The Family Altar

In a time when few families watch TV together, eat a meal together, or share a Saturday playing together, the thought of worshiping together seems like a far-fetched goal. Our culture bombards us with the notion that children need to be independent and have room to develop on their own. Children use the overstated line that their friends get certain privileges and so they are privy to them as well. What transpires is family members isolating themselves in different rooms in the home without any discipling interaction taking place.

If you think your children would balk at the thought of your family gathering together a family altar for worship on a regular basis, then that is all the more urgent of a reason.

The term “family altar” speaks to a time when the leader of the home gathers the family together to focus on God. For some families, that may mean once a week. It could be Sunday evening as the family prepares for another week. It could be Saturday evening as they family prepares their heart for worship with their church the next morning. Other families might practice it everyday at the breakfast table or at nighttime prayers.

Why is the family altar important? God says so – that’s why! Here are just a few of the examples of God’s stance on the family altar: Abraham was told to teach his children so that following generations would know the Lord (Gen. 18:19). Moses taught that parents were to teach their children to love the Lord all throughout the day (Deut. 6:7). The psalmist taught the necessity of God’s people declaring God’s greatness to the next generations (Ps. 78:3-7). Solomon taught that if you trained a child in the Lord, they would not depart from that way (Prov. 22:6). Fathers were instructed to teach children in the instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).

What should you do when together?

  • Read. Get in the Bible together. If you don’t know the Bible that well, just stay one step ahead of your children. You will learn it better as you teach it to them. At differing ages, you might use children’s Bibles, but it is very helpful to read chronologically. Often children are only taught stories devoid from context and they don’t see the big picture. We recommend resources like The Big Picture Storybook Bible or The Jesus Storybook Bible. If your church has a reading plan or studying a book, that is another great option.
  • Pray. Don’t rush through this, and get creative with it. Ask for prayer requests from your family. Get in a circle and have each person pray for the person on the right. Have a set prayer focus for each day (Sunday – church staff, Monday – friends, etc.). Use this time to work on any family dynamics that needs the Lord’s guidance.
  • Worship. Even if you don’t play an instrument or think you can sing well, you can lead your family in worship. You could sing a cappella or along with a CD. If you do have a family musician, stir up that gift in them (2 Tim. 1:6).

Don’t expect the church or another person to do what God has called and equipped you to do! Disciple your family.

Travis Agnew is a Christian, husband, father, pastor, author, blogger, and religion instructor.

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1 Comment

  1. A few months ago we started having “family Bible time” together every night. It’s been an amazing experience, worshipping God together. I can say with all honesty that we haven’t missed a single night- if we get home kind of late and I’m tempted to say the kids are tired and need to go to bed, then my husband will say, “Let’s do it but just shorten it a little.” It’s evolved a little as we’ve figured out what’s best for our family. We have 5 really small children, so we began by using a children’s Bible. However, a few weeks ago we began really thinking about the importance of them hearing God’s Word- His exact words- regularly. At first they had a hard time transistioning to no pictures. But they’ve gotten used to it and enjoy it now. We begin by letting one child (we rotate whose night it is) choose 2 songs to sing- sometimes they’re children’s Bible songs, sometimes they’re hymns, sometimes they’re worship songs. Then that child prays. It’s usually a short prayer, but we’re working on teaching them to pray specifically that the Lord would teach us through His Word. Next, “Daddy” reads a few verses from the Bible and explains what the “big words” mean. Last, Daddy prays. It’s been incredible, Travis. We’ve been trying to begin a family Bible time for a couple of years, but never made it consistent. We kept getting overwhelmed and frustrated that we weren’t doing it “right.” Slowly the Lord taught us that it’s important to find what works for our family and focus on glorifying Him and teaching our children to do the same. I shared this because I know that other families may have the same issue- feeling overwhelmed with what to do and how to do it. Maybe some dad’s feel like they can’t lead their family in worship because they don’t know how. I just wanted to share one way of worshipping the Lord together. Maybe it will encourage someone else to give it a go and find out what works for them. Another point I want to insert is that a big part of it is keeping other things from taking God’s place. We make sure that we’re always home by 8 or 9 and we don’t have tv- we have a tv with a DVD player that we let the kids watch occasionally, but we don’t battle wanting to hurry so we can watch this show or that show as we did early in our marriage. So, that’s it. Just wanted to encourage other families. 🙂

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