Family Worship: How to Make It Happen
About the Guest
If the only time your kids see you worshipping God is at church on Sunday morning, then your kids are missing out on a rich experience that could bond your family on a soul-to-soul level. Don Whitney and Lauren Chandler talk about worshiping together with their families.
Don WhitneyDon Whitney has been Professor of Biblical Spirituality and Associate Dean at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY since 2005. Before that, he held a similar position (the first such position in the six Southern Baptist seminaries) at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO, for ten years. He is the founder and president of The Center for Biblical Spirituality. Don grew up in Osceola, Arkansas where he came to believe in Jes...more
Lauren ChandlerLauren Chandler is a worshipper of God – whether it is through song, studying the Bible or loving others. She loves encouraging others and her family to worship Him in all of life. Her first book, Steadfast Love (B&H Publishing, January 2016), is yet another way for her to offer worship to God. Her husband, Matt Chandler, serves as the lead teaching pastor at The Village Church in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area, one of the fastest growing churches in the Uni...more
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Family Worship: How to Make It Happen
Michelle: Over 100 years ago, the English church was at the height of its influence, and many people from the English church were going around the world and sharing the Word of God. There was a well-known preacher who warned his country that something significant was missing in its homes. Here’s Don Whitney.
Don: The great British Baptist preacher of the 1800’s, Charles Spurgeon, said, “We sometimes hear of children of Christian parents, who do not grow up in the fear of the Lord; and we’re asked, ‘How it is that they turn out so badly?’ In many, very many cases, I fear, there is such a neglect of family worship that it's not probable that the children are at all impressed by any piety supposed to be possessed by their parents.”
Michelle: There are some timeless lessons we can learn about teaching our children how to honor and revere God. We’re going to learn them together on this edition of FamilyLife This Week.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. When I was a little girl, my parents took me and my brothers to church every Sunday. I grew up singing from a hymnbook. There was this song that caught my ears every time we sang it; it was O Worship the King, All Glorious Above. I’d sing it right now—but I have a cold, so it would sound scratchy—so we won’t do that. It goes: “O worship the King, all glorious above; and gratefully sing His power and His love.”
These old hymns, at least in my life, what it helps me do is worship our Father/worship God. I get it that you might be someone, who likes the contemporary choruses, and that’s what gets you in the worship mode; or maybe you like sitting alongside a stream or on top of a mountain. There really are a lot of ways that we can worship God. But in order to get the most out of those worship moments, we really need to be worshipping consistently.
If you want to learn about how to worship God, all you really have to do is open your Bible to the Psalms. King David, the king of Israel—he really knows how to worship God in his sorrow, when he has burdens, when he has sadness, when he has joy—he works through all that emotion and gives glory to God. There’s just so much to glean from this great man.
It got me thinking—and sometimes I get a little geeky—when I’m trying to find out what a word means, I go to the dictionary. As I’m looking at worship, I went to the dictionary. It says that worshipping is: “honoring or revering; it’s regarding with great or extravagant respect, honor, and devotion.” Is that how we’re worshipping God?
There’s a gentleman, who’s a friend of FamilyLife®, who’s quite concerned with our worship of God; his name is Don Whitney. He’s been a guest on FamilyLife Today®. He has a concern for how we worship God and whether or not we’re passing it on to the next generation. Don Whitney calls that family worship; he’s written several books on this idea of family worship. He’s concerned with where our family worship is going. As Don has done his research on worship and family worship, he says that this is really not a new problem; it’s quite old. Here’s Don.
Don: I was in England some time ago and heard a report on BBC Radio that, according to a government study there, as a result of television and technology and the like, families rarely spend time together. "Conversation,"—they said—“between family members has degenerated into an indistinguishable series of monosyllabic grunts."
What's the answer? Well, the government, according to the BBC, should teach a series of classes/classes instructing families how to talk and play together. Now, two of my many responses to this report are: number one, things are really bad in the family when the government says that the family is in trouble; and number two, God has a better plan for family time together than classes taught by the government.
