You Can Lead Family Worship

Common Hurdles Fathers Can Overcome

Dads, don’t give up on leading your families in worshiping Jesus.

As difficult as it was to have our church buildings closed for several months, one of the surprising graces for many families has been the recovery of family worship. Yet in this recovery, many dads — including myself — discovered our shortcomings as family worship leaders.

“Trust that in your weakness the Lord will prove the sufficiency of his grace and power.”

Despite my role as our church’s worship pastor, I admit that in our home, family worship can feel more forced than joy-filled and more frustrating than fruitful. On many occasions, I’ve felt tempted to throw in the towel altogether. Perhaps you can relate. That said, we know that God’s will for fathers is to raise their kids “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4), and that faithfulness requires pressing on in the strength of the Holy Spirit. Consider three common hurdles that often hinder dads in their efforts toward joy-filled family worship of Jesus.

Hurdle 1: Competition

Typically, when we think of family worship, we imagine the whole family huddled together to share in prayer, Scripture, and song. That’s not a bad way to think about family worship, but the first hurdle requires you to take a step back from intentional times of worship and to consider what else is competing for your family’s worship. The reality is, your family is always worshiping someone or something and, if you don’t consider the competition, you may be surprised to find that despite intentional times spent in God’s word and prayer, your family’s worship of Jesus may still be coming in second place.

You can identify what is competing for your family’s worship by doing a personal assessment of where and how your family spends the bulk of its time, money, and attention. Even more importantly, dads, draw in your wives and children, inviting them to help you determine what is most important in your family’s life. Ask questions like:

  • What do you think our family gets most excited about? Most upset about?
  • What do we spend the most time talking about?
  • As your husband/dad, what do you think I care most about?

You will clear the first hurdle in worshiping Jesus as a family by leading them in repentance and laying aside every weight and sin that either hinders or contradicts the intentional time your family spends together in the word and prayer (Hebrews 12:1).

Hurdle 2: Awkwardness

For all of the talk within the church about family worship, so few men and fathers today grew up in homes where Jesus was regularly worshiped, the Bible was consistently read, or their fathers played an active role in their spiritual maturation. Husbands and dads know they should be leading their families in worship, but many of us have received little practical discipleship in how to do so. As a result, many men feel as though they are inventing the wheel when it comes to family worship — and the wheel typically doesn’t roll smoothly at first.

I have found that when I’ve tried to hide my insecurities about leading my family spiritually, I’ve actually made our times around God’s word and in prayer painfully awkward and strained. Instead, when I’m honest about the weakness I feel to adequately lead my family, I experience God’s grace at work in and through me the most. I’ve had to learn to let go of my perfectionism and instead make it my goal to simply push the ball forward so that when my kids are leading families of their own, they are starting farther ahead of where I did.

So, dads, clear the hurdle of awkwardness by naming your insecurities as they relate to leading your family in worship, and trust that in your weakness the Lord will prove the sufficiency of his grace and power (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Hurdle 3: Mere Knowledge

Deuteronomy 6:4–9 gives both the goal and mechanism for family worship. The goal is to cultivate a love for God that brings him glory, and the mechanism is saturating your life with his word.

The danger for many dads is to make family worship hardly anything more than an intellectual exercise. I know that I’ve been too easily satisfied at times with my children simply reciting the right answers about whatever passage of Scripture we’re studying or topic we’re discussing. Knowledge is good and necessary, but it’s not enough by itself. God’s chief concern is that the truth of his word is impressed upon our hearts: “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:6). The goal of family worship doesn’t end with learning; it ends with love.

“The goal of family worship doesn’t end with learning; it ends with love.”

With love as the goal, dads, take the lead in drawing out your family at an affectional level. One of the best ways to do this is to set the tone by expressing how you’re seeing God at work in your own heart. Encourage your wife and children with what the Lord is teaching you and ways you’re seeing him make you more like Jesus. Help them see how the gospel applies to their joys and sorrows, and encourage each of them in the particulars of their lives.

As you approach family worship, clear the hurdle of mere academic exercise by remembering 1 Corinthians 13. If you have family devotions but have not love, you are a noisy gong and ultimately gain nothing. Pursue love, and you gain God.

Consistency Is Key

Family worship is significant but surprisingly simple. Dads, you don’t need to overcomplicate leading your family in worship. God has given you his word, and his Holy Spirit, and promised to work in and through your weakness. With the Spirit’s help, repent of ways your family has valued other activities and worshiped things above Jesus. Then set aside regular times to read the Bible together, sing, discuss, and pray.

Your family’s worship will not always feel profound (though it is!). You will certainly face all sorts of distractions — from squirrelly toddlers to defiant teenagers. Sometimes family worship will feel forced. At other times it will feel frustrating. But consistency is key. God’s word never returns empty and always accomplishes what he has purposed (Isaiah 55:10–11).

So, don’t give up even when you feel like your efforts are fruitless. Fight the good fight of faith, and trust that God will use your perseverance in family worship to cultivate deeper love for him and neighbor. Be faithful, and leave the results to Jesus, the true worship leader of your home.

and his wife, Hilly, have three children and live near Bellingham, Washington.