1. Use the KISSS principle – Keep it Short and Simple, Sweetheart! One song and a prayer done well has far more impact than a twenty minute session which leaves everyone in tears – including Mum!
2. Keep things predictable. Have worship at a fairly predictable time. After breakfast works for us, everyone is awake and fed and linking it to a feed time means we don’t forget. We don’t forget to eat very often in this house! Also if little ones know what to expect, they will be more likely to cooperate.
3. Have REALISTIC expectations. You are not going to have the Von Trapp family singing harmony in your lounge room. Expect there to be disasterous days. Expect to be singing solo for the first year or two of worship (I did!). Expect to have to teach your children how to behave during worship. Then you are less likely to be disappointed!
4. Realise that teaching and training your children is in and of itself an act of worship. It is hard to feel worshipful when you have to stop “Jesus Loves Me” ten times to administer correction, but correcting and teaching your children IS an act of worship.
5. Stick with it. If you are having worship as a part of the rhythm of your home, it is because it is important to you. Focus on the long term, the ETERNAL, benefits of family worship. It makes it easier to start family worship yet again when it resulted in tears the previous five times.
6. Personalise it to suit your family. At the moment, we have one song each, our pre-prayers songs, family prayer and The Lord’s Prayer. Totally different to what we did last year and I dare say it will change again next year. Do what works, and if it doesn’t work, change it.
7. Have clear expectations. Before worship starts, tell the kids what you want them to do with their hands, feet, eyes, mouth etc. Before prayer time, Say SPECIFICALLY what you want them to do with their hands, feet, eyes, mouth etc. Eventually, get THEM to tell YOU and their other siblings what the expectations are (firstborns especially love this in my experience!) then when those things are NOT done, it is clear defiance and it can be dealt with in the way your family deals with defiance. There will be no space for argument or compromise and kids respond to clear boundaries.
8. Include them in choosing songs. This gives a feeling of ownership. At the moment I could quite cheerfully NEVER sing “The Wise Man Built His House Upon A Rock” OR “Whose the King of the Jungle” but we sing them every day because the boys love them.
9. Don’t expect to see fruit straight away. My kids still go mute during worship, then the other week while he was wandering around the back yard Billy belts out “How Great Thou Art” at the top of his lungs. It gets written on their hearts, even if you can’t see it.
10. Make A Joyful Noise! Find a reason to laugh during worship. “I have fingers that tickle, tickle, tickle” is a verse of our pre-prayer song and it always makes us laugh. You can take a moment to tell the kids one reason you are thankful for them, one thing that makes them special. Whatever it is, make worship a pleasure, not a chore!