What is "Family Church?"
Family Church is what we call the dedicated "sacred" time we spend with our kids each week. We eliminate all outside distractions. We set work aside. We enjoy each other's company. We turn our attention toward God. We invite His presence into our home to interact with us, teach us, and renew us. It's beautiful and it's simple. (More ideas on what this looks like at our house in just a moment.)
What isn't "Family Church?"
Family Church isn't some isolationist thing. It is not a replacement for connection to a larger body of Christ Followers. There's a great deal of value, (even necessity), in gathering regularly with the "extended family." (CLICK HERE for more on "Why We Need Each Other.") Family Church is just one very important piece—the intimate space of our community's gathering rhythms that also include personal, social, and public expressions.
Think of it as one of the "major food groups," all necessary to create a healthy/balanced diet.
Why is "Family Church" a big deal?
There's both a practical and a spiritual side to this answer....
We discovered that spiritual togetherness and growth wasn't going to happen on accident. For a long time, regular family devotions were penciled into a busy schedule that rarely went according to plan. So we stopped making it an "add on" and made it a "main thing." As a byproduct of this intentionality, a household culture's been formed where prayer is habitual, worship erupts spontaneously and talk of what God's up to in our lives is now normal.
Now before you go off thinking, "Wow! What a super spiritual family!" I want to emphasize:
- No we're not. There are many beautiful moments, all mixed together with the very normal chaos of home life.
- The Jesus-honoring culture we're describing is possible for anyone willing to put in the consistent effort. You'll need to set clear expectations. You'll need to agree that you're going to do this together. Then you'll need to reinforce it over and over again.
My wife and I have embraced our roles as the primary spiritual leaders in our kids' lives. Obviously, making disciples was a pretty big deal to Jesus. But did you know that the first biblical charge to disciple others is found all the way back in Deuteronomy 6:7? Here we find a charge to parents to raise their children in the ways of the Lord! When we embraced this, it also meant repenting of the notion that it's an institution's job to teach our kids everything they need to know about God.
Discipleship requires interaction and consistent immersion. As wonderful as many Kids' Ministries are, a 1-hour experience on the weekend simply isn't enough for effective discipleship. Since the average parent spends about 20 waking hours with their child any given week, the potential for greater relational investment is exponential!
How does Family Church work?
Blueprints aren't helpful here. In fact, strike the notion of constructing any sort of inflexible structure (albeit metaphorical) from your mind. Instead, picture yourself setting out into nature—exploring new trails—with your family in tow. Here are a few useful tools we've kept in our "hiking packs" that you may also find helpful....
My family operates best when we assign times to things. If we don't, nothing happens. So we set an alarm on Sunday for about 9 AM, enjoy a leisurely breakfast together, then role from the dining table to the Family Room anywhere between 10 and 11. We take our time and enjoy our Sabbath, while also sharing a common expectation of what our morning together will look like.
There are 3 things we try to hit with our kids during Family Church:
- Worship - Sometimes we pull out the guitar. Other times we use Youtube playlists like THIS ONE and sing along. Sometimes we're all singing and dancing together. Other mornings there's less energy and things take a more contemplative tone. Either way is fine!
- Scripture - At times, Sheena or I will have a simple passage on our hearts and we'll take a few minutes to share it, explain it, and convey what God's speaking to us through it. But most of the time, we use simple books like The Jesus Storybook Bible or videos from The Bible Project to unpack the core idea. From there, we discuss what we read/watched with the kids and take time to wrestle out any questions that stemmed from it.
- Prayer - This has honestly been the toughest one! For a long time, no matter how much we dropped the "Show some [freaking] reverence!" bombs, (portrayal of hypocrisy is based on actual events), our kids still ended up poking each other while eyes were closed or flipping upside down on the couch like drunken acrobats. A big breakthrough happened when we gave our kids a simple guide:
- Something you're thankful for.
- Something you need God's help with.
- Someone other than yourself.
The outline gives our kids enough guidance to remember what to pray for, without being some sing-songey recital of memorized words devoid of personalized meaning.
What's important right now?
Don't wait until you have all your "ducks in a row."
You never will! And once you actually get started, you'll find that "how" works itself out over time. And trust us—this is actually for the best. Why? Because your family is a dynamic, living, breathing organism. It's unique! It has its own personality! So you're going to need to adapt anyway....
How you do Family Church isn't nearly as important as actually doing it!
So go ahead. Pick a "sacred" time, create the expectation, and forge out into this new and exciting territory with your family!