Tag Archives: family worship

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.

—————-

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.

—————-

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.

——————-

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

The Fuatas and family 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.

—————-

For a family with seven kids, Rob and Maria are some of the most laid-back, easy-going parents we’ve met. Rob is always quick to offer a laugh, while Maria is a constant wellspring of encouraging words. Their children fan out all over church on Sunday, and recently we’ve had Tahina join in the young adult homegroups during the week.

The Fuatas were one of the earliest families to join HBC after Peter Somervell joined as Senior Pastor (perhaps single-handedly doubling the Sunday School roll at the time!) They were one of the many families who welcomed us when we were still new to the church in 2008. I remember one Sunday service in that first year where we celebrated Maria’s baptism and profession of faith in Christ. Rob works in IT and is especially skilled in setting up WiFi networks (including our church’s), while Maria is an accountant by training but now keeps tabs on the Fuata clan full-time.

Maria kindly answered some questions about what family worship looks like in their busy home.

—————-

1. Tell us a bit more about your family.

We are originally from a tiny island called Rotuma (North East of Fiji); Rob and I were born and raised in Fiji and immigrated to NZ in 2003 with 3 kids. Fast forward 10 years and we now have a child in every level of the NZ education spectrum from Kindy (Tamia – 4); Primary (Tianne – 6, Tamara – 7 & Aaron – 9); Intermediate (Talia – 11); College (Wilson – 18) and University (Tahina – 19)!

I think each one of us brings something unique and special to what makes us a family. We love, share, fight, cry, laugh, joke, eat, play and hang out together 24/7, 7 days a week! Dad and the kids all love sports (mum loves cheering from the side). We also spend a lot of time with our extended family and are very involved in our Rotuman cultural group here in NZ.

2. So what happens in your home for family worship?

Over the years we’ve done our family worship first in segments and then together as a family. In the first segment, one parent reads a lesson and bible reading from John Macarthur’s “I Believe In Jesus” for the littlies (Tamia, Tianne, Tamara) while the other parent takes the primary/intermediates (Talia and Aaron) through “A Faith to Grow On”. We then do our full family worship where Rob leads our prayer using a list on his iPad. This is a real joy where as a family we discuss our prayer points from church, family and especially when prayer has been answered. We then tuck in the littlies into bed then carry on with the older kids (“Training Hearts, Teaching Minds” by Starr Meade).

However, recently we’ve started reading the Bible in chronological order as a family, which has been very enlightening for all of us. It was very interesting reading through Job together and while it seemed to drag on in some parts, I will never forget the littlies’ faces when we talked about how God made the lightning and thunder, galaxy and storm towards the end of Job, because it was during those stormy winter nights in Auckland.

Time is our biggest challenge – we have resorted to some days following our full family worship guide and the other days just the reading of a Psalm and family prayer.

4. How do you cater family worship for such a wide age range in your house, and have your kids involved?

I think it comes down to being flexible and willing to keep things interesting and engaging but at the same time providing a foundation and routine for what our family worship is about.

Using the different resources has definitely helped offer gospel truths tailored to different ages, while keeping it simple, interesting but sound biblically as well.

A couple of times Rob has played a “Way of the Master” video as our family worship or even read an article from “Voice of the Martyrs” newsletters about fellow believers being persecuted, this has been an eye-opener for all of us.

The kids take turns in reading a Psalm before we start our bible reading. It sometimes ends up in tears when we forget who read the last time (monitoring and tracking who did what last is a key to getting family worship on time in the Fuata household!) The kids are also given the opportunity to pray at the end of our devotions, as we feel we need to teach them how to talk to God and how important prayer is.

We have also found that it can be useful to use life-changing moments/events that affect our teens to bring them back to the gospel. For example, the recent suicide of a very close friend of our teens was an opportunity for us to address the issue for their salvation.

5. Do you guys incorporate singing in your family devotions?

Personally, I think praise and worship songs at the beginning and then at the end help set the right tone for our family worship. I am the one tasked with compiling our worship songs (though this is largely a work in progress!)

We also love to sing children’s praises with the guitar (Wilson plays the guitar) and the kids love to do action songs from Sunday School. Plus a family favourite is playing a worship song via the Apple TV with the lyrics on the TV like those on the Gospel Project.

Just recently I was amazed to discover some awesome old Rotuman hymns that sing of the gospel truths, so I’m excited to try and teach the rest of the family (who dont speak Rotuman i should add!)

