Teach Us to Pray

Teaching Children to Worship at Home

When the year is fresh and the calendar pages are crisp and spacious, our commitments and resolutions seem like adventures. “We can do this!” we declare as we gather the family around and open our Bibles to Genesis. Unfortunately, by Epiphany, the luster has worn off our resolve, and family devotions have begun to feel like a chore. And then there’s Leviticus . . .

Lora A. Copley and Elizabeth Vander Haagen have prepared a guide that does the heavy lifting of plotting a course for family worship. Teach Us to Pray: Scripture-Centered Family Worship through the Year is organized into seasons based on the church calendar: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Ordinary Time. The readings are dated for long-term use through 2027. An introduction to each section provides background and front loads a challenge to the parents along with a heads up about materials and recommended activities for planning purposes.

In the process of teaching the small people in our lives to worship, our own hearts learn the practice anew, and as I perused each day’s lesson for Advent, the eight-part pattern began a drumbeat in my thinking about exactly what worship entails:

  • Preparing – What environmental conditions will enhance the experience?
  • Inviting – God is there already. Invite Him into the center of your worship.
  • Stilling – In the silence, ask the Spirit to help you pay attention to God.
  • Singing – Music and lyrics for thematic songs are provided.
  • Reading – When we read Scripture together, we hear the voice of God.
  • Dwelling – What questions come to mind in relation to the text?
  • Praying – Thank God and praise Him for the day’s wonderful truth!
  • Blessing – Words from Scripture invite you to pray a blessing over your family.

How would my personal, grown-up variety of worship be enhanced if it was continually being shaped by these action verbs?

Encouragement for Worship at Home

Family worship took on many forms during the growing up years of our four rowdy sons. Often we gathered at meal time, but there were seasons when we occasionally claimed a Saturday night for a more intensive teaching session — followed by popcorn or some other treat. Three principles come to mind that guided us through those important years:

1.  Persevere.  Don’t give up!

If you forget, remember next time.
If you fail, do better next time. Just be sure there IS a next time.

2.  Take grace.

Conversations about spiritual things with my kids never go as smoothly as I plan them.  Sometimes my words sound brittle or awkward even to my own ears, and now that they are older, even if they are gracious enough not to roll their eyes, I wouldn’t blame them if they did! However, the Word of God is living and powerful. He keeps His promises, and He is able to incline our children’s hearts toward truth, even if we are unhappy with our own skill in delivering it to them.

3.  Maintain a long view.

Even the most serious of cross hymns sung during Holy Week lose their solemnity when there is a St. Bernard in the dining room throwing his head back and howling a descant in accompaniment.

Advent candles set a worshipful tone and help us to focus.  They have also been known to ignite a paper napkin that somehow went airborne during family worship.

I can laugh at these aberrations now because they are part of our family’s story. They remind me that worship is part of life, and as we guide our children’s faith-formation, daily times of family worship will set up a rhythm of faithfulness that will enable our children to envision a life in which God and His Word are part of every season and every day.

This book was provided by Calvin College Press via Westra Events and Media in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 I  am participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Teach Us to Pray: Scripture-Centered Family Worship through the Year, simply click on the title here, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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49 thoughts on “Teaching Children to Worship at Home”

  1. We have a long tradition of “Sunday School” which I deeply appreciate. But it can’t replace the both the joy and necessity of walking in worship with our own children at home!


    1. Well . . . if you’re like me, it will.
      Funny you should ask, because right now I have Sally Lloyd-Jones Jesus Bible Story Book on my night stand and I read one story every night because she has expressed the Bible in such a unique and accessible way. I need simple. Especially at bed time.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your suggestions, Michele, especially #2! Praise and worship are so vital to our relationship with Him. As my 10-year-old and I walk, we memorize a new verse and find ways to praise Him for what that daily verse means. This book sounds like a great addition to the family library!


  3. What a great book review. I remember gathering my children around when they were younger for family worship and prayer times. It was chaotic at times but we kept at it. Now, 3 of my 4 are worship leaders in the church and all of my kids love Jesus. I think I did okay.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with some of your earlier comments here, that there are so many good devotionals being developed now for families. Even though there were fewer available when we were guiding our little ones, I am thankful that the Lord still helped us to find Grace in walking with them. Some of my most precious memories are those spontaneous responses that brought chuckles, or even frustrations at the time. But looking back, those times now seem like cracks in our hard armor, when the Lord brought softness to each of us! Now I am praying for that next generation to find their hearts softened to Him too!


  5. This is great. Sometimes I feel like our application at home gets a little muffled. Last night the 4 year old wanted to pray about a cat. For 4 minutes. She wanted God to know about the cat, but….. Long view, grace- keeping all of that in mind is important.


  6. Michele, this was a great post. Family Worship has not gone as well or as consistently as I would like. Our main thing has been to read a devotion with the boys at breakfast and then answer the questions at the bottom.

    I love the actions verbs shared by the authors for family worship times. And I loved your exhortation to stick with it, even when things don’t go well. I wish we had done more when the boys were little.


