FPCSS Director of Family Ministries and Christian Education
FPCSS Director of Family Ministries and Christian Education
As we revisit each intentional practice we’ve covered during this quarantine season, we are back to the practice of song. Specifically, we are focusing on singing the Doxology and our call to worship refrains together.
Evaluate. Is this practice easily and naturally fitting into your family routine? Do your kids randomly start singing refrains on their own? Have you found that singing the doxology as a blessing at lunch time or the refrains at bedtime have fostered spiritual discussions or set the tone for the activity? Great! Keep it up and check out the “Digging Deeper” ideas below.
If it’s not working, again, that’s ok. Let’s brainstorm some ways to tweak this practice to better suit your family rhythms. Does it not fit well with the chosen anchor? If so, move it to a different time. If you’re having trouble remembering the melody of the refrain, check out the FPC Youtube channel for past services and skip a few minutes in. You can rehear the refrain, sing it together, and even reread the call to worship as a family, if you wish.
What if music is just not your family’s thing? We don’t all have the same giftings, but it’s important to remember that over and over, Scripture tells us to use song as a way to praise the Lord. It’s not the only way to worship, but it’s still an important component! If you, as the parent, are feeling self-conscious, remember with young children that they don’t really care how great of a singer you are, they just want to hear your joy. With older kids, it’s ok to be honest about your insecurity and to talk about it. Vulnerable conversation might lead to deeper connection. If your children are self-conscious about singing together, you can return to some of the ideas from the previous discussion.
Digging Deeper - If things are going well for you, try expanding your song set to include these additional worship refrains:
For older kids and teens, have each family member find their favorite hymn. Research together the hymnist, their life story, the circumstances in which they wrote the particular hymn, and the impact that the hymn has made on history. If you have instrumental musicians in the family, check out this Public Domain Hymn list for sheet music.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve focused on creating intentional practices with our families. I have to be honest, some of them are easier than others. My family has successfully implemented the Lord’s Prayer into our bedtime routine. Reviewing the catechisms, on the other hand, has been more difficult. We are still working on tweaking that practice to make it work for us. Remember that, like any new habit, it takes time to establish, and it may take some adjustments to make it work for the long haul.
Evaluate - Beginning with prayer, let’s revisit each spiritual habit and evaluate. Is your newly established prayer time working well for you? If so, great! Keep up the great work. You can flesh out that prayer time even more with the “Going Deeper” suggestions below.
If it’s not working for you, try a change to make it more conducive. Does the anchor you attached your prayer time to need to be changed? Or can you change the order of things? For example, if you have decided to pray at lunch time, and you’ve been trying to pray before eating, but your kids are hangry, try praying after eating. If you’ve attached it to naptime or bedtime and it’s pushing sleep too late, try starting 5 minutes earlier or cutting out another part of the routine. If they’re too wound up, try adding a transition activity, like singing a hymn, before the prayer. Brainstorm with your spouse or a friend.
For older kids and teens, ask them to help problem-solve with you. Explain to them why it’s important to pray as a family, and why you personally want to incorporate it. If they have some ownership of the solution, they will be more invested in the outcome. You can say, “I’d really like for us to pray as a family, but it seems like we’re struggling to do it daily. How do you think we could do things differently to be able to pray together? What suggestions would you make for changing it up?” If they shrug it off, ask them to think about it and let you know at a later time. They might just need time to process.
Going Deeper - If things are going well for this, consider how you can stretch it just a little. If you aren’t already, try adding an open prayer time for each member to pray aloud before or after the Lord’s Prayer. Think about specific praises, requests, intercession, etc.
Consider the ACTS Prayer:
Adoration (Praise God for who He is and for His character)
Confession (Tell God what you have done wrong today, and ask forgiveness)
Thanksgiving (Praise God for specific things He’s done that day)
Supplication (Ask God for what you or others need)
Alternatively, you can use the Lord’s Prayer as the structure, pausing after each section to add specifics. Pause for adoration after “Hallowed be thy name.” Pause for confession after “forgive us our debts.” This can be especially helpful for older children and teens, once they’ve memorized it easily. Younger children may struggle to make the connection to the whole prayer.
