[Editor's Note: Family Worship Month. observed each January, is an inter-denominational movement comprised of leading ministries and Christian leaders designed to restore the historical practice of family worship. Christian author and professor, Don Whitney, explains why family worship is so important.]
Being in a healthy, Bible-teaching local church is important for Christian parenting. But is it enough?
Some time ago, I was in England and heard a report on BBC radio about a government study there indicating that, as a result of TV, technology, and the like, families rarely spend time together. The study observed that conversation between family members has "degenerated into an indistinguishable series of monosyllabic grunts." And what was the recommended solution to this dilemma? The government should teach a series of classes instructing families how to talk and play together.
I have at least two responses to this report. First, things are really bad when the government believes that the family is in trouble. Second, God has a much better plan for family time together than classes taught by the government.
I had gone to England to speak at a conference. Around the table there one evening, I heard the story of a minister's family who had not acted as though God has a better plan until it was too late. The minister's widow told me that the greatest regret of her life was that her late husband had not begun leading their family in daily worship together until after he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Contrast that with a story sent to me by a friend describing what he and his four siblings said at their parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration. He wrote,
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, "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. [When I was only] three, God used you in family worship to convict me that Christianity was real. No matter how far I went astray in later years, I could never seriously question the reality of Christianity and I want to thank you for that."
The latest figures I have seen from the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention report that 88% of churched youth in the US leave the church once they finish high school. Researcher George Barna's statistics are only slightly better: "When [churchgoing teenagers were] asked to estimate the likelihood that they will continue to participate in church life once they are living on their own, levels dip precipitously, to only about one out of every three teens" saying they expect to stay in church.
One of the problems with these numbers is, unlike the siblings at the fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration, most of these young people have no lifelong, sweet memories of family worship. If they had them, such memories might prevent their departure from the faith in the first place. Or if they do walk away, the memories might be the means to return them to the faith later.
The great British Baptist preacher of the 1800's, Charles Spurgeon, spoke to this issue, saying,