Hamilton Family Worship

Recently I’ve been exposed to a number of families who do “Family Worship.” When I first heard of this, I was both intimidated and uninterested. I had little desire to try to replicate what I think of as a worship service (prayers, hymns, sermon, etc.) on a nightly basis at home with my family. Don’t get me wrong, I love prayers, hymns, and sermons, but it seems like an awful lot to pull together on a nightly basis.

As I’ve reflected on this, however, I think this is probably not what my friends mean when they speak of “Family Worship.” Actually, I’m not sure what they mean, but I thought I would describe what we do at our house. This is intended to be suggestive for anyone interested in this type of thing (in other words, I’m not being prescriptive), and if you have something that you do differently with your family or that you think we would benefit from I would love to know about it.

Disclaimer: We are new at parenting, and we make no claim to having it all figured out. We have a 2 year old and a 3 week old, and I pray that the Lord will give them mercy and overcome the errors and deficiencies of their Dad (their Mom doesn’t have any errors and deficiencies). Also, these things don’t happen every day. Sometimes I leave in the morning before the kids get out of bed. Sometimes we're lazy. Sometimes I’m not home for dinner. Sometimes we have family in town or friends over. Sometimes I’m out of town, etc.

When we rise up:
We sometimes read a collect (i.e., a prayer) from either the Book of Common Prayer or a book called The Collects of Thomas Cranmer, which is a compilation of the prayers Thomas Cranmer wrote for the Book of Common Prayer. The third collect for morning prayer is the one we use when we do this, and it reads as follows:

O Lord our heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who hast safely brought us to the beginning of this day: Defend us in the same with thy mighty power; and grant that this day we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all our doings may be ordered by thy governance, to do always that is righteous in thy sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(This basically hasn’t happened since the new baby was born).

As we walk by the way:
Our 2 year old has the answers to the first two questions of The Baptist Catechism memorized, and we’re working on the answer to the third. He doesn’t know what the words mean, but he can memorize them now and one day he’ll understand. I copied the text of the catechism with the Scripture references, pasted it into a word document, and as we move to the next question I paste the text of the Scripture references that go along with the question onto a word document so we can print that question and answer with its verses and hopefully learn the verses too. We have 18 years or so to work on it, and I’m pleased with our progress so far.

At the Lunch Table:
My wife has a stack of pictures of family and friends, and after the meal, she and Jake take up the next photo and pray for the people in the picture (I’m often not around for lunch).

At naptime:
Our two year old loves hymns. If we’re singing one, he can usually surprise us with how much of it he can sing along with us. His favorite song is “How Firm a Foundation,” and he knows almost all the words to it. He also loves “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and many others. So at naptime we often sing several hymns from the hymnal by the rocking chair next to his bed (he loves to “sing from the red hymdal,” as he calls it).

When I get to put Jake down for his nap I sometimes read the Creed of Athanasius to him. I’m hoping this great Trinitarian Confession will become part of the fabric of his brain, and it’s blessing me as I read it over and over too!

After Dinner:
At then end of our meal I read a portion of the Bible. We’ve read the whole book of Psalms after meals, and soon we’ll finish Hebrews. I usually read 10 to 15 verses. This is a good time for a Bible reading since we’re already all gathered together. Our two year old is used to it now, and so when we finish the meal he says, “Daddy read Bible!”

At Bedtime:
Every night we sing at least one hymn, and when I’m organized and have one picked out, we have a “hymn of the week.” Singing the same hymn every night helps us all memorize the words.

Sometimes if we have time we’ll read the Big Picture Story Bible before we sing.

Every night when we finish everything else we pray the Lord’s Prayer together. Jake knows all the words to this, but he doesn’t always say them all. He loves these routines, and I pray God gives us grace to continue in them. How I hope that my children will bleed Bible, that they will trust the Lord with their whole hearts, and that God will make me faithful to those entrusted to my charge, especially those most dearly and closely entrusted to me, my sweet wife and our boys.

