If worship is more than just singing (so feel lifted off the hook if you don’t play an instrument nor sing well!), whole-life worship is something that happens not only in the church building, but also in many other places.
As you will notice in W4E1, we do not just write about sung worship for under-12s in a formal church setting; each of us is trying to live out and share with you our principles and practices for life-long worship wherever we are – at home, in school, at work, in gathered church services and in scattered midweek groupings. We are an online community seeking to spur one another on in our walk with God.
And so this month I want to tackle a subject that might be a tad sensitive – what does your worship at home look like?
Perhaps you share a flat/house with other people who are very different from you. Maybe you are a family with one parent at home. Perhaps only one of your household has an active Christian faith and some of what follows might meet with opposition or practical difficulties if put into practice.
Those of us who write for W4E1 have babies causing sleepless nights and teenagers contributing to early-onset grey hairs and we share our stories with you with integrity. Our worship is not about bright lights, a big stage, hours in a studio and glorious experiences of crowds with their arms held aloft. We want, as a little group, to spur one another on to worship the God who is so worthy in tough times, lonely moments and when we least feel like it, when our children haven’t slept, aren’t behaving well and stressful situations are near at hand. But our testimony is that bringing a sacrifice of worship bears much fruit. Our prayer is that W4E1 might inspire, encourage, equip and release you.
As you read this post, try not to think about the negative factors that would prevent growth in your worship life at home. Put that aside for a moment to consider what just might work. There are always mitigating factors that seek to prevent vibrant, life-giving experiences of worship that elevate God (and as wonderful by-product, draw those engaging in it closer together). The enemy doesn’t want us to have a worship life at home. Consider Psalm 8:2 which says: “Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.” This verse has spiritual warfare implications. The enemy (the foe and the avenger) is silenced through the praise of children and infants. Jesus quoted this verse back to the Pharisees in Matthew 21:16 when reminding about children’s ability to praise him with a revelation of who he really was.
Let’s press in for an authentic experience of worshipping God at home.
I can say with certainty that you will reap a fruitful harvest from following some or all of the principles below. In summary – try one or more, regularly or irregularly – with a frequency and at a time that suits your routine and life. It may need to be when you have an empty house, or when a friend is round to support you. Be assured that we are cheering you on!
1. Read the Bible together
Find a rhythm that suits your family. My own practice is to have a pre-bedtime Bible and prayer time with my children. Using Scripture Union and/or CWR notes (just a few pounds each), I read and talk about God for 5-10 minutes together and then pray. I can’t teach my children about a lifestyle of worship without regular Bible inputs. Remember the 80/20 rule; don’t beat yourself up if you don’t manage a daily input! There are some nights I don’t manage due to clubs or later-to-bed nights but our family has settled on a pattern of around five nights out of seven.
2. Use the ACTS principle together
You’ve probably come across this acronym if you are familiar with the Alpha course. Work out when, in the rhythm and routine of your household’s week, you can weave in these principles. I would say all four things don’t have to be covered at one sitting! It’s a great model for our prayer time as adults but also for me it is an aid in thinking about our family’s devotional life. A – adoration – saying out loud how great God is (in any one of a number of ways – we took a random scrabble letter to start us off tonight!) C – confession – saying sorry for the things we have done wrong T – thanksgiving – encouraging our children in the discipline of thanksgiving S – supplication – to asking God for things or for his help
3. Share honestly together
Worship involves our spoken words. Where are the connection points in your household to allow you to make time to speak about God and your walk with him? Breakfast? Evening meal? Children’s bed times? If there isn’t one single connection point for everyone; could you make the sacrifice to have one, even if it isn’t every day? Over meal times – where has God been in your day? Don’t always share triumphal stories like, “I prayed for this person and this (amazing thing) happened when I did” – as the reality of family life means that there are times when we are under stress or facing trauma. We make particular mention of days when we’ve felt low but we had a sense of God being with us. If you are reading this and are currently suffering from depression or another kind of illness, the very thought of this may make your heart sink. That’s ok. In W4E1 we want to affirm that there are times where we long for the worshipping community to rally round its members to help speak out who God is even when it feels like he’s not there. Is there perhaps someone in your local church who could help you with this when the children are playing round and about or over a meal or a coffee at their house or yours? Show them this post and enlist their help to be another person of influence standing with you and your children to worship the God who still is on the throne.