Contrast that with a letter sent to me by a friend, who described what he and his four siblings did at their family's/at the parents' 50th wedding anniversary celebration. He said:
All five of us children decided to express thanks to our father and mother for one thing, without consulting each other. Remarkably, all five of us thanked our mother for her prayers; and all five of us thanked our father for his leadership of family worship.
My brother said—a brother, who in later years would/for many years, be far from the Lord before returning—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. No matter how far I went astray in later years,"—and he did go far astray—"I could never seriously question the reality of Christianity, and I want to thank you for that."
The latest figures I've seen from the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention tell us that 88 percent—that’s 9 out of 10 teenagers, who regularly attend Southern Baptist Churches—not just on the church rolls; who regularly attend—leave the church once they finish high school. Researcher George Barna's statistics are only slightly better. When asked to estimate the likelihood that they will continue to participate in church life once they are living on their own, levels dip to about 1 out of 3 teens; in other words, they are predicting, in advance, "When I get out of here, I'm not coming back." And 2 out of 3 say they're not coming back and, in reality, 9 out of 10 do not.
One of the many troubling things about these numbers is that, unlike that once-wandering brother, who confessed at his parents' 50th wedding anniversary that it was the father's leadership of family worship that helped bring him back to the Lord, nearly all of these kids don't have those sweet, lifelong memories that might prevent their leaving the faith in the first place or be there as God's means to bring them back.
Similarly, the great British Baptist preacher of the 1800s, Charles Spurgeon, said, "Brethren, I wish it were more common; I wish it were universal, with all those who profess religion, to have family worship. We sometimes hear of children of Christian parents, who do not grow up in the fear of the Lord; and we’re asked, ‘How it is that they turn out so badly?’ In many, very many cases, I fear, there is such a neglect of family worship that it's not probable that the children are at all impressed by any piety supposed to be possessed by their parents.”
In this message I want to declare to you one main point, and here it is: “God deserves to be worshipped daily in our homes by our families.” God deserves to be worshipped daily in our homes by our families. The Bible clearly implies that God deserves to be worshipped daily in our homes by our families.
There is no direct explicit commandment in the Bible for family worship; but it is so implicit throughout the Bible that, to quote Spurgeon again, "I trust there are none here present, who profess to be followers of Christ, who do not also practice prayer in their families. We may have no positive commandment for it; but we believe it is so much in accord with the genius and spirit of the gospel, and that it is so commended by the example of the saints, that the neglect thereof is a strange inconsistency."
Michelle: Those are some strong words from Don Whitney. He is quite concerned for the next generation, because they are the next generation that is going to be our Christian leaders/our Christian men and women. I brought him into our conversation today—not to guilt trip you—I know you might be thinking, “That’s just one more thing on my list; you don’t know how many things my family’s involved with right now.” I just want you to ponder/to be thinking through your time with your kids. Your time with them is really for their true benefit.
If you’re single, how are you speaking words of life into someone younger than you/into the younger generation?
Don Whitney says that this really is quite simple—this family worship/this worshipping of God and teaching others how to do it—I want you to hear what Don has to say.
Don: Basically, there are three elements to family worship: read, pray, sing—that’s it—three words, three syllables, twelve letters. You can remember that without notes: read, pray, sing.
- First, read and explain the Bible—not that things have to be in this order—but read and explain the Bible. The younger the children, the more you are going to want to use narrative passages and shorter sections, of course; but read and explain the Bible.
- Second, pray. I would encourage you to pray through a passage of Scripture; perhaps pray through the passage that you read or pray through a Psalm.
