For many Christian parents any mention of "family worship" can induce a cold sweat, a sense of guilt, and an awareness of their inadequacies. But family worship shouldn't be a burden that Christian families avoid, rather, it should be a joy they look forward to each day.
Sometimes the best way to begin a new practice—or begin again—is to see it modelled for you. In R.C. Sproul Jr.'s contribution to Holy, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God, he includes a section that outlines how his family practices family worship. We've adapted that section and will be posting it over the next three weeks.
Remember, as R.C. Sproul Jr. states in his chapter, this is not a "Sproul Jr. liturgy" that we all must follow, but a practical example that we pray will be helpful.
Right now in our lives, we practice family worship right after supper. We used to have family worship right before the kids went to bed. Either one is fine for us, but there is a practical reason for doing it in that time frame. Every day, no matter what, we eat supper and we go to bed, so we have a pair of alarm clocks that tell us we cannot escape our call to do this. We think, "Oh, we just finished eating, it's time," or, "We're about to go to bed, it's time."
After supper, I'll ask one of the children, "Please gather the things for worship." We have a place where we keep the worship materials, and one of the children will go and get the stack of books and things, and place it on the table in front of me.
Away From Home Or With Guests
By the way, if we're not at home, we modify things a little bit. We have worship in the car sometimes. If we're at a friend's house or even a stranger's house, we don't impose on him or her and say, "Well, thank you for supper, it's now time for the Sproul family to have worship." If we have a guest at our house, we try to make an assessment of his or her spiritual maturity and then make a decision. We might ask ourselves,"Will this make our guest angry, or will he like this?" If it likely will make him mad, we probably won't do it.
When we are at home, we start with our catechism work. Catechism is a word that is unfamiliar to many today. A catechism is simply a tool for teaching basic biblical content to those who are young or new to the faith. A catechism typically consists of questions and answers. The parent asks the child a question, and the child gives the answer.
We use two different catechisms. We have a children's catechism that consists of fifty questions. Each of the questions is five or six words and each of the answers is about three words. I ask my son Reilly, who is three years old, "Reilly, who made you?" Reilly says, "God." I say, "What else did God make?" He says, "Everything." As you can see, the questions and answers are very short. We teach these to the very small children, and when they learn these things, we celebrate. We don't bribe. We don't buy them off. But we do celebrate. When one learns the entire children's catechism, the whole family goes out for ice cream, because Daddy likes ice cream.
When the children get bigger, we move to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which has slightly longer questions and answers. There are 107 of these. When the children master them all, I take them skiing, because Daddy likes skiing.
We have a "sophisticated" system by which we do the memory work. It goes like this. I say to the children: "Daddy says, 'What is man's chief end?' You say, 'Man's chief end …'"
They say, "Man's chief end …"
I say, "… is to glorify God …"
They say, "… is to glorify God …"
Finally, I say, "… and enjoy him forever."
They say, "… and enjoy him forever."
We do that, and after a couple of days they get it. As I said, it's a terribly complicated system.
Next week, in part two, R.C. Sproul Jr. will discuss how his family incorporates Scripture memory, Scripture reading, and prayer in family worship.