This article by Pastor Rolf Preus originally appeared on the Steadfast Lutheran website on April 10, 2012
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33
Bringing your children to church is your first duty. Bringing church to your children is your second duty. The Holy Christian Church is identified by her marks: the pure preaching of the gospel and the right ad-ministration of the sacraments of Christ. The church is where the gospel is proclaimed according to a pure understanding of it and where the sacraments are administered according to Christ’s institution. We don’t identify the church by the faith of her individual members. That’s because God alone can see anyone’s faith. We identify the Christian Church by her marks.
What marks the church as the church marks the Christian home as well. We know that a home is a Christian home when the word of Christ marks it. There can be no hard and fast rules about family worship since every family is different and schedules vary from time to time and place to place. Stake out a time and jealously guard it. Then you will have time for family devotions.
The Christian father is the pastor of his own home. It is the father’s duty to lead the family in prayer. This is a simple, but profound, responsibility. Boys need to see their fathers exercise leadership in this area. This is how they learn that worship is a manly thing to do. Little boys are generally taught mostly by women in pub-lic and parochial schools, Sunday schools, and so forth. There is nothing wrong with that. But it is vital that a Christian father not abdicate his responsibility to teach God’s word personally to his children.
It may seem like a daunting task if you were not raised in a home where the father led family devo-tions. Keeping three things in mind may help. First, establish a time for devotions and stick to it. Second, read from the Word of God and discuss it. Third, sing good hymns with your family.
Establish a time and stick to it. A good time is at the end of the dinner hour. Devotions can last as little as five minutes or as long as twenty. It depends. If the phone rings when you are eating dinner or having family devotions, whoever answers the phone should tell whomever is calling that so and so can’t come to the phone right now because a) we’re eating dinner or b)we’re having devotions. If you don’t permit outside interrup-tions the word will get around and you won’t get as many of them. If you permit folks to interrupt your din-ner or your family devotions they will do so. Stay firm on the rule and you will find the dinner / devotion time the best time of your day.
Read from the Word of God and discuss it. When the children are little, you can read a book like A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories. As they grow older, you may choose more advanced material. An American Trans-lation of the Bible by William F. Beck is good for children at age ten and older. The father should ordinarily do the reading. Ask the children, beginning with the oldest, simple questions about the reading.
Sing good hymns with your family. Children love to sing and they want to learn what grownups know. Don’t waste your time singing kiddy songs. Good hymns teach the faith. Singing is a wonderful way of learning and focusing the mind. Learn how to sing the Lord’s Prayer and pray it at the conclusion of your devotions.
What is normal? If talking about God and what he says is normal in your home your children will know what is most valuable in life. Seeking first the kingdom of God means seeking to know what God says and sharing it with those you love. That’s why we spend time in God’s Word with our children. God gives us the right-eousness of his Son as our robe of righteousness. That’s a more precious gift than anything we can give our children. God gives this gift, not just in the Divine Service on Sunday mornings, but when his family is gath-ered around his Word at home. Seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness means bringing church to our children at home.