6. How do you guard your times for family worship?

As the kids have gotten older, this has been more challenging, especially with club and school sports, extra-curricular activities at school, family meetings and gatherings, bible study groups etc. Plus juggling work, school runs, getting dinner done as well. We try to have one particular night in the week for all of us to be home and worship together. 

What Rob has tried to instill into our family is that 7.15pm is family worship, and whatever you’re doing, it needs to stop, and you need to make your way to the sitting room. Sometimes this has meant half-eaten dinner after training, but it was the best time before the littlies start to get too tired and most kids would’ve have had time to shower after training. But on average, family worship time has really been at 7.30ish… which means we just get used to 1 or 2 littlies ending up horizontal by the end of the prayer!

7. Why is family worship important to you?

As parents we are the first teachers of our faith to our children and it is our God-given roles to do so. Teaching and leading our children to saving faith is our primary calling, and while we continue to care, nurture and love them, ultimately it is their salvation that we are most focussed on.

So family worship is a significant part of this responsibility in action. Of course, the truths that we learn from Gods word as a family also translates to how we live our lives each day and the every day reminders that we are sinners, of our we need for a saviour, and that salvation is only found in the person of Jesus Christ and what He did on that cross on Calvary.

Most importantly, its teaching our kids that we ourselves as parents are in much need of God’s grace as they are, for we are far from perfect.

8. Both of you became Christians after most of your children were born. Is it too late to start family worship once your children are in their teens?

We have been very fortunate to be exposed to solid gospel doctrine from the outset through Rob’s brother Nick who strongly recommended materials for our family worship and growing our faith. Rob pretty much took the lead making the change in our family. While it is difficult to start even at the Intermediate age, we have tried and continue to persevere, for we know as parents, that is our role.

Its a difficult one with pre-teens and teens alike, but I must say its very fulfilling and heart-warming when you can discuss these gospel truths with your teens, even if they still say they don’t profess their faith just yet. It’s definitely not too late because we know we have planted the seed. Our job is to teach them God’s Word and to be used to lead them to salvation. We have faith in the fact that God saves no matter what age or circumstances.

9. What resources have you found helpful in leading family worship?

It is so important to get good resources to use with your bible. We were blessed in this area – what seemed like a daunting task for a family of our size and mix, became easier than expected because of the gospel-centred resources available through Grace to You, John MacArthur. Denys Tomaselli from Grace Books in Hastings also played a significant part in getting us our resources, but also in our family finding a solid bible-teaching church home.

10. Any last words for readers?

While this all may seem like a lot, to be honest, we have not always been faithful and consistent in following this guide. But by using family worship as an opportunity to teach our children the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we trust they would be better equipped to stand firm amidst the influences and temptations of this world (particularly as our children attend state schools).

As a family we’ve struggled and many times felt like giving up, but there is so much joy when your littlies pray thanking Jesus for dying on the cross to save us (though it’s in God’s timing when He calls our children to saving faith).

Whatever the end result though, the fruits right now is definitely His moulding of Rob and I as parents, and the frequent reminders of our need for His grace each day!

——————-

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

The Dhinakars and Kudumba Jebam / family prayer (interview)

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.

—————-

One of the many blessings from our church hosting a conference each year is the opportunity to meet and make friends with Christians from other churches.

That’s how I first got to know Philip and Nahomi Dhinakar (after they attended STAND 2010).

Over the years we’ve enjoyed meeting them at other events and getting to know their three children: Tim, Lydia and Priscilla, who attend our young adults’ homegroup from time to time. Over the years we’ve enjoyed and benefited from their encouragements, prayers and curiosity. We see the Dhinakars as an example of a house wholly devoted to serving the Lord, as Joshua 24:15 describes.

Nahomi and her children offer a generous(!) glimpse into their lives as a worshipping family, striving by God’s grace to pass the gospel on to their future generations.

—————-

1. Tell us a bit more about your family.

  • Philip – an accountant by trade, reads theology in his free time and takes Bible studies for interested groups among friend-and-family circles.
  • Nahomi – technical writer, dreamed once of starting an orphanage like Amy Carmichael did (but God obviously did not need it).
  • Prisy (24), loves history, good to have on your team for Bible quiz.
  • Tim (22), civil engineering cadet, plays guitar and loves being with other young people zealous for the Lord.
  • Lydia (20), studying to be a nurse, takes an interest in the community and currently serves as Secretary of the Manurewa Youth Council. Loves to sing.

