When Paul and Abbie's first child, Jessica, was about 6 months old, they began to wonder about involving her in family worship. Up until then Jessica had sat on their laps while they read devotional books, studied their Bible, and prayed together, but both Paul and Abbie thought that she was getting old enough to have her own special worship time.
Paul came from a family in which family worship happened now and then. When it happened, it was good and the whole family enjoyed it. But his parents were very busy on their farm and were often too tired to have worship.
Abbie came from a home where family worship meant sitting still for a long time and being read chapters from the Bible. The family sang hymns together and studied their Sabbath school lessons. Abbie had found this boring and frustrating, and she didn't want Jessica to experience the dry family worships that she had sat through.
Paul and Abbie knew that Jessica would need short and simple worships while she was a baby. But she would soon be moving around and talking, and they wanted to offer her the best family worship experiences possible-not erratic like those of Paul's family, or dry and boring like those of Abbie's, but something that would be the highlight of their family life together.
Are you also wanting to have meaningful family worships? Then try these steps that have worked wonders for many families.
Start with you. The most important gift that Paul and Abbie can give Jessica is a passionate desire to love God and to follow and serve Him. It's hard to pass on a vibrant relationship with God if we don't have our own living and growing relationship with a loving God.
Children are inspired by the role models of their parents' relationships with God, so it's very important that we nurture our own spiritual development through Bible study, prayer, scriptural meditation, etc. Take the time to talk to your children about your own faith and relationship with God in ways that they can understand.
Pray for your family and your children, as well as for yourself. Let your children see and hear you praying for them. Together, look for answers to your prayers to help them develop their trust in God, but also remind them that God knows best, and sometimes the answers come in ways that we're not expecting or even wanting.
Experience God's grace and forgiveness for yourself so that you can pass this on to your children. Grace is about God loving us no matter what we have done-just because we are His children. This is one of the most beautiful aspects of the Christian faith. Learn how to put God's grace into action in your family by offering forgiveness and showing acceptance when your children make mistakes or accidentally break or spoil something. Deal with your children in the way God has patiently dealt with you. Think about how God has gently disciplined you as you consider how to discipline your child in a way that will bring them closer to God.
Show them God's amazing love by the way you manage them with caring gentleness. Read 1 Corinthians 13 and think about how that kind of love can make a difference in your parenting.
Plan ahead. Planning your worships is an important key to their success. It can help if you take some time each week to plan your worship schedule and activities. Use your children's lesson guides for the week or use a children's devotional book to inspire you. Look for Christian books that have ideas for activities or worksheets.
It is wonderful if you can manage an amazing multisensory, interactive worship each day of the week, but if you start off too ambitiously, you could easily burn out. It may be best to start with a simple schedule and then become more creative as you build up your experience and resources.
Schedule family worships. It can be hard to find a good time to have family worship in a busy family schedule. Some families manage to have interesting worships morning and evening. Some choose to have a family prayer together in the morning and have a longer worship in the evening when everyone is less rushed.
Mika's family has morning worship in the car on the way to school. She finds that she has the most energy first thing in the morning. She uses CDs of Bible stories and Christian music and also makes use of the things in the car or along the road, or whatever the boys are interested in, and blends these into their drive-time worships. She talks to them about God's love for them, discusses their Sabbath school lessons, and invites the boys to pray.
Gina has her unchurched grandchildren only on Saturdays, so she plans a lively, activity-based worship for Saturday afternoons.
Kylie and Jake found that it works best for them to have a simple family prayer in the morning, and then to spend time having short worships with each of the children at their different bedtimes. On Friday nights they plan a special worship together, trying to involve all the children in a lively spiritual activity, with the older ones helping the younger ones.
Abbie and Paul decided to try a short worship with Jessica in the evenings, just before her bedtime, because she was often still asleep when Paul left for work in the morning. They included a story from an attractive toddler's picture Bible, a simple prayer, and a song.
Keep on going. Maintaining a lively, interactive, grace-filled, Spirit-led, Christ-centered family worship means staying connected with your children. As Jessica grows up, Paul and Abbie will need to keep talking to God, to each other, and to Jessica about how family devotions will work best for them. They will also need to listen to Jessica's ideas about family worship. They will need to keep praying, keep things fresh, and keep on growing.
The good news is that Paul, Abbie, and the rest of us aren't working alone-we are all working hand in hand with the Holy Spirit as we guide our children toward Jesus and the eternal life we all want to share together.
Karen Holford works with her husband, Bernie, as the associate director of Family and Children's Ministry in the South England Conference. She is also a family therapist and an author and has written eight books, including 100 Quick and Easy Worship Ideas for Kids and 100 Creative Prayer Ideas for Kids (and grown-ups too!). She has three teenage children, and when she does have spare time, she enjoys developing creative worship experiences, quilting, walking, and interior design.