, our almost 5-year-old, can grasp many of the concepts. Who wouldn't like to read a whole lesson about whether Adam and Eve had belly buttons?!
Family devotions time is a happy and flexible time. Sometimes we go outside. Sometimes everyone sits around the coffee table with cookies (and coffee for Daddy). We expect respect and reverence, but we do let the kids be relaxed.
This is another aspect Brian has been working on with the kids for a long time! He wants them to understand that praying is nothing more than talking to God. He wants them to thank Him as well as ask Him for things. Some of the kids have a tendency to say a rote prayer, "Thanks for my day. Thanks for everything you've given us," every time and not think about what they really want to say so we're all working on that together.
We pray aloud during our family time. Usually Brian assigns an order: Gavin then Owen then Ben (yes, the 2-year-old prays, too!) and so on. Last week, we tried something new. Brian began the prayer and then he paused. Whatever child wanted to go next could then jump in and when they were done, they would pause. Then the next child could begin. No one was require to pray, but everyone did. I ended the prayer after everyone else had their chance.
Worship is not complete without singing our praise. We don't often include this in our family time, though maybe we should. However, we are always, always singing in our house. Since Gavin was a baby, we have listened to "Hide 'Em In Your Heart", a 2-volume set of scriptures set to music.
I also want my children to be familiar with the words of the old hymns. We (as in all of us-- the whole family) love Kids' Praise 7: "Psalty's Hymnological Adventure Through Time", a fun musical CD of the stories behind a handful of well-known hymns. We also discovered "Hymns For A Kid's Heart" in the spring. We were able to enjoy Volume 1 (which I believe is out of print) from our local library, but we ordered Volume 4 to keep for our own and to use in our coming school year.
We choose to live the words of Psalm 34:1: "I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips." We want our relationship with the Lord to be ever-changing, ever-growing. Therefore, our family worship and family devotions time is just a springboard to a life of praise and devotion to our Savior.