January 29 is “Family Worship Sunday”
Sunday, January 29, 2012 is Family Worship Sunday and many pastors will encourage their congregations to keep up the practice of Family Worship in the home.
In the spirit of encouraging people along those lines, "Kingdom People" ran (in 2011) a piece I wrote that outlines 5 things Aileen and I try to keep in mind while using a catechism as part of family worship. Here's an excerpt of that:
I’m no champion for the idea that catechism is the silver bullet. Maybe it’s not the one indispensible thing the church has to recover to be faithful to its task. But I have gotten pretty enthusiastic about it. Like others who grew up around evangelical churches in the 1980s and ’90s, I viewed catechism with suspicion, seeing it as a dull, dry ritual most likely used only by dull, dry churches. But several years ago, I heard a pastor named Bob Bixby talk about whole-church catechism at a conference. I started to see catechism for what it’s supposed to be—a unifying theological soundtrack for the local church.
Our statement of faith sits on the church website, but what we really want is for that doctrine to be alive in the hearts of people. We want people to “commune with God in the doctrines they say they espouse” (to paraphrase John Owen). Catechism offers a historic, unifying way to pass along the basics of the Christian faith across generations. And when taught and utilized in the context of ongoing relationships (not just occasional ‘confirmation classes’), catechism can help disconnected people move toward becoming a gospel-centered community sharing a common theological vocabulary.
Rather than repeat what others have written elsewhere about family worship and the history and benefits of using catechism, here are a few ideas that I’ve found helpful along the way. These key principles are the ones that I keep returning to as I progress—hopefully in a gospel-driven way— toward “bringing up my children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).
I write these from a husband’s and father’s perspective because that’s who I am. For the single moms and dads out there, I hope these can adapt to your unique set of circumstances as well.
5 Don’ts When Using a Catechism:
1) Don’t let catechism take the place of Bible reading. To be strong in the Lord, we need both sound doctrine and a growing grasp of the whole Bible. The great thing about doing both together is that a good catechism trains the mind to read the Bible theologically.
Our boys are young, so we don’t bite off more than we can chew here. We generally follow the pace of our church’s preaching schedule in our Bible reading at home. Our elders are committed to expository preaching sequentially through books of the Bible, which is a great blessing. As a family, we talk about the sermon that we heard all together that week, using our older son’s notes as a springboard for discussion.
2) Don’t wing it. If something is worth doing, then it’s worth doing poorly. But not poorly forever. If you’re waiting for everything to be perfect, you’ll never do anything. I’m a firm believer that formal family devotion times should be brief, enjoyable, and regular. A habit of family worship fosters a healthy context for individual teaching times “when you walk by the way” (Deut. 6:6-7).
Take a few simple steps of preparation. #1 pray. As the time draws nearer to family devotions, get alone for a moment and pray briefly in advance for God’s grace during what can sometimes turn into a time of chaos. #2 plan what you’ll teach or rely on a trustworthy resource. I’m currently going through the Westminster Shorter Catechism (Baptist Version) and using the book Training Hearts Teaching Minds (by Starr Meade) as a supplemental guide. Also, before we gather for devotions, I ask our older son who reads to look up a few Bible verses that are related to the Q&A we’re going to discuss. At devotions, we start with a quick review and say aloud the current Q&A. Our son reads the Scriptures he looked up and we talk through them, relating each verse to the catechism. I briefly explain the catechism and invite questions. Then we say the Q&A again, sing a few songs including our hymn for the month, and close in prayer.
3) Don’t allow memorization to occur without understanding. You may need to take time to personally understand the verses and how they tie in to the particular doctrine being taught. There is no substitute for the quickening power of the Holy Spirit in your life and in the life of your wife and children. But God does work through means—particularly the hearing and explanation of His Word.
Martin Lloyd-Jones said that true evangelism is highly doctrinal. He’s right. Catechesis is a way to faithfully evangelize your children.
See the rest (including a brief interview with Michael Horton on the subject) here.
Also, check out more helpful articles and videos explaining the importance of, and how to engage in, Family Worship at www.FamilyWorshipMonth.com.