Join the Conversation


  1. Thank you for your encouraging posts! I too have been intimidated by “family worship” that so many people discuss. Thanks for giving us insight on how the Hamilton family accomplishes this daunting task. It is very helpful and encouraging. Please don’t stop blogging.–Dirk

  2. Thank you, Jim, for your ideas, my wife and I just talked about them. We have a 3 yr. old and 10 mo. old twins, and we need to increase our devotional lives with them.

    What we currently do: (a) wife does devotional with son at bfast each morning as Daddy is usually early to a bfast meeting or to prayer mtg. (b) I, Daddy, read the Bible and pray with our son, each night before bed.

  3. This is a great post. My wife and I are expecting our first, and we have been discussing how to adapt our current (all too often sporadic) family worship practices once we have a little one. Thanks for the insight into your family’s practices.

  4. Ever since I read James Alexander’s Thoughts on Family Worship I have been challenged as a father and a husband to lead my family to Christ. I have continually met with failure after failure, but there are also many bright moments.

    We have done a variety of things – My children (ages 3, 2, 1, & 4 weeks – I am obviously referring to the older two) have memorized a good bit of Scripture, hymns, catechism questions and stories. Tonight we just re-read The Dangerous Journey – a “retelling of Pilgrims Progress for kids using Bunyans exact words with incredible pictures. Christian just had his burden removed at the foot of the cross. It amazes me that my children are able to explain to me the gospel although they have yet to believe it and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. As a father I long for the day when they will gaze upon the cross and the burdens of their sins will role away and be swallowed up into the tomb of Christ!

    And it is my hope and prayer that Christian parents (especially fathers) will come to see themselves as theologian-pastors of the home guiding, directing, and shepherding the hearts of their little ones.

    Will Turner

  5. Last week at church we had a guest pastor (Greg Frizzell). He has written a lot of books on prayer. His book ‘Returning To Holiness’ is the basis for menistering to churches on prayers of cleansing. We had a 6-hour seminar for leadership the day before. The whole weekend was awesome.

  6. Very Edifying, thank you. I have four children – 10, 9, 4 and 3 yrs. After dressing, breakfast, and morning clean sweep we begin with a hymn. I have them (9 & 10 yrs) copy this in their copy notebook and we look up words they do not know through out the week. We talk about what the hymn teaches (we teach a new hymn every week). The two oldest boys then read a chapter out of the Scriptures each and I have them narrate what they had read. This brings forth amazing questions that many times make me think and think hard! I then read a short story from a Martyrs book; we have been working through ‘Trial and Triumph by Richard M. Hannula’. This is great because it is in chronological order and they note them down on their homemade timeline.
    This is great lap time for my two littlest ones; they mostly listen and sometimes pipe up with a question. Even at 3 and 4 yrs, their minds are soaking knowledge up. Of course, we close with prayer. I type on my laptop the children’s prayer they dictate to me, and yes the two littlest as well. We review prayers at the first of the month to see if we have become slacken in prayer for a particular need and to give opportunity to praise God for answered prayer. All this takes about 1 ½ hours, but the children have adjusted very well to this as we just started schooling at home after Christmas break.
    During the day, I read two more hours to them from great books (this is broken up into two sessions) and have more history bible study along with Scripture memory and catechism. I sometimes am able to find a poem complimenting our memory work that we will memorize and practice in copy work along side.
    Dinner and after is daddy’s time to teach, we start with poignant questions asked earlier to get his understanding, and use many challenges and situations experienced through out the day to bring Scripture to light. I use a dry erase board to keep notes for conversation during this time throughout the day.
    At bedtime we close with a little lighter note, reading about an historical person or a story teaching moral principles (of course, originating out of the Scriptures) this week is about Teddy Roosevelt for the boys and The Girl with a Hundred Dresses for my 4 yr. old daughter. I limit nighttime reading to one chapter per book, as they would keep me awake all-night until the book is finished!

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