You don’t need to add all of these at once. Try focusing on one type of prayer each day. For younger children, you can focus on one for a whole week, or rotate them each day of the week until they get the hang of them. Maybe your child is already particularly good at remembering to pray for other people. You can encourage them to focus on confession or adoration. The goal is to teach our children how to pray and establish the spiritual discipline of prayer with them so that as they grow, it will continue to be a part of their spiritual walk.
If it’s new, having conversations about spiritual things can be difficult. It can feel artificial to simply start those discussions out of the blue. Initiating a Bible study time at home can also seem a little stiff, especially if you’ve never done it before or haven’t done it in a while. But there are some things that can make it less so.
Teachable Moments - You’ve probably heard about teachable moments, or seizing an opportunity when a subject arises naturally. Sometimes a Bible story can be applicable to a specific situation you and your child are dealing with. For example, recently my girls were fighting and worrying very much about what the other person’s responsibility was, rather than their own. It was a perfect opportunity to share Jesus’ words in Matthew 7 about the speck in your brother’s eye versus the plank in your own eye. Afterward, we were able to refer back to that lesson and give language to the situation when it came up again. There have also been times where my children have started the conversation by asking a good question that led to some important discourse. Sometimes we take advantage of these teachable moments, and other times we miss them. That’s ok! It’s part of the process of learning to parent and learning to be like Jesus.
Jumping Off Points - Sometimes we have to “manufacture” these moments a little more. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they have to feel manufactured. Similar to the idea of finding anchors in the day to which we can attach spiritual disciplines, we can find jumping off points that allow us to naturally ask questions and get conversation flowing. This is an especially useful tactic when digesting information from a third party, like from church service or Sunday School class, a news story, a book, or a video.
The Third Element: Bible
Discussing a Bible passage can be a jumping off point if reading passages of Scripture is already well established in your home. If it’s not, using the passage from the weekly sermon as a jumping off point can help to establish Bible study as a normal rhythm in your home.This week, Jonathan examined the story of Peter being restored from John 21:15-25. From there, you may find that your child’s appetite grows and you can nudge your family practice of Bible reading to extend beyond the sermon into stories and passages your family wants or needs to investigate further.
Here are some age appropriate ways to revisit this passage and sermon:
Reviewing catechisms is a big task. So, how are you doing? Has it been challenging or easy? Are your kids picking them back up quickly? Do they feel like it’s more school work? It’s ok if this is a struggle. It doesn’t mean you’re failing, and it doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel. Consider experimenting with some changes if needed. You could try attaching it to a different anchor. If you’ve been attempting this in addition to school time, try making it your dinner discussion. Or if you’ve been putting it off until to the end of the day but keep forgetting, try making it part of your “get ready” routine in the morning.
Something simpler. This week’s challenge will hopefully come a little more easily for most of us, and especially for our children. Music! Songs and hymns are one of the most powerful teaching tools the church has used throughout history. Even before preschoolers can read, they can sing along with the Doxology. And we adults still remember the songs we learned as children.
The Third Element: Song
There are lots of ways to include song in our everyday rhythms. But instead of leaving this open ended, let’s do something specific together. We’ll focus on two things: the doxology, and the Call to Worship refrains that our Director of Worship and Arts, Jen, has created for this Easter season. Here’s the refrain from Psalm 100 that will be repeated next week:
|D C |G
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
And his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him.
|Bm |A G|
Bless his name; bless his holy name.
We are working on a recording, but for now, you can find it here, beginning at the 3:32 mark.
As I write, I am impatiently waiting for June 7th and our first in-person gathering in a long while. But as much as I am ready to get back to “normal,” I have to confess that there are some things I will miss about this time. It has been an opportunity to pause and reflect on what our family’s normal has been and the ways I would like it to be different.