If it's the Twenty-third Psalm you're going to pray through that day, you read: "The Lord is my Shepherd." “Lord, thank You that You are our Shepherd and that You are a good Shepherd. Lord, would You shepherd us through this decision that's before us as a family, and shepherd my children tomorrow? O Lord, lead them not into temptation; deliver them from evil. And I pray, Lord, they would come to confess You as their Shepherd, that they would give themselves to be sheep of the Lord Jesus."
And when nothing else comes to mind, go on to the next line: "I shall not want," and pray through a few verses of a Psalm.
- And third, just sing. Read, pray, sing. Get hymnals for everyone in the family. Chances are, at many churches, they have an old closet full of old hymnals somewhere that have duct tape on the spine or whatever that no one is using. They'd be happy for you to take them away.
In other words, what you do in family worship is the same thing you would do in congregational worship, except for those elements that are, by nature, congregational: the preaching of the Word of God, the ordinances—some of those things—but nevertheless, we still have the Word of God: we read that; comment on that. You can pray; you can sing. You can do that alone.
Now, let me give you some optional things if you have time. This is a great time for catechizing your children. Use Spurgeon's catechism, Truth and Grace books, whatever you can use as a means of catechizing your children; it's a great time. If they're being catechized at church, use it as a time for review. It's a great way to teach and discuss and learn the things of God.
This is a great time, also, for Scripture memory done together as a family and for other reading. By that I mean anything from Christian reading to just books you're reading as a family. If time permits, you know, you're reading through The Little House on the Prairie series with your children or The Chronicles of Narnia. You might read something like that, and then you go from that into the more formal family worship time; but it's because you're all together, that's when you might do some family reading. Perhaps, at the end, you might choose to do that—read a Christian biography; read Pilgrim's Progress together with the family—something like that if time permits.
Some miscellaneous comments now about the how-to’s:
- Brevity, first of all; otherwise, it can become tedious. That's the last thing you want for your children. It's always easy to lengthen the time if things are going well, but plan for brevity.
- Second, regularity; try to have a regular time each day for family worship. For some, it works best to have it early in the morning before the family scatters. For many, it's at the evening meal together. If that's your choice, I would suggest that part of setting the table is having the Bible, the hymnals—whatever else is there—as part of setting the table.
I would also practically say: “Don't let anyone get up until you have family worship; because once you start people saying, ‘Well, just let me put this in the refrigerator,’ or ‘Just let me make this phone call,’ everyone else becomes impatient; and it can unravel. It's just part of the experience, and no one leaves until we have family worship.” And, for others, late in the evening at bedtime, just before bedtime is best.
- But whatever time you choose, consider the wisdom of having a regular time when the family is already together, if possible. It's so difficult for our families to get together nowadays; so rather than trying to create another time, try to have family worship at a time when you're already used to being together. But if it requires adding another time, it's worth it; do whatever it takes.
Michelle: Some great practical and wise steps on family worship from Don Whitney. Worshipping God can come in many forms. He talked about memorizing Bible verses. Why not memorize Bible verses with your kids while you’re working out and having fun with them? If you happen to be single, don’t let that stop you from worshipping God. You can sing hymns or choruses in the quiet of your home. You can memorize Scripture and recite it as you’re hiking or whatever. Be creative! Be creative and show the next generation your awe and your love of God.
I need to take a break and drink some tea and [take] a throat lozenge. When we come back, we’ll take a look at what family worship looks like when you are a paid professional worship leader.
[Radio Station Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. It is amazing what a little bit of tea can do for you—and lemon and honey—you know, coat your throat and stuff like that.
We’ve been talking about family worship. We heard from Don Whitney that setting an example of worship is one of the best things parents can do for their children. It helps set that example by showing them how to pray and helping them memorize the words that God put in the Bible. Also, reading the Bible together and singing songs.
Singing songs; that’s a good thing to do. You would think that leading your family in singing should come easy for a church worship leader; wouldn’t you? I want to explore a little bit what it takes to get from point “A” to point “B” in a worship leader’s life. Recently, I had a chance to talk with Lauren Chandler about her journey. Lauren is one of the worship leaders at the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. She is married to Matt Chandler, who is the head pastor there. Here’s Lauren describing who she is and how she got to where she is today.
