Tips for Meaningful Family Worship (For Families with Young Kids)
For Christian parents, discipleship of our kids has got to be the number one priority. One vital component of discipleship parenting is family worship. If you haven’t already read my post about why you should be having family worship, take a minute and read it now. I’ll wait.
Okay, so now that we’re all on the same page and you’re convinced (or you’ve been reminded) of how necessary family worship is for you and yours, let’s talk about how to make this worship time successful.
Before we go any further, though, let me remind you that some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. I only post products that I have used and actually recommend. I’ve marked any affiliate text links with a * for easy identification.
Make family devotions consistent with your family life
We can’t force our children to love Jesus. We can’t coerce our kids into true respect for God. Those things will come in time with the work of the Holy Spirit. The best we can do is provide positive God-encounters, daily immersion in Christian life, and prayer and encouragement (from ourselves and the other members of our villages who are setting great Christian examples).
Family worship alone will not be enough to lead your children into personal, saving relationships with Christ.
If realities of daily family life are constantly contradicting the lessons and principals you’re talking about during devotions, devotions may even end up being a negative influence on your child’s long-term spiritual health. Kids thrive on connection (actually all humans do), and if your worships are disconnected from the way you’re actually living life, they will not make sense to your kids. You’ll be running the risk of teaching them what many frustrated young people have already concluded: that Christians are hypocritical.
I’m not saying you need to be perfect. We all fall short of the spiritual example we should be setting, at times. God will give us the help we need to teach by example if we ask. We all need forgiveness and grace. But if you’re trash talking the neighbors all day, and preaching about loving them for 5 minutes before bedtime…well, you see what I mean.
Parents, let’s pray, practice, and then preach.
5 Tips to Make Family Worship Meaningful
Keep in mind that, while I’ll give you examples of how we do worship in our home, these examples are not meant to be prescriptive. You will need to be intentional about planning a worshipful experience that works for your family, your schedule, and your space.
1. Choose the right setting
Each night we gather in one of our sons’ bedrooms, alternating between them (much to my oldest’s chagrin) to make it fair. All four of us sit on the floor together, and we read a Bible story from one of our favorite books. If we have visitors, we always invite them to join us for worship (or enjoin us, as E usually says).
Obviously you can have worship in any room of the house, but since ours is part of our bedtime routine, we keep it to the boys’ bedrooms (unless we have a lot of guests, in which case we use the living room). If bedtime works for you, great! But maybe early mornings are better for your family. It really doesn’t matter where it is in the schedule, as long as it’s in there.
Once you’ve chosen the time and location, set yourselves up for success by turning off tvs, putting away distracting toys, etc.
When your worship area is settled, you’re ready to move on to the next step.
2. Make family worship a habit
It’s not enough to have family worship once in awhile. Of course any is better than none, but in order to gain its full benefits, family worship needs to become an integral part of the routine.
To accomplish this, you’ll have to make worship a priority. Try not to skip it! If you can stick with the time you’ve chosen every day, it will be a lot easier to form a worship habit. Of course there are times you’ll need to be flexible, but it’s better to move worship (or even shorten it) than to miss it altogether. Tell your kids why there’s a change in the schedule, and let them know how important family worship is to you, especially when life is crazier than usual.
We choose shorter stories on evenings when our schedule is cramped or if the boys are just too tired to sit through a longer one. Often we choose one story from Bible Stories for Little Ones: A Frances Hook Picture Book * when we’re short on time. It was a gift to us from a friend and it’s full of stories about children in the Bible, one story per page, short and sweet!
Since my husband is a pastor, he doesn’t have a regular 9 to 5 and he has to miss our family worship time more often than we’d like, but we worship without him. Even if you’re a parent down, make worship a can’t-miss part of your day. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that if you and your partner are away from your kids you should leave them with someone who will keep family worships going in your absence. It’s that important.
3. Keep family devotions relational
Okay guys, this is where the rubber really hits the road. In my research on the best way to structure family worship experiences, I’ve realized that making family devotions relational for every participant is a key factor in making worship a positive experience for kids. (source) In our home, I’d have to say that we need to step up our game in this aspect of family worship.
Family worship is much more effective for forming lasting relationships with God when you make it a relational experience for everyone involved.
