Monday, June 7, 2010

Worship 8: Family Worship

A friend from college, who has two boys (ages 2 and 4) e-mailed me a while back to ask for suggestions about family worship and devotionals. This is such a good question, and worth the time to think through. Marcie and I have had mixed success with what we tried, but what we’ve liked has been really great.

For younger children, I would start with 
The Big Picture Story Bible. It’s a very different kind of story Bible— so different that it may take you a while to get the hang of what’s going on, but it’s an excellent starting point, I think. The “big picture” idea is that it draws out the whole-Bible, unified message of God’s covenant love and grace. 

From there, I would move to the 
Jesus Storybook Bible. This one has gotten a lot of great reviews lately, so you may have caught wind of it. The publisher is actively developing helpful resources here, so you might find some other things that go along with it (like an audio version, I think, and maybe some discussion questions are in the works?). It’s much closer to a traditional story Bible, and probably does one of the best jobs for ages around 5+.

Next I would move to Catherine Vos’s 
The Child’s Story Bible. I don’t like how this story Bible basically tells the stories as separate, disconnected truths— it makes it harder to draw out the “big picture”— but it does a nice job of getting the more detailed versions of the Bible stories across. With the foundations laid by the first two, my concerns are mostly assuaged. This one has been around for ages (I still have mine from when I was a child) but is still one of the best.

So, maybe a recommended reading plan would be:
  • age 2 thru age 4½-ish, The Big Picture Story Bible
  • 4½ thru 6ish, the Jesus Storybook Bible
  • 6ish to maybe 7 or 8, depending on reading level, The Child’s Story Bible
  • After that, get them a regular children’s Bible, like the NIrV Children’s Bible (very like the NIV) or the ESV Children’s Bible.

A few other thoughts…

I picked up 
The Family Worship Book last summer, and have found it to be a useful guide. There’s a lot of good advice and instruction here, and it’s a needed resource for an often-difficult topic.

Also, I got 
Hymns for a Kid’s Heart vol. 1 and Vol. 2 at the PCA’s General Assembly last year, and I really like the concept. It’s a great idea to introduce hymn-singing to children at home, but it can be hard to do— these books (with CDs) make it a lot easier.

Also in the musical line: check out
Seeds Family Worship, which are songs for Scripture memory that are particularly written for children (but also are good enough not to be annoying for parents).

And, don’t be afraid to use children’s books that aren’t explicitly “story Bibles” to help with your family devotionals. There are some really good ones, like RC Sproul’s 
The King Without a ShadowThe Priest With Dirty Clothes, and The Poison Cup; Sinclair Ferguson’s The Plan; and Oliver Hunkin’s The Dangerous Journey (which is a children’s re-telling of the Pilgrim’s Progress). Also, every household should be equipped with Sinclair Ferguson’s Big Book of Questions & Answers and his Big Book of Questions & Answers about Jesus

When your kids are showing early signs of faith, you might think about starting to work through a catechism. There is a version of the
Westminster Shorter Catechism that has been reworked for children, called The Catechism for Young Children. I also love the Heidelberg Catechism as a very approachable and family-friendly catechism. Starr Meade's book Training Hearts, Teaching Minds: Family Devotions Based on the Shorter Catechism looks really good, though I haven't seen it. And Richie and Susan Hunt's Big Truths for Little Kids also looks very good as something along the lines of a catechism.

When you think your kids are ready to be received by the church as communing members (don't believe the myth that they have to wait for a certain age-- when they are ready to profess their faith publicly, they are ready to be received and partake of the Sacrament), I would encourage you to speak with the leadership of your church. When that time comes, I would humbly recommend the
Covenant Discipleship Student's Workbook, which I co-wrote with my friend Richard Burguet. There's also a Parents' Handbook to guide parents, as well. This would make a good addition to family decotionals.

Finally-- and this might be the best advice I have-- don't be legalistic about family devotionals! Maybe the worst thing that someone can do, in trying to teach the Gospel to their children, is to place in their children's path the stumbling-block of legalism (in devotionals, of all places). If things stall, then be patient and start again, but be flexible and be careful to avoid a legalistic approach to family worship.

No comments:

Post a Comment