Every family has a different rhythm. Some fathers have the pleasure of coasting home at five o’clock. Other fathers return home as the sun rises. Still, others have an office in the home.
Fathers – regardless of your rhythm – the most important shift of your day is not at work. It’s when your whole family is together functioning as a little church in the home.
A Little Church in the Home
What do I mean by being a little church in the home? Jonathan Edwards, during his farewell sermon to 1st Precinct Northampton, said, “Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church, consecrated to Christ, and wholly influenced and governed by his rules. And family education and order are some of the chief of the means of grace.” Having practiced family worship for years now, I humbly submit that Edwards is right. Bountiful grace flows from the practice of viewing your home as a little church.
If you wish to have a little church in your home and lead your family during this most important shift of your day, here are a few suggestions.
Prepare Yourself to Lead
Many operate with the misconception that we spiritually lead only during a bedtime hour. But spiritual leadership is a 24/7 job. And that shift when you are directly interacting with your family is crucial from beginning to end. Thus, it is critical to prepare yourself, even before returning home.
Each day, shift your mindset before you walk through the door. Stop thinking about work; start thinking about engaging your family as the spiritual leader. Spend time in Scripture and pray for your family.
And, if possible – during the gap time or break time at work – be in touch with your wife. That way you know what to expect when you enter the home foray. You’ll be prepared to encourage, celebrate, correct or discipline. And your kids will be bewildered by your special knowledge of their day!
Have an Interactive Dinner Time
Often times, if I haven’t prepared myself to lead spiritually, I’m a zombie at the dinner table. That’s why the previous section is so critical.
During dinnertime, talk about your day and ask about your family’s day. Share the spiritual highs and lows and confess moments of weakness. Then listen in as your family shares about the day’s victories and struggles. Don’t just enter into the conversation as a counselor or consultant, lean in as an active audience.
In turn, be a nostalgic storyteller. Talk about running around your neighborhood barefoot and how you got glass in your feet. Share about your Terebinthia, and the tree forts you built to fend off pretend enemies. Your kids will love getting ideas or leaving reckless ones behind. They will connect to your childhood foibles and lessons learned.
As the spiritual leader, the key to having an interactive dinnertime is for you to be the most interested listener in the world. Through your listening and inquisition, you communicate that your wife and children are the most intriguing people in your world.
Build in Leisure Time
The most important shift of your day needs to have built in leisure time. Usually, we have a little of this before and after dinner. We’ll play with toys in their bedroom, walk over to the park nearby, or read a few stories in the living room.
This is your chance to be a big kid and teach creativity to yours. You’ll officiate weddings between Iron Man and Ariel. You’ll build the bedrooms tallest Lego tower. And you’ll teach your kids how to leap out of the swing.
As your kids age, you should consider having a hobby to do together or one to do with each child.
And one of the no-brainer ways to build in leisure fun is enjoying a movie together. In our home, once a week, we have movie night.
Have a Time of Family Worship
The most important shift of your day has its most important time. That’s family worship time. Ours has three elements: lesson, song, and prayer.
For our lesson we use a number of resources. We’ll read a storybook bible or devotional. We us The Big Picture Story Bible (David Helm), The Jesus Storybook Bible (Sally Lloyd-Jones), Thought to Make Your Heart Sing (Sally Lloyd-Jones), The Gospel Story Bible (Marty Machowksi), or The Child’s Story Bible (Catherine Vos). We’re also slowly going through New City Catechism, which is a great way to help your children learn Scripture and doctrine.
Then we’ll sing songs. Sometimes I play my guitar; sometimes we play songs through our sound system; sometimes we roll “a capella”. This is probably our kid’s fav time, and mom and dad get pretty into it too.
Finally, we pray. This is a sweet time in the evening. We take prayer requests. We have children pray for one another. And of course we pray over them – begging God to show them their miserable sinful state, to give them the gift of faith, and call them into salvation. And we also pray for boo-boos and recovering lost toys, too. But we don’t want our kids to miss the gospel in our prayer and their need for Christ.
I’d be lying if I said this time was uninterrupted and perfectly peaceful. With little kids, it’s just chaotic. If you enter this time with an expectation that it will be that way, you’ll handle it with much more patience. We don’t have a strict “in your bed” time. We used to and then discovered we would let meeting that deadline govern our attitude during family worship. We also start family worship about an hour before we want them in bed. That gives plenty of margin for interruptions.
Ending the Most Important Shift
Your most important shift should end with affection. Give those kids huge bear hugs and sloppy kisses. And for us, positive affection includes being tossed onto a cushy mattress. Who doesn’t like that?
ABOUT JOEY: Joey is the Church Planting Intern at Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, Il under the coaching of Pastor Joe Thorn. He blogs regularly at jtcochran.com providing edifying content for families and pastors. He also reviews books from major Christian Publishing Companies. Joey has contributed to the Gospel Coalition, 9 Marks, Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Gospel Centered Discipleship, Christianity.com and FaithVillage.com. He is married to Kendall and they have 3 children.
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