2. Describe what you did the last time you worshipped together as a family.

Typically, Philip and I along with Prisy, Tim, and Lydia gather in the lounge. We are joined by my father GB, who sits down in his special chair, and any others who may be staying/visiting with us at the time. Our cat Millie loves family prayer because it gives her uninterrupted lap time.

The term we use for this activity is Kudumba Jebam which means “family prayer” in Tamil. The whole exercise takes about 20 minutes… Needless to say, prayer is the one component that is always a part of our family worship. Very often we include singing (from our family hymnbook). But Bible reading, listening to sermons, or reading a book are various components that come and go.

When we pray, we go around in a circle mentioning points for thanksgiving and then our petitions. GB who does a lot of evangelising over the phone has plenty of points for both thanksgiving and petitions. In addition to the many easily-discerned earthly blessings and seemingly-pressing material needs, we try to acknowledge and ask for spiritual assistance, in keeping with Colossians 3:2. Philip, who has not taken notes, closes with prayer, fleshing out every point, without missing a single one.

If we come to a season when it is difficult to gather like this, we convert the “Grace” before our evening meal into something a bit more elaborate. Maybe Philip will pray a more comprehensive prayer before the meal or, better still, elicit points for prayer from those seated at the table.

3. Tell me more about your family hymnbook, and how you use it.

In the past we sang from hymn books compiled by GB when he was pastoring our former church in India. It was GB who also introduced us in the 70’s to David & Dale Garratt’s Scripture in Song, a song book we would use in past years along with the hymnal.

The current one was compiled by Tim. He leads the singing, accompanying us on the guitar. Sometimes he uses online musical accompaniment. He has introduced our family to several new and wonderful hymns, much like how GB did in the past.

4. Did your parents practise any sort of family worship when you grew up?

Yes – it is normal for people from traditional Christian backgrounds in south India to have family prayers. Philip remembers regular family prayers in his parental home with his grandmother reading from the prayer book.  My father GB, the son of a Lutheran Pastor, remembers how much his family would struggle to have the family prayers on a regular basis. Impetus for regular family worship can come from tradition and it can come from a real relationship with God. Whichever way this legacy was handed down to us, we are grateful.

My father GB came to faith when I was about five, and so all the family worship that I can remember in my parental home were his heart expression of worship to God and his attempts to move away from anything that smelled of tradition.

The hundreds of family prayers we must have had have all blended into a haze, but I do remember one night vividly when GB read Isaiah 6. I remember being terrified and trying to cover myself completely, during the prayer that followed, with the blanket that I had with me at the time.

The other thing I remember about those family prayers was that my mother and I had no trouble gathering for family prayer during the days when GB told us a little bit every day from David Wilkerson’s The Cross and the Switchblade, he would bring us to a very exciting place in the story and then stop saying, “The story will continue tomorrow.”

4. So what convinced you personally about the importance of family worship?

Nahomi: Family prayer times are an important part of the adherence of the practical principle laid out in Deuteronomy 6:7. Whether we are guiding the conversation to godly things during family prayer times or when we are waiting for the school bus, it rings true to the child only when Christ is real to you.

Lydia: Now that I look back, I am so grateful that I have memorised so many scriptures. It helps me in life, especially now as a young person facing various temptations, struggles, sins, and trials, the memorised chapters and verses seem to just pop up in my head.

Prisy: From the point of view of the child, family worship was where a lot of our spiritual training was done. It was there that we learnt to memorise scripture. It was there that we learnt to pray.  It was there where our questions were answered. Family worship was also where we learnt to grow together in faith. When our family went through its Great Theological Change from a Dispensational Arminian side to the ‘Covenantal’ Reformed side, family worship was where we developed a lot of our understanding.

dhinakar family table

5. What other books, resources have you used as a family? Have you done things differently over the years?

Tim: It has morphed a lot. Almost all stages involved us singing and praying at the end. But we tried to fit the Bible in differently at every stage. In the early stages, were just memorizing passages such as Psalm 23. This I can recall from when I was three or four.

Prisy: We’ve studied certain books of the Bible together (Acts and Nehemiah come to mind). At one time, we were doing John MacArthur’s A Faith to Grow On. We’ve tried reading Pilgrim’s Progress together more than once. The last time we tried, we got up to Christian meeting Hopeful, I think. Sometimes Papa reads from Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. I think a lot depended on how old we were at the time.