Bible stories are great, hymns and songs of praise are wonderful, but for family devotions to be truly meaningful, there needs to be a component of personal sharing and real-life applications of spiritual lessons.
As a former teacher, this makes perfect sense to me (Bloom’s Taxonomy, anyone?). If we can understand a concept (spiritual or otherwise), digest it, and apply it to our own lives, then we can begin to produce something new and unique from our understanding.
Make devotions age-appropriate
Part of making family devotions relational is ensuring that what you’re doing fits the range of ages and attention spans in your family.
Family worship with young children should take as much time as needed, but no more. This is not the time for lengthy Bible commentary and an in-depth reading of the book of Revelation. Share and discuss for as long as participation is enthusiastic, and then wind down.
There’s no need to ‘dumb things down’ for kids, but do make it kid-friendly. If you want to read the stories straight from the Bible, that’s great! Choose a version that uses language your children will understand, and choose stories or verses they can relate to. We use Bible story books for our family worships, and read straight from the Bible during our personal devotion times (more on this in another post).
Currently, we’re reading through the The Jesus Storybook Bible * and we think it’s pretty great. It ends every story with a connection to Christ and the Plan of Salvation, which is a pretty spectacular setup for helping your kiddos understand that each Bible story is there to help tell the story of Jesus as our Savior. (I bought the deluxe edition with audio cds because toddler audio books are perfect for road trips!)
Don’t worry about trying to fit everything in to your worship time every single day. We have found that 10-15 minutes works best for our toddler. Since we have an infant now, too, we try to keep it closer to that 10-minute mark (or even less).
We usually start with a story, then talk about praises and prayer requests, and pray together. I know families that always start or finish with a song, and I’m not even sure why we don’t! (We do a lot of singing throughout the day, though, so worship songs are a big part of our lives.) Again, do what works for your family here. Just keep in mind the shortest attention span in the family, and try to keep your worship to something that will work for that person.
4. Prioritize prayer
However you customize your worship, make prayer an important part of it! It’s vital that we teach our kids to pray, because there’s no better connection to God than through prayer.
There are so. many. methods. for teaching children to pray, and honestly we haven’t used any one method. We’re focusing on teaching our kids to pray for what’s on their hearts, thank God for things, and to ask for forgiveness when they’ve done wrong. Does my toddler pray perfect prayers every time? Nope. But he’s comfortable and confident to go before God’s throne in prayer, and that’s more important than great oration or remembering all the steps of a prayer acronym at this point in his life.
One thing I would say is that, while memorized prayers can be nice (and easy) for children to learn and say, I would be cautious about using them as the primary means of teaching your kids how to pray.
Prayer is for pouring out our hearts to God in friendship. Teaching our kids to talk to God about what’s on their minds in the moment is crucial in forging their personal relationships with Him.
If they can’t think of anything to say, sometimes it helps to pray one sentence and have your child repeat it until your prayer is done. That’s great practice for them to learn how to do it on their own down the road, and in my opinion, it’s a lot more practical for spiritual health than memorized prayer rhymes.
5. Let the kids lead out in worship
The final tip for successful family worship with small children is to let them take the lead. Obviously I don’t mean that you should totally hand over the reins, but let them make decisions and lead out in various age-appropriate ways. Our 2.5 year old son, E, is often (but not always) allowed to choose which Bible story we read for worship. His absolute favorite worship story books are the ones in the My Bible Friends (5 Volume Set)*.
The end goal is to help kids to form a lasting relationship with God through these family devotional times. and giving them ownership of the experience is key.
Our kids can’t get by on our relationships with God. They must form their own. That means we have to let them start, at an early age, to be leaders for Christ.
Will they make decisions that we wouldn’t? Yep.
Will they always pray beautifully or lead as reverently as we’d like? Nope.
But that’s part of learning. As parents, we’re here to offer support, guidance, and prayerful counsel to our kids. We’re here to set an example and help them to follow it. Loosen your grip on the reins a bit, and let the little ones come to Jesus in ways that make sense to them.
I hope you’ve found some helpful tips for your family devotions in this post. If you think there’s valuable information here, please share it! If you have questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.
I’d love to hear from you if you make any changes to your family worship routine based on this post, or if you have something exciting to add!