Anyone who has attempted a regular family time/family worship time knows… there are some hurdles to overcome. This post is designed to address some of the most common:
Q: How long should family time be?
A: We shoot for 45 minutes to an hour… though sometimes we go longer if the discussion with the older children is going well. As a general rule, short and sweet is better than long and laborious!
Q: How do you make the family worship time relevant given the diversity of ages among the children in the family? In other words, how do you keep it engaging for both teens and elementary ages and below?
A: Not easily. But seriously, there are some things you can do to help bridge the gap between the growing intellect and understanding of pre-teens and teens, and the still child-like reasoning of younger children. Here are some of the things I’d suggest:
- Talk about this issue with the older children beforehand. Let them know that you want your family time discussions to be relevant to them, but you also want to make sure you don’t leave the younger children behind. Help them understand the need for everyone in the family to profit and grow, not just those who are older. You’ll be teaching a great principle of bearing with each other and serving those who are “weaker.”
- Enlist the help of the older children in teaching, explaining, and helping the younger children with their understanding. As has often been said by teachers, you learn more by teaching than by being taught. This will hold true to some degree for your teens as well.
- Be on the alert for words being used (sanctification, salvation, born again, etc.) that you know the younger kids won’t get right away. Stop and ask them if they know what the word means. If they don’t explain it on their level (or have one of the teens do it).
- Include the younger children who are readers by having them read some of the passages you are discussing (smaller passages).
- Watch for ways you can apply the principle being discussed (trusting God for example) to the level of the various aged kids. Ask the teens application questions relating to peers, use of media/technology, work, personal responsibility, etc. Ask the younger kids application questions relating to sharing, loving their classmates, being responsible with their chores.
- During your prayer times, have the kids ask for requests from the ones sitting near them (older or younger) and then pray together about those things, allowing the one who asked for the requests to lead in prayer for that issue. You’ll be teaching concern, prayer, and faith, along with building unity among your family.
- If your older children are showing interest in a subject beyond what your younger children are capable of understanding, wrap up the family time a bit early – let the younger kids go do their thing – and resume the conversation with the older kids. We’ve found this to be necessary on a number of occasions… and both sets of kids are happier as a result!
- If your younger children are on the very young side (toddlers, etc.) you might tell them that during family time they will be allowed to color, draw, or play quietly with legos, etc. while you discuss things with the older kids… but they MUST remain quiet and listen! This requires that you already have discipline of your kids well in hand… but it is an option that works well in some instances.
Q: How do you decide what you will study/discuss?
A: For us, it’s typically been a matter of prayer between my wife and I, then we simply pick a passage or topic. Although there have been many times where we knew the children were struggling with a specific issue, so we targeted our discussion around scriptures that addressed those things. When you do that, don’t feel that you have to do it “under the radar” at all. Simply tell your kids that you’ve noticed the struggle (whatever it is) and wanted to look together at what the Bible says about that issue. Use it as an opportunity to teach humility, and eagerness to discover God’s heart about a subject!
Q: What do you do when particular children simply won’t (fill in the blank… sing, read aloud, participate, etc.)?
A: In a situation like this, the issue has little to do with family time and a lot to do with the way that child has been taught/disciplined up to that point. It may sound idealistic (but it’s not), but in a home where proper parental authority and love have been taught and practiced well, you won’t have these kinds of issues.
So what do you do? You get help with your overall parenting… from someone you can trust on the subject. There are a few really good books on the subject, such as Shepherding a Child’s Heart that are helpful in developing a right mindset, but in the end, I’d suggest you find a “parenting mentor” to help you… someone whose children and home you admire and would like to emulate. Ask them to teach you, and humbly receive their instruction.
Understand, if the child who is showing resistance is older (pre-teen, teen) – you’ve got a rough road ahead. The foundational work that should have been done to prevent the attitudes you are seeing is long overdue. You’ll have some re-training and willfulness to overcome. But the Lord can guide you there… don’t lose heart!
These are some of the most common issues. But there are likely many more… if you’d like to send me a question about a particular situation… I’d be happy to give it a shot!