Nahomi: I believe I know why Prisy remembers reading the book of Nehemiah; it was because we wrote the names of the builders down on a long roll of paper that, when stood up, looked like a wall itself.

6. Would you do anything differently if you were starting over?

Prisy: I don’t know if our parents could have done things too differently because our family prayers changed and developed according to our circumstances: moving houses, moving to different countries, Dad’s work situation, Mum’s work situation, church circumstances, changes in theology, growing children. Still I think we would have benefited from some more structure and order; a lot of it was just so haphazard.

Nahomi: In India, work hours were crazy. Philip was on call 24/7 and worked till 9pm each weekday and till 7pm on Saturdays. Commuting to and from work was not easy either. When Lydia was six, I went out to work as well. Although Saturdays were usually holidays for me, I had to work late on weekdays and sometimes spent the night in the work place. Time spent with children and nurturing them in the fear of the Lord had to be really high up in our list of priorities, for things to have worked out as they did. What grace and favour we were shown by the Lord that we had that motivation!

7. What’s one thing that’s worked well for your family devotions?

Nahomi: As a child, I had a Sunday School teacher who impressed Psalm 119:11 (“I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you”) to me as she encouraged me to memorise scripture. Sadly, I could not retain more than half of the scriptures I learned by memory as a child. I was determined that my children would not forget the scriptures they memorised, and the Lord showed me a way to do this. I would take a really difficult-to-memorise passage like John 1:1-18, and start composing a tune, phrase by phrase. Musically, to this day, I have no idea what it all means!

Lydia: But we can still remember all of them and can sing them by heart to this day.

8. And one thing that didn’t work so well?

Nahomi: Attempting to read Pilgrim’s Progress has been one of my failures. Tim tells me that it is becauseth I haveth decideth to read it in the original! I have not given up; I am sure that I can bribe them yet. Or maybe I need to give in and instead learn from those days in the 70s when the story of David Wilkerson and Nicky Cruz made family prayers something to look forward to.

9. So now that Tim, Lydia and Prisy are all young adults, do you still fit in family worship into your schedules?

Prisy: I think it’s been quite hard for us to guard the time for family worship, especially with us young ‘uns all grown up. We have so many different commitments, youth fellowships, Bible studies and prayer meetings that it’s really hard to get evenings free to ourselves. It’s just too difficult to schedule time for family worship. But because it’s been such a big part of our family life, we make it a point to have it just whenever we can.

Tim: We’ve tried schedules but they don’t last long. Since someone or other is busy every day of the week with spiritual events, we have stripped family worship to prayer at least. When we have more time we sing and listen to a video/sermon or read something.

10. Final words you’d like to leave for readers?

Nahomi: It is possible for readers to look at a post like this and feel discouraged, thinking that achieving something like this is beyond their reach. In reality, the only reason our story may look alright is because the luxury of looking back over 20 years allows one to overlook many of the failures.  Readers do not see our everyday irritations and moods. Moreover, our adherence to any structure, order, or schedule has been and still is woefully inadequate. So, far from discouraging you, let our family’s case be an example of the grace of God to you.

——————-

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

The Waltz family and worship (interview)

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.

—————-

We’ve known the Waltzes since they moved to New Zealand about a year and a half ago (March 2012). One of the first things I noticed about them was that their children sing in church – even all the adult songs with big words. In fact, they were more engaged in singing than some of the nearby adults! I later learned that Luke teaches them many of the songs we sing at church to the kids.

The Waltzes have temporarily called Auckland home while Luke’s managing a research and development team for Crown Equipment. Kelli homeschools their four children now that they’re in NZ.

In our times together we’ve enjoyed learning more about American culture, delicious home-made pies (with sweet, not savoury fillings), Ohio State University rivalries, and the trials and rewards of parenting four busy kids. Luke was kind enough to answer some questions below.

—————-

1. Tell us a bit more about your family.

We have four children: Nathan 11, Laura 9, Ryan 8, and Elisabeth 5.

We’ve been in New Zealand for about a year and a half. We’re fairly active; we like sports such as baseball, basketball, gymnastics, camping, and a good day at the beach.

2. Describe what you did the last time you worshipped together as a family.

This evening, we sang several songs together, with me leading on the piano (10,000 Reasons, How Great is Your Faithfulness, and Come Thou Fount). We read Psalm 135 and discussed it. Then we prayed together at the end. It probably took 30 minutes.

