The Gilles family and worship

Series introduction: Family worship doesn’t save; only Jesus can do that. But I’m convinced that the practice of coming together as a family to worship God in the home is sorely needed in our homes today. Because there’s no specific to-do list in the Bible about family worship, I’ve struggled this year to work out what it looks like for us when I’m leading my own growing family.

To encourage myself and others about this, I’ve interviewed a few families that Cheryl and I respect and look up to, learning from them what they do, what they don’t, how they struggle, how they persevere with intentionally leading their families to know and love Jesus Christ.

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One of the benefits of being in the wider body of Christ is the ability to be sharpened and encouraged by friends from all over the world. Bobby and Kristen have been one such family to us, particularly via their blog, from which they regularly spin out helpful articles about worship, songwriting, hymnology, church communications and other related topics. 

I always love how relentlessly they point readers and listeners to the gospel in all areas of life – particularly last year when they went through the trial of having a stillborn childBobby has co-written several Sojourn Music songs (a family favourite is “Warrior”, which E has been known to stomp excitedly to). Whatever they’re up to, you can tell that for Bobby and Kristen, the gospel is at the centre of everything they do.

Kristen and Bobby were kind enough to answer some questions about what worship looks like in their home.

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1. Tell us a bit more about your family.

Kristen: Bobby and I got married 3 years ago and at that time I became the stepmother to his three sons, Garrett (17), Logan (14) and Connor (10). Parker, our first child together, was stillborn last October. We continue to share great joy over Parker’s new life in Christ and the reality that we will know and fellowship with him in heaven, even as we mourn being temporarily separated from our son. We are also comforted by and find great joy in the growing relationships with have with Garrett, Logan and Connor.

We live in New Albany, Indiana and have Garrett, Logan and Connor with us every other week. We work in Louisville, KY—Bobby is the Communications Director for Sojourn Community Church (also where we are members) and I work full-time as a legal administrative assistant at a large law firm.

2. Can you describe what family worship looks like in your home?

Kristen: Bobby intentionally plans our family devotion times together with the boys. After each evening supper we share with them, Bobby will read the Scriptures to our family (and sometimes other devotional books) and then ask the boys questions about the readings. Bobby also intentionally talks with the boys about the Gospel on walks, car rides, and other times. We’ve also begun practicing ACTS prayer that includes Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication (ACTS).  Our times of singing together happen as we gather with the church on Sunday mornings.

3. Did your parents lead/practice family worship when you grew up? What did it look like?

Kristen: My parents led me and my sister and two brothers in weekly family devotionals. As worship leaders at our church, my parents would also lead us at home in singing songs of praise and praying for known needs in our family and in our church family. My dad regularly read or recited Bible stories to us and my mom would sing to and with us throughout our days growing up. I remember a lot of singing, praying and reading the Scriptures in our home. I’m very thankful for this now, even if I got bored with (or annoyed by) it sometimes as a kid!

Bobby: My parents frequently read to us from the Bible and occasionally other devotional literature. My mom actually wrote a story about Jesus feeding thousands with the little boy’s lunch, which was a favorite story in our home. I should also mention that we went to church services a LOT when I was growing up, as many used to do. We went twice on Sundays and every Thursday, as well as longer convention meetings three times a year. We also always ate supper and prayed together, even when two out of the three of us siblings were in high school.

4. What’s convinced you to start family worship in your home? Why is it important?

Kristen: Bobby was already practicing these devotional times with his boys before he and I got married. It was natural for us to continue this practice together as a blended family. He and I share the same vision for raising all of our children according to the Gospel by which we are saved. We pray regularly for them to be saved and to grow in fearing God and honoring (and treasuring) His Word.

Bobby: I believe that parents have a duty to pastor their homes well, rather than simply leave all spiritual disciplines and teaching up to the local church.

5. Kristen, you help lead gathered worship at Sojourn. Isn’t that the best place for worship to happen, led and experienced in the gathered church? Why another time of worship at home?

Kristen: Worshiping together as a family with the gathered church is certainly a healthy practice.  Our children need to experience and participate in (like we do) the building up of the saints in the corporate gathering through hearing God’s Word preached, singing God’s Word back to Him and to each other in praise, praying and confessing our sins together and being continually assured of God’s glorious Gospel of grace toward sinners. We also need to be charged corporately as a family of believers to be on God’s mission in the world.

But worship is all of life and so it’s also fitting to share times of worship together in our homes and community groups (also little churches) throughout the week. Regular times of individual Bible study and prayer are vital for growing into maturity in Christ, and this is something we should be teaching/modeling to our children as they grow up under our stewardship.

6. Bobby, you’ve written a book about families and worship, “Our Home is Like A Little Church“. Could you tell us more about this?

Bobby: Sojourn’s Family Pastor Jared Kennedy asked me and another church member, Lindsey Blair, to write the book. The concept was Jared’s. And another member, Tessa Janes, drew the illustrations. The concept is simple – it teaches that every Christian home is a “little church” where the father teaches his children God’s commands and leads them to worship God. It’s convicting to me, because I frequently fall short of it.

7. How do you guard the time to have family worship consistently?

Kristen: Since we don’t have the boys with us full-time, we are very careful to guard the times we do have with them by not scheduling too many other events that disrupt our family rhythm. Bobby and I are very intentional about being present at home with the boys, and we are diligent to spend time together praying and reading God’s Word before and after meals (it’s good to gather around the table!). As the boys have gotten older and are participating in more extra-curricular activities, we have to be even more guarded and disciplined in our family devotional life.

8. Do you use the bible, or other resources? If so, what?

Since the boys are older now, we don’t use any “children’s music” resources. We do play a lot of worship music at home as well as in the car.

We’re currently praying together a lot, using the A.C.T.S. model (Adoration-Confession-Thanksgiving-Assurance).

We read through books of the Bible mostly. We somewhat follow the Christian liturgical calendar in our devotional readings (for instance, Advent-related passages during December), as well as following Sojourn’s preaching calendar (our pastors are preaching a sermon series on the Gospel of John, so we recently read John as a family).

We’ve supplemented with many other books. We studied apologetics for awhile and read through the children’s version of all Lee Strobel’s “Case For ___” books. Currently we’re working through Dave Ramsey’s Teen Financial Peace materials. We’ve also read Spurgeon devotionals together.

9. One piece of advice for the family or married couple wondering how to start?

Don’t set the bar too high. If you try to conceive of a rigid liturgy with all kinds of readings, sing-a-longs, and prayers, you’ll wear yourselves (and your kids) out. It would be better to start with, say, 5 minutes of devotional time. Start with a brief prayer and a chapter in the Bible or Bible storybook. Then maybe end with one short song.

10. One piece of encouragement for the family that’s finding it hard to keep going?

It’s like anything else – it becomes easier over time if you can get to the place where it becomes a habit. That’s why the spiritual disciplines are also called “spiritual habits.” When situations or seasons of life make it harder to get together, come up with a workable adjustment plan. Again, it would be better to have 5 minutes a day than 30 minutes, once a month.

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Other posts in this series:

  1. “Here the reformation begins” – my introduction
  2. The Richardsons and family worship
  3. The Davisons and family training
  4. The Fleeners and family worship
  5. The Anyabwiles and family worship
  6. The Waltz family and worship
  7. The Dhinakars and Kudumba Jebam / family prayer
  8. The Fuatas and family worship
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