    1. There have been times when I got discouraged about the way our family worship times happened. Too rowdy, not “serious” enough, too much parent talk and not enough kid response. Over the years, though, I’ve just become very thankful for all the good years of persevering, and I don’t want to drop the ball now that there’s only one teen son home (who pretty much comes to the breakfast table in a zombie state).


  7. I almost snorted coffee out my nose in your point about grace… It’s inevitable that one of my boys will say something completely inappropriate during our devotion times… Grace for it all! Blessings, friend!


  8. It is so important to teach our children about the Lord at home. Many believe it is the church’s responsibility and depend on Sunday school and bible study to teach them. Train up your child in the way he should go…… only parents can train them up to worship this amazing God.

    I pray that I will devote my life to teaching , praying , and submitting my children to the Lord

    Your neighbor at holleygerth.
    Happy New Year , Sister


  9. It sounds like this is a great resource for teaching our children to worship all year ’round, Michele! I’ll be pinning it for sure! And I love that you have persevered in teaching your children to worship the Lord by making worshipping alongside them your habit. I hope you don’t give up and do take the long view. I truly believe it will bear fruit, even if it’s not ripe and ready yet! I’m doing the same with my sons who have all left the nest–still fanning the flames of their faith. Some burn more brightly than others, but I trust God will do a work in what my husband and I began in them. Happy New Year, my friend!


    1. There’s nothing more encouraging than seeing our young adults make their faith their own. Thanks for sharing your experience with this. When we’re in the midst of the routine, it can feel very heavy. Blessings to you, Beth.


  10. Thanks for sharing this book and your experiences! I never thought, when looking forward to my own family with glowing eagerness, that what seemed so simple would have so many roadblocks. It encouraged me to read Elisabeth Elliot, one of my heroes, writing that as she grew up, their family devotions were not always received with anticipation and attentiveness, but the memory of them was still a blessing to her. I think our children seeing us navigate the very human interactions and happenings makes it more realistic than if everything happened with perfect decorum. I’ve often wondered, when Jesus was preaching to people on hillsides, which included young children, what the atmosphere was like.


    1. The Shaping of a Christian Family by Elisabeth Elliot was a huge encouragement to me when our kids were small. She sets the bar pretty high, and I do think she was blessed by an unusually responsive and compliant child herself, but even so, we have a responsibility to be training our children in righteousness and saturation in the Truth of Scripture is a great foundation for that.


  11. Several years back when my oldest was preschool age I had such a picture perfect idea of what family devotions would look like. And then the kids would interrupt during prayer , and they wouldn’t keep their hands to themselves during the reading ….and I would feel defeated – like it was a failure.
    In the past few years it is still a work in progress, every little tip and word of encouragement help. This looks like a good book for our clan. Thanks for sharing 💜


    1. So glad that you have persevered. We’re not called to perfection, but to faithfulness in this business of training our children. I think that image we have in our minds is the biggest reason parents bail out on family devotions.


  12. This sounds like a great resource, Michele. I just wrote a post on “when your family devotions look like a circus” (it will publish in a couple of weeks). The memories you shared reminded me of this!
    We’re still figuring out what our family devotions should look like (our oldest is just 3, so we haven’t been at it long). We keep at it, though, even with wiggly kids who sometimes…err, often…get distracted!
    Thanks for the encouragement and the info about the book!


    1. A circus! That’s a great image. And with your oldest being three, your family worship days are just beginning. Blessings to you as you faithfully lead your children in an ever-deepening faith.


  13. You know it’s funny, I’m such a planner but I don’t have a plan for worship at home. We say prayers every night together (mostly thank yous to God for whatever they can think of) and we talk to God throughout the day and talk about what He did/is doing RIGHT NOW. They love the RIGHT NOW talks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That sure sounds like a plan to me. I wish I had done a whole lot more of the “along the way” Deuteronomy-Six-Style stuff with my kids when they were tiny. God in the moment is what they really need, alongside right theology, plenty of Scripture, and a good repertoire of hymns and other Christian music.


  14. This blessed me today, Michele. One of my greatest hopes for the New Year is to teach our 3-year-old and 7-year-old more about spiritual disciplines. We’ve been struggling a bit! This book will be a great tool!


    1. It’s a challenge, for sure, but showing up every day and persevering with little bits of truth at a time is really the biblical model for discipleship! Glad the review was helpful to you.


    1. Honest answers to my children’s doubts (and frank admissions of my own!) have always been fair game. On the other hand, my role as a believing parent is to sow seeds of certainty and faith as a foundation for life, to demonstrate the reasonableness of it, and to anchor all this in reality. Much more happens in the mini-van or at the kitchen counter than in formal teaching sessions, and yet a strong understanding of history and the faithfulness of God in the past is a great beginning.
      I need to go back to your site and peek at the answer to that match stick math problem. I’ve been fiddling with it mentally, and t’s driving me crazy.

      Liked by 1 person

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