A Case For Childless “Family Worship”

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My wife and I spent the evening at some friends’ house recently. It’s one of those friendships where the husbands are very alike, and the wives are very alike, so it’s easy spending time with them. I cherish their friendship. They have three children, all girls, who are such a joy to be around.

On this particular evening, we finished up dinner and made our way to the living room. It was at that time that I was presented a small, pink ukulele from one of the girls, and asked to play it. I obliged, of course, strumming aimlessly but selling it well enough to entertain. Before long, my friend Jonathan got his life-size acoustic guitar out, and within minutes we were sitting in a circle, singing worship songs together, accompanied by the guitar and ukulele. This wasn’t out of the ordinary for this family to engage in; it was a part of their rhythm and routine. After some songs and time of prayer, the kids got ready for bed.

It was a really, really sweet moment of worship, the kind that truly stirs your affections. I remember thinking in that moment, “I so look forward to this kind of thing when we have children.”

Recently, we have seen a bit of a resurgence in the area of “family worship,” the concept of families emphasizing spiritual disciplines and committing to Christian practices, and in the process discipling one another as a family. Pastors and authors such as Jason Helopoulos, Donald Whitney, and Voddie Baucham are some recent voices in this important conversation. I’m grateful for their contributions to these matters.

I have seen the beauty of what family worship can be with my own eyes. I have read about the benefits of implementing these practices into your homes. I have a dream and a vision of how I want to lead my family in worship when we have children.

But as I’ve thought about it, I keep saying something that I fear can produce false thinking: I keep qualifying family worship with, “when we have children.

It is not explicitly the fault of these authors or pastors for making us believe family worship is only to be had when children are around. In fact, I know that Whitney’s book acknowledges that point. But I still think that many of us have conditioned ourselves into believing that family worship is a practice that parents should be thinking about, and not something to be done for married couples who don’t have children.

This is a post written to those of us who are engaged, or are married, who do not have children in the home for whatever reason. Maybe we are unable, maybe we are waiting to try, or maybe we aren’t ready for them right now. Or perhaps you have recently become an empty nester, and all of your kids live elsewhere. Whatever our circumstances, there is still something very special and God-honoring about the family of a husband and wife, and because it is a God-ordained institution, we should seek to glorify God in it just as much as we should in parenting. The opportunity for family worship as married couples without children in the home is rich, and we shouldn’t miss it.

Most of us would agree that we should “train up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6). Should we also agree that our goal as spouses is to sharpen one another, to edify one another, building up one another to Christ? If this is true, then we should hold our spouses accountable to reading God’s Word, and read it together, the way parents should their children. We should pray together, and for one another, the way parents encourage their children to. We should seek to worship together in song, learn a catechism together, have enlightening conversation at the dinner table. Discipleship begins in the home, and I’m talking about spouses.

If you are like Hannah and I, in a season of waiting to have children, then adopting the disciplines of family Bible reading, praying together, fasting, and others are only going to increase our chances of making these habits stick when life changes. If we don’t prioritize their place now, how will we carve out time when life is exponentially more hectic with children? Truthfully, if we have spent years developing these practices as a married couple, by the time we do end up with children in the home, we will certainly be able to teach our kids the importance of these practices from our own experience, a more powerful selling tool than “because I say so.”

Last year, Hannah and I read the entire Bible together. It was really hard. Our schedules were very busy and we found it more difficult as each month passed. But we committed to it, and if you know my wife, she must finish everything she starts! She held me accountable to finishing this plan. It meant catch-up days, reading some more than normal some nights. But we finished, and we benefitted from our time in the Word together. Recently, in a season of deep prayer, we decided to end our nights with prayers from The Valley of Vision and Psalm readings before bed.

What does that look like for you and your spouse? I’m not sure. Hannah and I have gone through the trial and error of “family worship” in our nearly 4 years together. But it is a “good fight,” an important thing to strive for in marriage. We don’t have it figured out, for sure. But I would encourage you, continue to find ways for you and your spouse to find family worship even in the temporary or long-term absence of kids. The best marriages are the ones that can rejoice together, weep together, sing together, read together, and worship together.

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