Fathers, love your family through family fun and worship
As a father of five, it is easy for me to get discouraged about my personal failings as a dad. I don’t spend enough time with my children; I don’t spend enough time with my wife; I lose my patience too often; I am not encouraging enough. I could go on.
I pray often that God would help me to change in these areas, and I am working toward improvement daily — even when “daily” means regaining the ground I lost the day before.
One encouragement I have found as a father — beyond the bedrock truth that God is sovereign and that He loves and cares for my children better than me, and sometimes in spite of me — is the scriptural truism, “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet 4:8). Spend a few moments meditating on this, and you will find its depths unfathomable and its practical currency immediate. God in Christ covered our sins through his love for us. And we are more tolerant of the sins and shortcomings of those people whom we know — really know — love us.
What this looks like practically in our household is twofold: I try to show my family love through family fun and family worship.
Love your family through family fun
You’ve probably heard the proverb, A family that prays together, stays together. I fully believe this, and I expand on this essential component of fatherly leadership more below. But I also believe that a family that has fun together, stays together; that just doesn’t rhyme.
One of my goals as a father is not to let a day go by where we don’t laugh and have fun together as a family. This requires effort. I can’t just tell my children I love them; I need to show them. So I get down on the floor and wrestle with my boys. I role-play with my girls. (Recently I was an escaped lion from the zoo. They gave the lion part; I improvised the escape.) I read to my kids and ask them about what they are reading. I build Legos with them. I recently taught my oldest son and daughter chess, and now my son challenges me to a contest almost every day. I joke with them — a lot. I take my daughters on dates and my sons on adventures. In short, I try to cultivate fun, knowing that wholesome fun begets a spirit of love and joy.
Fathers, you are going to fail your children. You are going to sin against your children. So you have to ask yourself a question. Do your children know that you love them? They probably have heard you tell them that you love them. (I hope — I think a dad should tell his wife and kids at least once a day, “I love you.”) But do they know that you love them — not in their heads, but in their hearts? You’ve got to show them that kind of love. As John says, “[L]et us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). And let me just give you one tip here: Kids’ “love language” isn’t gifts or service or words of affirmation or otherwise. It’s quality time, every single time.
Dads, we’ve got to love our kids through spending time with them. And part of our job is to make dad-time, fun-time. I loved, and still love, hanging out with my dad. He made it enjoyable to be around him. Do our kids think the same?
Love your family through family worship
But if fun time were the only way that I show my family love, then I wouldn’t be showing biblical love to my children. Through discipline, training, and family worship, I am also loving my children.
While my failures as a father are manifold, when I lead my family in worship in the home, I know that I am pleasing my Father in heaven. In order for us to obey the Bible as fathers, we should be leading our family to know God through the Scriptures. As Deuteronomy 6:7 commands, “You shall teach [God’s words] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” This is a pretty all-encompassing list of “when” we should be teaching our kids. What this means is that while we need to be leading our families to church — an absolutely crucial role of a godly father — we need also to be leading our families in worship through prayer and reading the Bible together at home.
Throughout my eight years of being a father, I have not always done this well. (There are some days I haven’t done it at all!) But what I want to share with you is what has finally clicked for our family and what works in this season where I am father to kids ages 8, 6, 4, 3, and 2 months.
The best time for our family to gather for worship is right after supper, while we are still at the table. (Side note: if you are not attempting to share at least one meal around the table with your family every day — no distractions, everyone seated together for the duration, etc. — I highly recommend you start.) As the kids are finishing up eating, I begin family worship, where we read the Bible together and pray together.
This doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, if you are making it complicated, you probably aren’t serving your family well. Here are the basic components of family worship: (1) Open the Bible together and read. (2) Pray. That’s it!! There are some additional, non-essential components you can add: (3) Sing a hymn together. (4) Learn/review catechism questions (We have used both Westminster Shorter and the Catechism for Boys and Girls.)
This may be the best advice I can give here: get the devotional book, Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God. This book has excellent Bible passages to read which walk slowly through the Scriptures, as well as summaries and questions that will draw out even the littlest around the table. We’ve been using this for about 6 months now and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Family worship may seem like a tall order, but it really isn’t. Anyone can do it. It’s just a matter being intentional about the time. The yoke is easy and the burden is light, but the payoff is eternal.
Above all, love your families through Christ
Fathers, we need to come to grips with our failures, yes. But we also must remember and be assured by the fact that God made you father to your children. And he has given you everything you need in Christ to father well. Your children have only one earthly father, you. So love your families well, and love them through family fun and worship. Make this a top priority — an epitaph-forming priority for you. And when you do, don’t try to do it in your own strength.
To paraphrase Jared Wilson: You are not a father with all the love; you are a father who points to the Father with all the love. So as fathers, let’s strive to love our families well as we have been loved by our Father.
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