A few years ago, I joined a buddy from staff, a friend from seminary, a few friends and family from a church in Texas, and about 1,500 people I didn’t know in Minneapolis for the Desiring God Conference for Pastors. (OK, truth be told, there was at least one other guy that I knew from seminary. But I intentionally avoided him. I’ll apologize for that in this life or the next.)
The topic: prayer. One of those topics: leading family worship. It struck a chord. Actually, much of that conference struck a chord. And I haven’t been the same since, nor has my family. Well, this year I have attempted to bring family worship into the Googer house with more regularity. It’s been. . .fun, to say the least, to sing songs like this in our house:
So for those of you who think that only superheroes lead family worship, let me share with you family worship from the peanut gallery.
Knowing that good family worship involves singing, I tell the boys it is time to sing (this comes right before bedtime). Usually, they run around in protest and try to play with all of their cars until I share with them that they will either sing or go to bed. Suddenly, singing sounds quite attractive.
I sit on the couch with my guitar and ask the boys which songs they want to sing. It is almost always in this order:
- “Slugs and Bugs” is what the boys call “God Made Me.” This is from Randall Goodgame and Andrew Peterson’s album “Slugs and Bugs.” You should buy all the albums in this series and get excited about the forthcoming Scripture songs album. (That song itself is the video above).
- “Bless the Lord” is what the boys call “10,000 Reasons.”
- “Amazing Grace” is what the boys call “Amazing Grace.” This gets added on to the end if they aren’t ready to go to bed. And because it is fun to play on my guitar in an open-G tuning (so sometimes dad adds it).
- “Ethan Song” is a song where I make up words that rhyme based upon what people are doing in the house. It goes like this: “Ethan over there/ sitting down by the chair/ sitting down by the chair is/ Ethan over there.” Then we say another person and repeat until we get bored. Asher usually requests this one. It isn’t a worship song, per se. But it’s fun to sing together. Here’s hoping that God isn’t angry with us for adding that one (I think He’s cool with it). . .
So, do the boys sing these? Absolutely not. What usually ends up happening is that I sing them and they run back and forth from the couch to the kitchen. They run these laps non-stop until the songs are done. Usually, Ethan runs into Asher and tries to get him to trip. Sometimes Asher trips himself on purpose so he can fall on the carpet. One day they will break their teeth on something.
Heart-felt worship as a family? Check.
What’s family worship without The Bible? After “singing,” the kids run onto the couch where Courtney, (now Abram), and I have a Bible. Actually I say something anticipatory and creative like this:
‘It’s time. . .for. . .the. . .” and the kids can then yell “BIBLE!!!!!!!!” (The reason I haven’t been asked to speak about family worship at conferences around the world is beyond me.)
I ask a few questions to prep for Bible time. They are always the same:
- Who is The Bible about? Answer: Jesus. I ask Asher this one because it’s easy.
- What did Jesus do? Answer: Died for our sins. I ask this one to either kid.
- Where is sin? Answer: In our hearts. This one goes to Ethan. (For you theologians out there, shut your mouths about sin being a ruling power and how it affects everything from creation to the weather to our hearts to everything that happens in this world. It’s in our hearts and will stay there until the kids can reason better.)
We use one of two Bibles: The Big Picture Story Bible or the Jesus Storybook Bible (the latter we give out during child dedication services). I enjoy both (though I get exhausted by the amount of times the JSBB uses the phrase “You see.” It’s incessant). How do we choose which one to read? It generally comes down to (1) how much time we have to read, and (2) how I am feeling. The Big Picture Bible is shorter, and it usually wins most nights. You see, I like it better.
While we read, the kids squirm. Ethan says, “I want to sit here!” (and then repositions himself on the couch). Asher sees that and says, “No, I want to sit here!” and then climbs on top of the couch. (I then wonder if I should spank my children so they get super serious at Bible time. And then I don’t.) The kids reposition themselves multiple times, and Asher likes to point out everything on the page.
“Hey, is that a giraffe? Hey, are those stars? Hey, is that a man? Hey, is that an alligator? Hey, is that the sun? Hey, is that Jesus?”
I’m watching the clock. “We should be done soon. Dad needs to shower. I haven’t finished that episode of the X-files yet” all run through my mind.
Somehow, we finish. And then it’s time for. . .
The kids have this thing they do right now where they mispronounce words on purpose. So I begin asking the boys what they want to pray for.
Me: Boys, who do you want to pray for?
Ethan: Gee Gee and Gop (who are Mimi and Pop, Courtney’s parents).
Asher: Geegus (Asher likes praying for Jesus).
Me: Anyone else?
Someone Else: Trains.
Me: Let’s pray for our neighbors, and for all the lost people in the world (I feel enormous pressure to be sure I’m praying super-missional prayers).
Someone: NO! I want to pray for Cars. (I capitalize it because they mean the movie Cars.)
Ethan: (pointing at Asher’s nose) LOOK AT THE BOOGER! LOOK AT THE BOOGER!
And SCENE. That happens in some iteration just about every time we do this, and that’s just trying to get the kids to share prayer requests; we haven’t even started praying.
I try as I can to lead in prayer. The boys begin moving all over the living room. “I want to pray right here,” says Ethan. Then he lies down in the middle of the floor. Asher quickly joins and then begins rolling over him. Ethan laughs. Asher laughs. I again wonder if I should spank them so they get super serious about praying. I think to myself, “I bet Charles Spurgeon’s kids were angels. If he were alive right now, he’d probably put me under church discipline.”
Many times I end up joining them on the floor or wherever else they are, and they oblige a bit of quiet while we pray.
To bed, I said!
That whole process takes about twelve minutes. From there we go up to bed. I usually take Asher and Courtney takes Ethan. We often read them some other story, and they always seem much more interested in it than they are the Bible. One more round of prayers with each kiddo and it’s light’s out. Courtney and I walk downstairs, survey the damage, and then hear footsteps.
“I NEED TO GO POTTY!!!!!”
And then we take Ethan to the bathroom, put him back in bed, walk downstairs, survey the damage, leave much of it, and pray that the Lord does a great work in the lives of our children. . . and that He does it in spite of us.