Our family devotions generally have singing, reading / discussion, and prayer, but not every time. We don’t sing every night, but most nights we will read / discuss and pray together. If we’ve been out late that evening, we may just pray together. And if we’re out extremely late, the kids will go straight to bed.

On weekday mornings, Kelli also leads a 15 minute devotional with the kids.

3. Did your parents practise any sort of family worship when you grew up?

No. While we both grew up in families that regularly attended church, family worship was not practised.

4. So how did you guys end up starting it in your home?

We probably started when Nathan was around 4 years old. We believed it was important, but neither Kelli or I had experienced it first-hand growing up. It was something that we sort of organically started doing.

5. You also help lead gathered worship at church. How does being a worship leader there influence how you view and lead it in your home?

In a practical sense, I have access to a lot of good songs and am able to lead with a guitar or piano. However, YouTube has also been a great resource for us. Before our musical instruments arrived in New Zealand, we would play Sovereign Grace songs or Getty songs on YouTube on our iPad and would sing with them.

We sing the same songs that are sung in church on a Sunday morning. I’ve also developed some convictions that if we’re going to sing, we ought to sing songs that have deep, lyrical gospel centred content. So we tend to sing songs in our family worship that also fit that criteria.

6. Have you done these things the same way since you started?

It has evolved over time. I can’t really think of any meaningful way that it has changed or ways that we would do it differently. As our children get older, the conversations continue to get deeper.

7. Do you have to guard the time to worship together as a family? If so, how?

I don’t feel like we actively guard our time. It is just something that is a natural part of our routine. However, as our children get older, we may need to get more aggressive in guarding our time.

8. Do you use the Bible, or other books?

We do use the Bible, but we don’t use it exclusively. We’ve used some devotional books that have also been quite helpful. Some of our favourites have been:

9. What’s your advice to someone who’s wondering how to do this, or think they can’t do this?

There’s no magic to it. Just keep doing it.

In our culture of twitter and instant everything, we tend to want instant results. You won’t get instant results from having family devotions. Just like the Christian life is described as a marathon, so raising our kids could be viewed that way also.

There will be days when everyone is tired and not able to concentrate very well. Do it anyway. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a night. Don’t worry if you’re not a good singer. We’re in it for the long-term. Let’s run a little better each and every day.

——————-

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

 

The Anyabwiles and family worship (interview)

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.

—————-

A couple of months back, Thabiti Anyabwile (Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands) and his family came over to New Zealand for our church’s STAND conference.

Joe explained in the conference report:

The Anyabwiles came to New Zealand about 10 days before the conference. This gave them some enjoyable family, holiday time and an opportunity to see a small part of New Zealand. (You can read some of Thabiti’s reflections on his blog herehere, & here.)

Sure, Thabiti is a popular blogger, preacher and author in reformed evangelical circles. But in hanging out with them during meals, and chatting over conversations between conference sessions, the impression I got was that they’re a regular family like rest of us… with similar concerns, hopes, and desires for their children to grow up with their own faith in Christ.

Pastor Thabiti kindly offered to share, as he put it, “words from a fellow struggler”.

—————-

1. Tell us a bit more about your family.

My wife and I have been married 22 years. We have three children, ages 15, 13, and 6.5.

2. Could you describe what happened the last time you worshipped with your family?

At our last time of “family worship” (a term I find incurably burdensome!), we finished our meal together, talked about our day and prayed together.

In discussing our day, I try to ask different questions to each member of the family. “What was most surprising about your day?” “What was least enjoyable about your day?” “Did you have any occasion that made you pray today? What happened?” “How were your friends today? Is there a way we can pray for them?”

The mix of questions usually leads to rich back-and-forth and engagement, a lot of laughter, and not a few things mom and I need to note in our teenage daughters’ lives. We then prayed and blessed the children individually.

If you subtract all the little rabbit trails our discussion takes, it probably took us about 15 minutes (though the rabbit trails have prizes of their own!).

3. Did your parents practise any sort of family worship when you grew up?

I was raised in a nominally Christian home. We never had family worship. That’s one thing that contributes to my difficulty in being consistent and creative. We had no models and I’m usually plagued with thoughts like, “Am I doing this right?” In God’s grace, we continue with fits and starts and we give ourselves permissions to start over or try something different every so often.

4. So how did you come to find it important? What convinces you to persevere with it today?

Well, I think I’m mainly convinced by the portions of Scripture that call me to teach my children the faith and promise God’s blessing on their lives. In that sense I’m motivated by obedience and hope in God.

