In his excellent and helpful book A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home, Jason Helopoulos describes how Christians who understand their need for corporate worship and private worship (quiet times, devotions, whatever you call it) often neglect family worship, and how we can reclaim the practice.
But wait, you say, surely all Christian parents read the Bible and pray with their children, right? I think that’s probably true in one way or another. However, what I think Helopoulos does a wonderful job of doing is describing how the mindset and framework of worship can benefit a family and bring glory to God.
Currently at our house we have morning Biblestudy (using Training Hearts Teaching Minds to read the Scripture proofs for catechism questions and memorizing them) on days we don’t have to be anywhere first thing, and then we have Bible reading and/or a Bible story, sing hymns, Psalms, the Doxology, Gloria Patri, etc, and pray before bed. In one sense, that sort of covers the “family worship” ground, but what I think we were missing was the intention and framework of worship. I’m still thinking about worship and liturgy months after reading Imagining the Kingdom and Desiring the Kingdom, and reading A Neglected Grace helped me to flesh out what that would look like on a family-by-family basis.
First of all, A Neglected Grace is a short, very accessible book. Helopoulos begins by making the case for family worship (solidly) and then moves into very concrete and doable ideas for making that happen in your actual, real-life, made-of-fallible-people-including-children family. I thought the organization of the book was helpful, and a perfect mix of theory and practical help. You’ll find explanations of how to do worship with little kids, a mix of kids, as a single parent, if your spouse is not a Christian or not on board, if you don’t have much confidence in your ability to teach your family, and lots more.
I so appreciated the way that Helopoulos tied family worship into a format that trains children in corporate worship, but also maintains the joy and anticipation that worship should give us. This is not a weigh-you-down book, and you won’t feel burdened by yet another thing you have to do as a parent. Rather, the simple ideas really lend themselves to joyful implementation.
Reading this book inspired me to suggest some changes in our family’s approach, mostly in standardizing our practice (building the idea of a family liturgy) but also in thinking through how we pray together as a family. Helopoulos challenges readers to teach children about different formats and types of prayers, which is something we have not done other than haphazardly. We could stand to do a better job of praying for our world, our country, and our church, not just needs of those close to us as they come to mind.
Helopoulos asks readers to consider what our children will remember as the center of our life together. Will they grow up knowing that worshipping God is central to us? Is that part of our family identity? The way that we habitually spend our time, the traditions and habits we establish, the schedules we keep, make up who we are as a family–in other words, our family liturgy really is our definition. We can say whatever we want, use whatever adjectives, even write out mission statements, but in the end what we actually do it what speaks loudest.
A Neglected Grace is at once thought-provoking and eminently practical, and I highly, highly recommend it.
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