Steadfast Dads — Family Worship

“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 administration 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 public 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 devotions.  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 interruptions the word will get around and you won’t get as many of them.  If you permit folks to interrupt your dinner 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 Translation 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 righteousness 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 gathered around his Word at home.  Seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness means bringing church to our children at home.

About Pastor Rolf Preus

Pastor Rolf David Preus grew up on the campus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, the fourth of ten children, where his father, Dr. Robert David Preus, taught for many years. Pastor Preus graduated from high school in 1971, from Concordia College, St. Paul, Minnesota in 1975 and from Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana in 1979. He was ordained on July 1, 1979, at Trinity Lutheran Church, in Clear Lake, Minnesota. He served Trinity Lutheran Church in Clear Lake (1979-1982), First Lutheran Church in East Grand Forks, Minnesota (1982-1989), St. John's Lutheran Church in Racine, Wisconsin (1989-1997), River Heights Lutheran Church in East Grand Forks, Minnesota (1997-2006), and First American Lutheran Church in Mayville, North Dakota and Grace Lutheran Church in Crookston, Minnesota from (2006-2015). On February 15, 2015 he was installed as Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Sidney, Montana and St. John Lutheran Church, Fairview, Montana. Pastor Preus received his Master of Sacred Theology degree from Concordia Theological Seminary in 1987. His thesis topic was, “An Evaluation of Lutheran/Roman Catholic Conversations on Justification." Pastor Preus has taught courses in theology for Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Concordia University Wisconsin, and St. Sophia Lutheran Theological Seminary in Ternopil, Ukraine. Pastor Preus married Dorothy Jean Felts on May 27, 1975, in Coldwater, Michigan. God has blessed Pastor and Dort with twelve children: Daniel, David, Paul, John, Mark, Stephen, Christian, Andrew, James, Mary, Samuel, and Peter. David, Paul, John, Mark, Stephen, Christian, Andrew, and James are pastors in the LCMS. God has blessed Pastor and Mrs. Preus with sixty-three grandchildren so far.


Steadfast Dads — Family Worship — 15 Comments

  1. Thanks for this!! I let this slip in my family and was recently convicted of that sin. I let this duty become so monumental in my mind that I just felt unable to do it. We have settled into a nice routine using a new the new Story Bible from CPH and the small catechism:

    All in it takes less than 30 minutes. We have kids ranging from 2 to 11. So what we do is read the Bible story from the Story Bible. It has some questions that are great for the 6 year old. It also has some sort of an activity or play acting suggestion to drive home the point of the story. Then we read a section from the Small Catechism that correlates to the theme of the Bible story. This gives the 9 and 11 year old something more up to their level. I working on adding a hymn, but no one in my family wants to listen to me sing …

  2. Pastor Preus,
    What advice can you offer, to those Dad’s, that did not see this or grow up seeing & knowing this?

    Can a Dad, still do this with older children? If so how would you suggest them to start?

    How can a Dad that didn’t know any of this, take the reigns over, from Mum, who was trying to do both duties?

    Rather a bit of re-teaching the A,B,C’s, sort of thing. “If ya didn’t know it before, here’s a intro course on starting…etc.” How is this best done & how can wives & mothers help in that process? Help meets, meet the need, where we see, know, or find it. Not easy, but we fair far better, when roles are taught properly. Can this still be done with older kids? If so, how?

  3. Dads can start this at any time, also with the older children. They can start the Bible reading at the beginning, in Genesis, or with one of the Gospels. While he may feel a bit awkward at first (since he is not used to doing this), that will soon pass and he’ll start feeling comfortable at it. The best way for Mom to help is to let Dad do it. This doesn ‘t mean that she can’t also have a devotion with the kids at other times of the day, perhaps when she puts them to bed. But to have a set time when Dad as Dad does it will bring the family together in a wonderful way.

    If you have children who are memorizing portions of the Catechism, Dad can lead the family in reciting them together at the dinner table during devotions.

    I’d be interested in hearing from parents with children at home on what they are doing.

  4. My dad never had any interest in church. My mom brought us to Sunday school and to church.

    We got our boy interested in reading when he was three years old. Once my wife and I got our four year old son interested in reading (politically incorrect) books such as the classic Little Golden children’s books, the transition to other, more serious books such as the Bible was easy. It would have been hard if our boy had an aversion to reading in general.

    I am currently reading a children’s bible with my four year old son. Although I try to be the primary reader, my wife and I will take turns with him. As with other books, he decides with whom he wants to read. He likes it when we read several chapters, at least six stories, at a time. We try our best to read chronologically, but as he is only four, he insists on skipping around and rereading favorite sections such as Noah’s Ark, Daniel and the Lions, and David and Goliath.

    We do not currently have a plan regarding what he should read when he is in third grade.

  5. We sing… a lot. Vespers, Compline, hymns, Matins, Psalms, more hymns.
    We try to read a chapter of proverbs at breakfast and the readings from the Treasury of Daily Prayer at night (if only we could get it all in every day.)
    I often let the boys lead the liturgist parts of the service or let them sing a stanza of a hymn solo. I hope it trains them to lead their families when they are older and makes them eager to have their turn.

    Thank you for the encouragement.