4. Sing together
My family likes to use worship CDs in so many ways – on long car journeys for sure! For many years we have been fans of Seeds Family Worship; catchy, non-cheesy Bible verse songs which we play at mealtimes. Buy every single one of Nick and Becky’s CDs and I guarantee you can put together a custom-made playlist of songs to worship to in your living room. Let your children put the tracks they’d like in order. Other CDs that we have made regular use of are all of Vineyard UK’s Great Big God series and all Powerpack’s albums [available from www.powerpackministries.co.uk].
If buying stuff is tricky for whatever reason, all of the musicians mentioned so far have songs on Youtube – I’ve spent some time with my kids peering over the computer as we try out some new songs! Download the lyric videos from the Worship For Everyone website and maybe even project them on the wall for special times of home worship. If on holiday, try ‘home church’ – when my family does this each of us chooses a song and introduces or leads a prayer or a Bible verse. Many kids love doing this! As mentioned already, YouTube and Spotify, or your own worship CD collection are a source of other worship songs to teach and use with your kids.
My teenager and younger child both love worship songs by Phil Wickham, Jesus Culture, Matt Redman, Tim Hughes and Aaron Keyes: in short anything they have seen me singing to and using to start off prayer times!
5. Watch things that inspire faith and love for God together
Another component that has helped my family engage in worship together is to use visual clips (which, admittedly my job allows me time to compile!) which then take us easily into prayer or singing or being quiet and giving God awe and reverence. Examples of things that have worked are clips from The Miracle Maker, The Nativity, and DreamWorks Studio’s Prince of Egypt. Or clips from the international Jesus film or its child-friendly edition: The Jesus Quest. I also make use of testimony clips from YouTube or on specially made clips such as those found in some Alpha resources or on Wanderlust Production DVDs (Finger of God/ Furious Love/Father of Lights). Some pre-planning and research is required to make sure you choose things that are suitable for your children but may I encourage you to put this effort in, for cultivating expectation and excitement that God is alive and changing lives around the world lifts our eyes out of our own family’s situation to see a bigger picture and this results in heartfelt worship and praise to God.
6. Be still in God’s presence together
Some people call this “soaking time”, others call it “meditating on God”, I like calling it “being still in God’s presence”. I simply want to testify to how this has revolutionised my own children’s experience of worship and it started when they were very, very small. I taught them to lie down or cuddle up with us, they could have a “blankie” or a teddy and we got comfy, closed our eyes and thought of Jesus. (Children find this easy to do!) I introduce this time with some Bible verses describing, for example, heaven or the supremacy of Christ and simply play worship music to allow us to get into a place where we are quiet before God and in awe of his majesty (or, if you’re wee, his “bigness”!) Anyone can hum, sing, pray very quietly, or simply lie or sit still with eyes closed. The important thing I want to share with you is that this works with children.
I use nearly every CD ever released by Kimberley and Alberto Rivera (widely available and yet again on YouTube with some great videos) but you can use any quiet, gentle, God-focused song or songs. As for time, you might be surprised, 10 minutes goes by very quickly. I usually do this on a Sunday afternoon or evening, but it’s perfectly OK to do this when your children are winding down for the night. And it’s an occasional thing rather than legalistically every week. It’s a wonderful thing to do before bathtime or sleeptime, and in fact if your children are troubled with nightmares or bedtime anxiety, I recommend trying this. I would sum up what happened for us as this: my children learned to recognize the presence of God and their little spirits grew in practising how to still themselves to worship God from a place of reverence and awe.
Try out some or all of these six things and your worship at home will nurture your children’s faith and grow their worship experience – and for us adults too! “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up…” (Deut 6:5-7)
Lynn has written more about children, families and worship in her book, Children, Families and God (published by Evangelista Media).