Advent has come and gone. I finally got most of the wax pried off the wreath and put the wreath away in the closet to await Lent and our countdown to the crucifixion. So many people enjoy celebrating Advent as a family–singing, praying, reading the Bible story, but now it’s January. Now what? Can that continue without the wreath and the candles and the familiar Christmas carols about Jesus?
Yes. It’s more difficult in some ways, because there’s not a set group of songs for the rest of the year, and we already read a Bible story at breakfast. What to do? Well, there are many ways you can do this. Here’s some things that we are using in establishing a Family Worship Time:
First off, it doesn’t have to take a long time. Especially with young children, at the end of the day, something brief works better at our house. The limited attention span is already decreasing because everyone (me included!) is tired. Don’t make this like a three-hour revival service. And if you have babies that are too tired, put them down first, before you start. That will free one parent’s hands to help with everyone else.
Second, choose a song. Choose a hymn or worship chorus and work on it together. My husband knew we were singing Rich Mullin’s Creed this past Sunday, so last week this is the song we sang all week during worship time. It’s challenging for small children to be able to worship during church, even if they can read the words on the screen, sometimes the song is too fast for them to sing what they’re reading. Exposing them to one of the songs that will be included in worship (if you can find out) and working on that during the week will help engage kids on Sunday. And if you can’t find out, don’t worry about it. You know the songs you sing at church. Try to get a copy of the lyrics and the cords if you’re going to play yourself. If you can’t play an instrument well enough to play along, that’s OK. You can probably find the song on iTunes or another website and buy it for 99 cents. Play the song and sing along as a family.
Engage your kids. That happens in different ways, depending on the kids. Scooter Man has a djembe, so this past week he’s played that while my husband played the guitar. I’ve helped him stay on the beat by clapping or patting my leg. The girls played the triangle last night, at judicious intervals. Too much of anything can lead to chaos, so choose your instruments carefully, and feel free to take them away if things get out of control. Sometimes, we let them choose a song for us to sing. We have a children’s hymnal (My first Hymnal: 75 Bible Songs and What They Mean by Karen Henley) with pictures and stories about the songs that is very good. It has a little explanation about each song. You could sing the song, read the devotional, then sing the song again and that would be a great worship time. They also have an mp3 you can download that actulaly plays all the songs. How easy is that?
Explain what you’re doing. Why are we singing this song? What does it say about God? Why can we dance during worship sometimes, and sometimes not? Rich Mullins’ Creed is pretty much a quote of the apostles’ creed. Some of those words are a little different from what we use today, or are used differently, like “He’s coming to judge the quick and the dead.” We talked about what quick meant in the song. Sometimes it’s easier to remember a song if you know what you’re singing!
End in prayer. My sister’s family (four boys ages 8, 6, 4, and 2) call their nightly devotional time “Sing. Read. Pray.” Self explanatory–that’s exactly what they do. After we sing and talk about what we’ve been singing (or whatever you choose to talk about), we talk about our day. We ask our kids what their favorite part of the day was and something from the day that they are thankful for, and then we thank God for those things. You could even start a family gratitude list, and write down what everyone is grateful for. That would be fun to look back on later, seeing how God blessed you, whether it’s your son’s Legos or your daughter making bread for the first time or a provision for the mortgage, doesn’t God always give good gifts?
Now, before you think all this happens naturally and it always goes well at my house and your house is different, stop. Remember, this is a never picture perfect blog. There are behavior corrections that happen (try every single night!). Instruments have to be taken away for misuse or from use at inappropriate times, people can get silly and need to be disciplined. There are occasional nights, when we’re done, I think “Well, that was a disaster! What a waste of time.” But it’s not. Worshiping together as a family is a challenge, but the dividends are great.