  6. My son is 4. We’ve been doing a nightly Bible time since he was 2. He has memorized The Apostle’s Creed, The Ten Commandments, The Lord’s Prayer, The Nicene Creed, and about 10 verses from the Bible. So each night he recites the creeds, picks 1 commandment to recite, recites his memory verses (including blessing his baby sister, 6 months old, with Numbers 6:24-26), prays, and we read a story out of the story Bible from CPH and he answers the questions and says that prayer. It sounds like a lot maybe? But he LOVES it, it has become a regular part of our routine, and doesn’t really take much time. Maybe 30 minutes? Out of a whole day 30 minutes is nothing. My husband designed this program, decides on the memory verses or creeds to add, and leads it each night. My son asked to learn the Nicene Creed so he would be able to say it with everyone else during the divine service each week. Children are so good at memorizing! Anyway, that’s what we do. I’d love to add hymns into our home life but have no idea how to go about it. Any tips? Are there good CDs for this? Thanks!

  7. Oh and I have a LSB but can’t read music so don’t ever know what tune to use or how to go about singing the hymns…

  8. @Dana #8
    Start with liturgical music that you already know very well from singing it often in church. “Glory be to the Father and to the Son…” is a great place to start. “Oh Christ Thou Lamb of God” is one of the most important liturgical pieces in the service.

  9. @Dutch #2
    Remember KISS, keep it simple stupid. As a father who started from the ground up with no experience from my own father, I recommend to parents to start simple. I also recommend experimenting with a few good materials. We settled on the “Treasury of Daily Prayer” with readings from “The Story Bible” by CPH.

    And, no knock against the liturgy, I don’t recommend starting there. It is too foreign at home and is something that will likely need to be added later once you are comfortable with doing a simple devotion regularly. Generally, I recommend to parents start with a short reading and prayer (written or otherwise) and then move from there. Once we were used to doing a family devotion we began adding to what we do.

    Our typical devotional

    Usually we use the family devotional services that CPH conveniently has on a laminated trifold. Since we do ours before bed-time we use the “Close of Day”. We did this no frills for about a year. Made it easier with pre-reading kids. Now we change the propers with the season using the “Treasury”

    A reading from the “The Story Bible” takes the place of the suggested readings. We just start at the beginning and move through to the end, with occasional tweaks to match church year.

    We use the prayer provided for the reading, with the kids repeating phrase by phrase.

    Personal prayers. We started out with the family telling us what they were thankful for that day and then one of us parents praying. Now what we do is we do a simple responsive prayer. When somebody says something they are thankful for we all respond “We thank you, Lord” or when they have say something that is a concern i.e. scarred of the storm, or to get better; we respond “Lord, hear our prayer.”

    Lord’s Prayer

    Luther’s Evening Prayer


    Occasionally, usually at the request of one of the kids, we do the singing service aka Compline supplemented by a cd. We also bought a copy of “My First Hymnal” and we occasionally sing a hymn together.

    Our congregation has put a big push on doing memory verses, so we also do the kid’s memory verses and because I thought it was time to start do catechetical work we started memorizing Luther’s Small Catechism. This part, we added after the reading of the day after doing devotions for about 3 years.

    For the parents who are musically challenged, there are some good CD’s out there.
    “Sing the Faith” by CPH
    “Evening and Morning” by CPH
    My kid’s favorite is any of the cd’s by Koine – The Church Band.

  10. Whew! I thought, we’s fudged it. Nope, we didn’t, lol. The one thing, I wish CPH & NPH had, are those little books, w/the song/speaker, to play hymns & dare I say it,….parts of the liturgy & Confessions? The push/play, books, babies & toddlers, get at WalMart, etc? The boys prayed b4 eating, from day 1. Folded their little mits, & said it for them & they learned it that way, sort of thing.

    The boys knew “Smidge & Smudge”, very well! They had “Baby Bibles”, then “Comic Book Bibles”, then NIV Large Print (great for kids learning & mastering reading, btw). Singing the Doxology, was a riot & treat! They were really loud & I loved every second!
    They learned Now I lay Me & Ich Bin Klein, before they could talk, w/Mummy & Daddy. And still say the same ones now, w/us, at 13 & 14. He must have had a bit to work with, they both want to go into called Service. (So not, us).

    Revaggie #10, my boys love Koine. They’ve played at our Church! And the senior choir, used arrangements, by Koine’, at Easter, this year. I have no idea or clue why, but Mum’s just seem to teach these things, when their babies. Maybe, since Mum’s start so young, that’s why Dad’s seem uncomfy with all this.

  11. @Dana #8

    You can find music for LSB hymns here:
    On the home page, in the Search area to the left, just type in the title (or just the first word or two) and then LSB2006 as the hymnal.
    A hymn description should come up. Under the Media heading, where you see “tune authority pages,” click on the word “tune”.
    You can play MIDI files in your web browser or download them to your computer, then double-click to play.

    You can also find tunes (as MIDI files) for many Lutheran hymns here:

  12. We handed out stacks of the laminated LSB “Daily Prayer for Individuals and Families” to our congregation members a few years ago. They are available from CPH in packs of ten.

    No feedback on whether they use them, though.

    We also place Higher Things Reflections in our narthex, replacing the Portals of Prayer.

  13. Parents also need strong devotional materials for themselves.
    If we are going to spiritually feed our children, then we must
    be fed ourselves. One resource I recommend: “To Live With
    Christ” by Bo Giertz. This daily devotional was published in
    2008 by CPH. It offers Scripture reading, meditation and a
    prayer. It follows the Church Year and focuses on Christ.

  14. @revaggie #10

    I wanted to preview Treasury of Daily Prayer on the CPH website, but I get redirected to a page the states Flash is required. Hey CPH: I am using an iPad and cannot view a lot of your products. Please abandon Adobe Flash as soon as possible. Thanks!

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