Lauren: One, I’m a daughter of the King—I really am—I am just His; I am not forgotten—that He pays attention to me; that He cares; that He has also put some things into my heart to do. Most of those things have to do with connection; I feel like I’m a connector. As a worship leader, my job is to connect with the people in hopes that they would connect with the Lord—that’s my job—it’s not for them to look at me. My job is that they might connect with the God, who loves them, who has a desire for them and for their worship.
Then, even a connector, relationally. I meet different people, and I’ll think: “Oh, my goodness! You need to meet this person!” “You need to connect with this person.” I think, naturally, I’m given to be a connector. That’s who I would say: “Lauren is, in my essence, I guess.”
Michelle: That’s so neat; right. As a connector—I’ve never heard someone describe themselves as that.
With worship, and being a worship leader, how did that come about for you?
Lauren: Well, I always sang in church, growing up. I was a part of this little ensemble of four girls; we were called First Song, because we were singing at First Baptist Church.
Michelle: Aww! How old?
Lauren: It started in like junior high—so probably seventh grade—all the way through my senior year of high school.
And then, in 1999, I was a freshman in college; I went to Passion/the Passion Conference.
Lauren: I heard Christy Nockels lead. I was like, “Ahh! I’ve never heard a woman lead worship like that”; so that’s where that seed was planted. I already loved music, and I loved to sing; but that’s where the seed was planted. I thought, “Okay; this is a way that I could glorify God in my singing,”—and not just singing Point of Grace songs at church—a little bit of a different spin on it.
Michelle: To be more of the connector, as you said.
Lauren: Yes!—to be more of the connector. I feel like the Lord keeps refining this vision for me. I think I’m so given to be a performer—like I want to perform, and I want to be perfect—the Lord has just said, “You know what? I haven’t made you, nor asked you, to perform. What I want you to do is prepare. I want you to be a part of preparing the people to receive the Word, and maybe to receive some encounter with Me.”
That’s where I’m having more and more peace with the gift God’s given me; seeing it—“Okay, I’m not going to be a performer. I’m not a singer/songwriter, with my guitar up there, singing these songs,”—the heart of it is for me to be a conduit for people to connect with the Lord and not to perform.
Michelle: So right out of college, did you go right into a church? Were you a worship leader from that point?
Lauren: No! It was a long, hard road. It was hard, because there was still this little performer inside of me—really insecure—was wanting to get all my identity from being a worship leader, or from singing/from music. It just—it’s a horrible place to try to find your identity—
Lauren: —to know who you are—because there’s always going to be someone that sings better than you do; there’s always going to be someone that receives more compliments than you do; there’s going to be someone that has more solos than you do. I would sing and not be satisfied, because I didn’t like how I sounded. I didn’t want to sound like me. I wanted to sound like someone else that I knew:—
Lauren: —“Oh, everybody likes how she sounds! That’s what I want to sound like!” So I would kind of copy my voice after her. I tell people, “I realized I’m a poor version of anyone else’s authentic self.”
Michelle: We all are.
Lauren: Yes; so the Lord just saying, “I have given you a voice.” I wasn’t satisfied—I wasn’t there yet in college, or even in my early 20s—I wasn’t/I hadn’t made peace with that.
Michelle: But did you feel called?
Michelle: You felt like: “This is God’s path for me.”
Michelle: But it was still/it was about “me”?
Lauren: Right; a lot of times, we’ll have an idea of what the Lord’s called us to do—maybe it’s just a desire—it’s something that is in our hearts to do that we want to do. I think, a lot of times, we’ll think, “Oh, it’s a bad desire! If I want to do it, then I probably am not supposed to do it.”