But depending on what you mean, “family worship” can be from the pits of hell! If it’s perpetually guilt inducing, drudgery, leads to self-righteousness, or provokes the children to wrath then it’s not actually worship. So I want to be cognizant of both my motive and the effect of our times together.

And I’ve also found that too much emphasis can be placed on “family” in family worship. Sometimes it’s better to have spiritual exercises with the members of the family individually. My six year old boy is in a totally different place than my 15 year old girl. With my boy, a great account from the Old Testament engages and grips him. My girl needs her daddy’s ear and prayers. But it’s all with members of the family and it’s worshipful when we’re on our game.

5. Depending on what you mean… so is “family worship” the best term to use then?

On the one hand, “family worship” is a fine term for training our children. Yet it’s not a biblical term or a required term, so we might call it a variety of things. Whatever works for you. And if “family worship” puts you in a rigid, formal frame of mind, it might not be a useful term.

Also, the term can suggest that this is something we do at a set time for a set period rather than something we’re to always be doing as we “walk by the way” (Deut. 6). Perhaps it’s helpful to remember that “worship” is never used of a NT time of gathering but used of our entire lives. Worshipers is what we are and therefore what we’re always doing.

6. Have you done these things the same way since you started?

No, definitely not! We’ve changed everything several times over!

If I could start over I would have fun play a more active role. I would work harder to transfer to the children the idea that they should enjoy God. For children that means play, creativity, activity and the like—not just sitting on the couch while we read or pray. I want them to learn to focus and sit while we read and pray, but I also want their imaginations and hearts engaged in a developmentally appropriate way.

I was so eager to “give them the word” that I failed to stop and think, How will they best receive the word? And I suspect that if our times of spiritual play were fun for the kids, then it would be fun for me, too. And the truth is, I need more fun in my life!

7. How do you guard the time to worship together as a family?

Well, this is an ongoing battle. Between travel and the schedule of the church, we realistically set a goal of some form of spiritual exercise 3-5 nights a week. The easiest way we’ve found to preserve the time is to link it to meals. When we’re good about having our meals at the dinner table, we’re usually pretty good about family devotions.

That being said, having meals at the table has been a struggle because my wife and I grew up with really different habits around meal time. My family gathered in the living room around the television, plates on laps, laughing and talking with the show. Her family had dinner about the same time every day, sat at the table, and mostly talked to each other. We’re a cross-cultural marriage in that sense. So we’ve gone back and forth between the two. Her way is better for our family and for spiritual devotion.

8. Do you use the Bible, or other books?

Both. We’ve used different things depending on interest. Right now, we’re reading The Action Bible with my son. I love that Bible! And so do my teenage daughters. Wonderful graphic novel level illustrations, faithful to the text, and engaging story telling.

At other times we’ll also include a chapter from a classic like The Chronicles of Narnia. We have a great time reading different characters in different voices and talking about the lessons we gleaned from the readings.

9. What advice would you give to parents who don’t have anything going yet?

For getting started, don’t forget to make it fun and engaging. “Finishing” the Bible or the study isn’t the main thing. Engaging the family’s heart is. Deuteronomy 6 seems to envision lively conversation about the things of God during the ordinary course of life, not a staid curriculum and forced routine.

Think about the natural anchoring points of your family’s routine (which will be meals for most people), remove the distractions (which will be some kind of screen for most people), and have fun talking about the things of the Lord.

10. Any tips for those of us struggling with leading family worship?

If you’re finding it difficult to keep going, take a break. Have a week where as a family you cook dinner together and watch a movie. Let each member of the family determine the menu and choose a movie each night of the week. Let the bad experience perish in the fun of a “free” week.

Meanwhile, think about how to make it fun and natural when you resume the following week. Try something different. There are no rules here. If you aim at doing something fun for the family, you’ll find it easier to keep going.

And by the way, if you’re starting this with teenagers, don’t be thrown off by that look of great disinterest or boredom. They’re listening. They’ve simply trained their faces to make you think they’re not. Hang in there. They’re training you in perseverance, patience and hope. That’s why God gave them to you! You’ll reap if you don’t faint.

11. Could you recommend a go-to resource for folks to find out more about family worship?

The best resource is your family! Ask them what interests them spiritually. Even if someone says “Nothing,” you’ll be talking about spiritual things! Listen for what they enjoyed and what they thought failed. Make adjustments and keep engaging and listening.

——————-

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