In the fall of 2015, I sat in a chair at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for a weekend class on spiritual disciplines. Everything was good and fine until the professor, Dr. Whitney, started preaching (not just teaching) to us on the importance of family worship. Everything he said up to that point was certainly healthy and nutritious insight, but the topic of family worship was one I will never forget.
I was cut to the heart. I sat in that seminary class embarrassed before the Lord, wondering how is was possible to give myself with such passion to the church, but yet not give the same energy to my family? I knew this. I had heard this before. So why had I not followed through?
I suppose that mature Christian believers are not so much in need of new information, but rather living in daily acknowledgement, exploration, and obedience to the same basic Biblical truths (truths we need reminding of every new morning – I am no exception). This is especially true in youth ministry, where leaders not only have to know the value of family worship in the home, but encourage, instruct, and sometimes even nudge families into living this out.
In my experience in youth ministry, I’ve never met a dad who did not at least desire to lead his home in worship. I’ve never heard a father say: “I don’t want to,” or “We just don’t have the time.” What I hear from dad’s time and again is: “I don’t know how,” or “I feel like a hypocrite.”
If our youth ministries have any hope at bringing kingdom change into the lives of our students, then we need to continue beating the drum of partnering with parents. Here is one way to start, and it is a massive difference-maker. Encourage the parents of your students to begin family worship in the home. If they need help (which we all do), hand them this short, easy to read book by Dr. Donald Whitney, called Family Worship.
The following 15 quotes totally knocked me over and I hope they can offer encouragement and wisdom to fellow student leaders.
“The minister’s widow told me that the greatest regret of her life was that her late husband had not begun leading their family in the daily worship of God together until after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.” (14)
“My brother said, ‘Dad, the oldest memory I have is of tears streaming over your face as you taught us from Pilgrim’s Progress on Sunday evenings how the Holy Spirit leads believers. [When I was only] three, God used you in family worship to convict me that Christianity was real.’” (15)
“Eighty-five percent of parents with children under age 13 believe they have primary responsibility for teaching their children about religious beliefs and spiritual matters. However, a majority of parents don’t spend any time during a typical week discussing religious matters or studying religious materials with their children. . . . Parents generally rely upon their church to do all of the religious training their children will receive.” from Barna group (17)
“How did Isaac know that they did not have everything necessary for a sacrifice? How did he know that the worship of God involved fire, wood, and a lamb? Or that the lamb would be sacrificed as a burnt offering? Isaac knew these things because he must have long been familiar with sacrifices and the worship of God.” (24)
“Consistent, father-led family worship is one of the best, steadiest, and most easily measurable ways to bring up children in the Lord’s ‘discipline and instruction.’” (36)
“Did you realize that a proven commitment to family worship is implied as one of the qualifications for being an elder (that is, a pastor) 1 Tim. 3.” (36-37)
“Luther preached almost every day, pastored a church, and wrote massive amounts of theology and Bible commentary. But he also recognized that like any other Christian husband and father, he had the responsibility ‘to be the worship-leading pastor of his family.’” (43-44)
“On the Scotland confession of 1647, any man who dared abandon his family spiritually in this way was to receive church discipline.” (46-47)
“And it was Matthew Henry who made one of the most remarkable of all statements on this subject. Regarding family worship he said, ‘Here the reformation must begin.’” (51)
“Mr. Spurgeon, when bowed before God in family prayer, appeared a grander man even than when holding thousands spellbound by his oratory.” (58-59)
“Jonathan Edwards: ‘Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little Church.’” (63-64)
“Read enthusiastically and interpretively. In other words, don’t be one of those people who reads the Bible as apathetically as if reading a phone directory out loud. It is the Word of God—read it to the best of your ability.” (66)
“Single women—resolve not to marry a man who will not pray with you and lead you in worship daily.” (100)
“Empty nesters, Rather than grieving over what you should have done for your children in family worship years ago, begin family worship now and let that be an example not only of your continued growth as a Christian, but also of what your adult children can likewise begin to do.” (100-101)
“In family worship, be brief, be regular, and be flexible.” (75,76)