Lauren: I think that’s wrong thinking. I think, probably, it’s a desire that needs to be refined: it needs the right timing; it needs some waiting on the Lord to use it. For me, I knew this calling; but I didn’t know what it was going to look like. There was a load of refining to do before He was going to let me really enjoy the fruit of this calling.
Lauren: You know, there were a lot of ups and downs; because I wasn’t satisfied with my voice. Then, when I didn’t get to sing, I wasn’t satisfied; because I hadn’t been asked to sing. Finally, the Lord was like, “I’ve got to be enough for you, even if you never sing!” He brought 2 Corinthians 12:9 before me—kind of set it before me—“For My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”
I think, looking back on that now, and seeing that play out in my life more—that weakness part is/yes, the weakness of the struggle—but also, the weakness of: “Maybe my voice isn’t perfect,” “Maybe I don’t sing a song perfectly; but the Lord/He is going to be glorified and strong, even in that kind of weakness,—
Lauren: —“even in a literal weakness in my voice.”
Michelle: That’s true. When you laid down your desire, and then, when God picked it back up, what was that length of time like for you?
Lauren: I mean, it was a struggle. I feel like I kind of went through a few seasons like that, where I would lay it down, and then I would pick it back up.
Lauren: But when I finally laid it down for good, I was doing so much work on my heart that I was preoccupied with deep, heart-level work that He was doing.
Lauren: I was going through—I was really going through steps—Celebrate Recovery’s step program; you know?
Michelle: For this?
Lauren: Yes, for this! This perfectionism—this desire to not be me and to be somebody else—this desire to perform. Even if it’s not an addiction to substance or a relationship, deep down, we kind of all have the same issue: is that we want to be God! We don’t want Him to tell us what to do. Really, our souls are in the best place when we’re submitted to Him; because He is a loving God.
Michelle: Now, are you still worship leader at church?
Lauren: Yes, I am. It’s been interesting—being faithful in all these little places—the Lord has opened up more doors. I lead now at church about once a month; and I’ve got to lead at some women’s conferences, and got to record a little EP of songs I wrote and co-wrote.
Michelle: Oh, cool!
Lauren: That’s what’s great: is the Lord has fulfilled some of the dreams/some of the desires of my heart in His timing and at the right time.
Michelle: That’s so interesting. God knows, above all, what we need and at the right timing.
Lauren: Yes; He does. And you know, it’s interesting; I’ve kind have gotten a little bit of a taste of what I thought I wanted, where “I’ll travel here and do this.” I actually did like a little tour with a friend, not too long ago. It was fun, and I’ll do it again; but I was like, “Man! If I had to do this all the time…” What I wanted, while I was there, was to be back home with my kids, sitting on my back porch with all of our animals around us. That’s where I get a lot of peace and life.
It’s like the Lord knew. He knew better than I did that if I—was traveling all the time;—
Lauren: —and I don’t know, leading worship all over the place—I would have just shriveled up. I didn’t know that, but He knew.
Michelle: As I was talking with Lauren, it got me to thinking about heaven—that really, as we worship God now, we are preparing and practicing for the day when we will all be in heaven, and all of God’s children will be before His throne—every tribe, every tongue, every nation will all be worshipping Him together. I don’t know all that we’ll be doing in heaven, but I do know that we will be worshipping Him; and we will have the ultimate family worship experience.
Hey, next week, we’re going to hear some stories about a forgotten sector of our society, one that has become near and dear to my heart. If you want to know what I’ve been up to these days, besides showing up here each week, I want you to stay tuned for the next edition of FamilyLife This Week as we talk about the sanctity of human life, young and old. I hope you can join us for that.
Hey, thanks for listening! I want to thank the co-founder of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and the president, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Keith Lynch. Thanks to our producers, Marques Holt and Bruce Goff. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator.
Our program is a production of FamilyLife Today in Little Rock, Arkansas; and our mission is to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time.
I'm Michelle Hill, inviting you to join us again next time for another edition of FamilyLife This Week.
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