Today's parents no longer assume that they know what family worship should be. Even those brought up with some sort of family prayer and Bible reading are often looking for a more meaningful way to worship at home with their families.
A large printing industry has grown up to fulfill this need: books on prayer, song, and family worship fill retailer's shelves, as do books filled with devotionals and written prayers. Each age or interest group within the congregation can find materials to fit its needs. But many families are still searching for something more.
One very meaningful possibility is to invite the congregation's worship committee to provide suggestions for family worship. In this way the family's worship during the week can be tied closely to the congregation's worship on Sunday. We've tried it in our church this past year with very positive reactions.
You'll find examples of suggestions that a worship committee might provide in the Family Worship bulletin inserts that accompany the Lenten series of services in this issue of RW (see "Aliens on the Way," pp. 11-21). The guidelines that follow will help you create similar materials for your own congregation.
Keep them simple.
Unless you have at your disposal several good writers who are willing to undertake the project of writing these family worship guides, keep them simple both in format and production.
Begin by using these guides for only a limited time (such as the season of Lent) to see how the people respond to them. Be sure to advertise their availability well in advance so that families can plan to use them.
Tie them to the Sunday Scripture.
Because of the wealth of materials already available, the true distinctiveness of these Family Worship inserts is their close bond to Sunday services. The text of next Sunday's sermon, for example, should become the basis of the week's Bible readings. During the Bible time of family worship, this text should be read in a variety of meaningful ways:
—Let each family member take a turn reading a day's selection.
—Create small group readings as the cast of a dramatic story.
—Have younger children act the story out.
—If the text contains teachings that are not in story form, have your family create a story that illustrates the point.
If your congregation follows the Common Lectionary, each of the four lectionary readings can serve as the basis for a day in the devotional. Each Scripture reading can be followed by questions that explore the meaning of the passage. The main theme of the week can then be underscored with appropriate activities.
Include suggestions for singing.
An important part of any worship time is singing. You can help families incorporate music into their worship by including suggestions for a song of the week. Again, tie this singing into the week's worship service by selecting a song that will be sung during that time. Perhaps you are learning a new song or have a "Hymn of the Month" or "theme song"; make these part of the family worship time.
Include suggestions for family activities.
The main theme of the week should be underscored by a suggestion or two for meaningful family activities. When possible, these activities should increase the involvement of the individual family in the larger church family. Invite families to display posters and banners they have created at home; permit them to place unique "offerings," such as food or time commitments, in the church offering plate; and encourage them to share their family prayer time requests with the congregation in the congregational prayer time.
Be sure your suggestions are suitable for children and teens.
Make sure that the questions in the Bible reading guide are both easy and interpretive, permitting families to discuss and meditate on a passage at a variety of levels. Activities, too, should be flexible enough to allow participation by both young and old, and songs should be simple enough for children and upbeat enough for teens (include options, if necessary).
The following is a short list of resource books for Lent family activity ideas. Adapt any idea as appropriate to the theme of your season.
Lent Begins at Home by Pat and Rosemary Ryan. Liguori, Missouri: Liguori Publications, 1978.
Family Fare by Darlene McRoberts. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1981.
Lent Is for Children by Julie Kelemen. Liguori, Missouri: Liguori Publications, 1987.