This week, my family has recited the Lord’s Prayer every night at bedtime right along with you. Bedtime is a natural anchor for us and it’s been a precious time of spiritual discussion for my kids. The Lord’s Prayer has helped provide a framework for our typically meandering prayers. It brings up questions about the nature and character of God and teaches our children how to pray like Jesus. I hope that if you’ve been intentionally including the Lord’s Prayer in your daily rhythms, you have also found it to be helpful. In case you missed this suggestion from last week, you can catch up here.
Let’s build on it. Prayer is one of the first ways we learn to connect with God. But without solid theology as a foundation for our prayers, it’s easy to treat God like Santa in the sky, distorting His image to look more like what we want Him to be. The good news is that our children are already laying that strong foundation by memorizing the Catechisms in Sunday morning and Wednesday evening classes. Practice them as a family to reinforce these truths!
Define your anchors. For some families, the daily anchor will be at the same time as the Lord’s Prayer. For others, it will need to be at a different time. Keep your children’s attention spans in mind. Five minutes here and there, sprinkled throughout the day, might be more effective than trying to make them sit still for 30 minutes to an hour at a time. Or perhaps you will find that catechism discussions naturally flow out of your prayer time, or vice versa. You know your family best.
The Second Element: Study
The New City Catechisms are available with corresponding verses, commentary, prayers and even songs for the younger kids on their free app (Click here). For kids in The Well (4th grade) and below, you will want to enable the “Children’s Mode” by tapping the gear at the top right corner and moving the slider to “on.” This will enable the shorter answers and songs that go along with each question.
Just a reminder... We’re encouraging families to do this together, because we as a church family are doing this together. As you have interactions with one another on social media, via texts and messages, or six feet apart at the grocery store, you can ask one another how it’s going, what anchors the other is using, or which songs are their kids’ favorites. If you feel comfortable, post pictures or encouragement on social media while tagging FPC Siloam. It may help others feel slightly less isolated until we can meet in person again!
For the past six or so weeks, there has been a collective pause. And in this pause, we have the unique opportunity to examine our typical practices. We have a moment to think intentionally about how our families function, the rhythms and routines we participate in. We are all anxious to get back to “normal.” and it would be easy for us, at the end of this time to just pick up and start right back where we were.
But what if… what if we began practicing some intentional rhythms now that we could carry forward. What if we did it together, as individual families and collectively as a church family? What if we established these in the next few weeks so that when life returns to normal, we could continue them? It only takes 21 days to establish a habit, so let’s make the most of this time.
How? Start simple. Think about the anchors that already exist in your day. There are a few less of them right now, perhaps, but what are the constants? Do you always eat breakfast as a family? Right before your essential worker leaves for the day? Do you find yourself all around the dining table to begin your school and office work? A mandatory break time halfway through school work? Do you all gather for an evening movie or TV show? Perhaps it’s naptime or bedtime routines already in place. Whatever it is, pick an anchor that has a little wiggle room to be stretched just a few minutes longer.
Now what? We’re going to add one element at a time. Remember, this is something we’re doing together as a church family. We hope that as you add an element, you will think about the other families at FPC who are doing the same thing during their day.
The first element: Prayer
The first element we want to add is family prayer. But, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Use the prayer Jesus taught us to pray, the one we say every Sunday, the Lord’s Prayer. Pick your anchor time and recite the Lord’s Prayer aloud. Here are some age appropriate ways to do so:
Go one step further. If you’re already doing this and looking for a bit more, give your children an opportunity to add intercessory prayer for friends, family members, ministries across the world, specific groups of people, etc. Or add prayers of confession. Lead by example with these by going first and sharing your own concerns for others or shortcomings. You don’t have to be explicit in ways that are not age appropriate, but confessing to God and asking forgiveness for a short temper or a bad mood can go a long way in spiritual education for children.
Lastly download the New City Catechism app if you haven’t already. It’s free and easy to use. Familiarize yourself with it, as we’ll use it next week! Or find your New City Catechism book, if physical books are more your thing. (Let me know if you need a copy, we have a few extras.)