This is a common question in most Christian homes. Certainly, linking theory and practice is challenging, not only on an educational level but also spiritually. We know that the religious instruction of children is the responsibility of the family, and the church is only a means to reinforce and support the family's instruction. If we study the Scriptures, we will understand that the education of children is never entrusted to priests or church leaders; it is the exclusive task of the father and, in his absence, of the mother. Samuel is the only example of a child raised by a priest who was not his father, although the child’s spiritual success could be attributed more to the influence of his mother and her prayers than to the education of the priest Eli. As a father, Eli was not a good role model.
It is not new for families of believers to talk about the importance of family worship and to consider it as the principal time when the teaching of the Holy Scriptures takes place (Deuteronomy 6:7). During worship, the family gathers to share experiences (Deuteronomy 6:20). It symbolically builds an altar to renew the family's covenant with the Lord and give thanks for His mercies (Genesis 35:2- 3). During this time, the Holy Spirit rests on our homes, and the blessing of God abounds in each member of the family. However, why is it so difficult to have meaningful worship? Why is it so easy for it to become routine and lose its essence?
First, we must recognize that family worship time is the enemy’s principal target. So, we are constantly required to examine, rethink, evaluate, change, and innovate, especially when there are children, who at each stage have different needs. On the other hand, this time involves effort and preparation, two responsibilities that in today’s society are difficult to carry on. Daniel 12:4 describes the end of time as a world rushing hither and thither, and it is evident that these words describe today's society. But will we allow ourselves to be carried away by the system of this world and, as parents, excuse ourselves for lack of time for risking the salvation of our children?
There are many ways to enrich our family worship, and this is where theory and practice converge. While we can learn from the strategies that other families use, those strategies will not necessarily fit into ours because each family is unique. Furthermore, family worship includes routine and creativity at the same time, because it is a daily, usually twice-daily, activity. What does this mean? There must be order and care to preserve the fundamental elements of worship such as the reading of the Word of God, prayer, and praise. However, these elements should be presented in an appealing, motivating way, promoting the participation of all.
“Let the services be brief and full of life, adapted to the occasion, and varied from time to time. Let all join in the Bible reading and learn and often repeat God's law. It will add to the interest of the children if they are sometimes permitted to select the reading. Question them upon it, and let them ask questions. Mention anything that will serve to illustrate its meaning. When the service is not thus made too lengthy, let the little ones take part in prayer, and let them join in song, if it be but a single verse.” –Education, p. 186.
Ask for God’s guidance. Then equip yourselves with resources that will facilitate your work. For example, for the little ones, it is essential to have Bible storybooks with pictures in them. Also, we can sometimes carefully select a short video referring to the concept or story we want to teach. Nature, animals, food, plants—all creation is an inexhaustible resource to share with your boys and girls. Leave the most interesting things for the Friday service, and cultivate a special love for the Lord’s day.
Encourage children to learn through their senses. For example, put different kinds of oils into jars and, through smell, identify the scent of olives; then tell a story about this oil, even mentioning its healing properties. You can extinguish all the lights and turn on a lamp to teach how the Bible illuminates our lives. Give your child a taste of one food without salt and another with salt to illustrate the analogy that Jesus made regarding the preaching of the Gospel. Inside the house, in the garden, and in the kitchen, there are many items that we can use to animate our services and give them more meaning.
You can create or acquire surprise elements such as a “Trunk of Biblical Promises,” “Box of Prayer Requests,” and Bible cards with pictures and/or information that allow you to introduce the desired theme. However, this type of resource should not be part of the routine. Make it something special.
Never rush through worship. You may not have noticed, but at the back of the International Hymnal there is a 71⁄2-page list of Bible verses with an appropriate hymn or hymns to use with each verse. This can be useful when you sometimes don't know where to begin.
As the children grow, increase the complexity of the activities. For example, create a “Decision Box,” for which each one writes down a practical decision based on what was learned in the service. Read a chapter of Proverbs every day of a 31-day month. Each day write a new verse on a board.
Read the Bible in a year as a family, taking care that it does not become boring because of the complexity of certain books. Draw something on a board, and let the family guess what is going to be talked about. Memorize verses of the Bible together, such as Psalm 23, the Ten Commandments, the order of the creation days, the three angels’ messages, etc.
Music is very important for children of any age, but singing and playing an instrument should not become merely a "musical moment." With actions and objects, help listeners to understand lyrics. Teach children to sing with spirit and understanding. As a family, compose a song.
Or prepare a children’s hymnal with your family's own favorite songs.
Learn verses through repeated singing. Prepare a special song to present in church. From time to time, it is good to allow the children to lead the family worship service, always making sure that they remain respectful and do not make a game of the occasion.
Everything must have both an educational and a spiritual objective. We make a mistake if prayer becomes a simple element of beginning and closing the service. Prayer should reflect the need we have for God’s direction and should also express an understanding of the subject: if we talk about honesty, our prayers should include asking forgiveness for the times we have not been honest as well as asking for strength to incorporate this value into our lives.
Resources and materials are unlimited, but we as parents must always remember that the futures of our children, both physically and spiritually, depend on us. We must move past theory and put into practice all the knowledge that we have. The success of God’s people consists of working within one's own family and thus collectively achieving edification of the body of Christ: His Church.