Wow! I asked John Conger to let us "Peek in" on their Family Worship Time and I am so glad that I did! What a comprehensive look at how the book of Deuteronomy (chapter 6) describes keeping the Word before our children when we walk, rise up and lie down...I thank God for Bro. John and his willingness to share with us how he and Susan "live out" the Word before their children and their striving for consistency in every area. I pray that you will be blessed and challenged for having taken the time to read and ponder what he has shared.
Family Worship - by Bro. John Conger
It is with the greatest of humility that Susan and I are sharing insight into how we conduct Family Time/Worship in our home. First, we would like to begin with a definition of “Family Time/Worship” from our perspective. Family Time/Worship is not the same as Personal Quiet Time – especially with children. If you try to force Family Time with children to be the same as your Personal Quiet Time as an adult, you will become very frustrated and will not display any of the fruits of the Spirit as you try to enforce compliance of a desired standard.
Secondly, you need to realize that in light of the Great Commission, “Family Time/Worship” is not limited to a specific time. It is a continuous, on-going process. The ultimate goal of the process is to “make disciples.” So often we think of the word “Go” in the Great Commission as a command when in the original text it is a participle meaning “As you go” or “Having gone.” The implication is as you live where you live, as you perform your daily routine tasks, making disciples should be a natural part of your daily life. You shouldn’t have to think about it or plan to do it, it should be something you do as naturally as breathing or as familiar as driving to the grocery store.
The first question that has been asked is, “How do you conduct your family time?” For our family, the concentrated devotional time occurs at bedtime. Some people say that devotional times should be the first thing in the morning as you give the Lord first priority or of the first fruits of your time. Others support devotional time in the evening as the last thing you hear is what your mind meditates upon and processes while you sleep. For the dynamics of our household, the best time is bed time. The important thing to remember is that there is a designated devotional time. For our devotional time, we use the 365 Read-Aloud Bedtime Bible Stories (ISBN 1-55748-264-0). Even though it is a single-page story, the Scripture reference of the complete text is provided along with two or three questions to ask at the end of the story. I view it as a children’s one year Bible.
The second question that has been asked is, “What are we doing?” Apart from the devotional time, here are a few things that we are doing to “train our children in the way they should go.” Prayer is a major emphasis spontaneously throughout the day in order to teach “praying without ceasing.” If we hear of someone who is sick (either within our family or someone else), we will pray for them with the children. With Susan homeschooling, she prays with Paul each day before beginning his studies. She incorporates the AWANA memory verses into the homeschooling process. She uses Windows to the World (a children’s version of Operation World) to study world geography. In the area of discipline, obedience has a three-part meaning. To obey means 1) doing what you are told 2) doing it when you are told to do it 3) doing it with the right attitude. Discipline doesn’t necessarily always mean a spanking. There have been times that I have sent Paul to his room while I prayed about how to discipline him. God revealed to me some passages of Scripture which I shared with Paul and guided Paul in confessing his wrong to God. We emphasize sincere apologies. They have to say, “I am sorry because…” When the apology is rendered the sign of acceptance and forgiveness is a hug. Susan and I are VERY guarded in what our children see and hear. We do not have cable or satellite TV. Our computer/internet access is in our den. We use the TV screen as the computer monitor so that everyone can see what we are doing. I remember one time when Jim Brown shared a devotional with me. I do not recall who the author of the devotional was, but here is the penetrating question that was asked: “How many flies have to be in your soup before you won’t eat it?” Here’s the application: How many words, statements, scenes have to be in a movie/TV show before you turn it off? We canvas our neighborhood (70 plus homes) at Easter with our children to share the Gospel with our neighbors. When we go visiting, we have each of our children’s Sunday School roles along with our 3rd grade role divided geographically. We take our children with us to visit the children. Our children are with us practically everywhere we go. They see our responses/reactions to life’s circumstances. That is true disciple-making – when someone observes you in your weakest moment. We sponsor Rahul who lives in India through Compassion International. When our son turned five, I searched the Compassion International website (www.compassion.com) for a boy who was born in March 2003. I plan to take our son to visit Rahul in 5 or 6 years. We also plan to sponsor children from different continents for our others when they turn five. It gives our family a global focus.
The third question that has been asked is, “What are the challenges we face?” Oh my, where do I begin? Devotional time is usually a three ring circus. One, if not all three are experiencing a meltdown moment. Somebody’s crying. Somebody’s wanting to talk. Somebody’s playing with a toy. Somebody’s walking off to another room. It’s a hoot! That’s part of the fun of having a 7 year old, a 2 year old and a 1 year old. Susan and I used to get SO discouraged with it all until one day mom told Susan how much it reminded her of my brother and me. Mom said she didn’t think it was doing any good until one day we quoted John 3:16. Another day we quoted Psalm 23. Mom’s testimony was a great encouragement to Susan and me. There are some nights when I finish reading that I ask a couple of questions about what was read and nobody has a clue. Some nights I try to review previous night’s readings without any success. On a personal level, there is usually pure exhaustion. It takes a disciplined effort to train your children on a consistent daily basis. There are some days that we fail to have devotional time. You know, people can tell you what you need to do, they can demonstrate to you how to do it, they can yell at you and smack you around for not doing what you know you should; but if you do it for any of those reasons, it’s not really doing it to bring honor and glory to God. You’re doing it simply out of a legalistic ritual. Everything that you do in the Christian life should be done for the sole purpose of allowing Jesus Christ to live more fully through you by the power of His Holy Spirit. It’s Christ in you the hope of glory. One of the hardest struggles I have faced as a parent is the decision about toys. We have banned Pokémon, Power Rangers, Transformers, Bionicles, and Bakugans from our house. You may ask “Why? It’s just a toy.” That may true, but when you read the storyline, there is a whole lot of false religion, false doctrine, and false theology that is presented in a seemingly innocent toy. Philippians 4:8, Ephesians 5:1-16, Colossians 1:9-17 are our theme verses. If we get unwanted toys in kid’s meals, we purchase an approved toy to replace the unwanted toy with. Based on Matt 12:43-45, we try to replace evil with good in order to fill the void.
The fourth question that has been asked is, “What are the joys we have had?” Oh my, where do I begin? LOS (lots of smiles) There are nights that I almost avoid the devotional time but then one of the kids will ask for the Bible story. There are some nights that, when I ask about the reading, one of them recalls the minutest detail of the story that I have to go back and re-read it to see that it actually said that. There are some nights I can simply mention a character, and our oldest can tell me the whole story from what he has learned from Sunday School or other lessons. One day someone gave the children some toys. In the midst of the toys was a Pokémon character. Paul told the individual that he couldn’t have it because it represented false religion. The individual told Paul that it was so small he could just sneak it in and I would never know. The individual went as far as to say Paul could paint it purple. Paul confronted the individual with, “Isn’t that lying?” When Paul came home, he showed it to me and told me of the conversation. In order to reward Paul for having said and done the right thing, Susan and I discussed the situation in private and concluded to allow Paul to keep it until the Holy Spirit convicted him about it. A few days later Paul was showing the Pokémon character to Susan’s mom and talking to her about it when he decided to throw it away.
I never really stopped to realize how much we do and the growth we have seen until Bro. Chad asked us to share our life with you. We pray that you have been blessed and encouraged by reading these comments. In closing, the goal of our “Family Time/Worship” is that our children will not grow up in the traditional mindset of Christianity that we did. Our prayer is that they will truly be world-visionary, world-impacting, reproducing disciple makers on a mission with a vision to fulfill the Great Commission to the ends of the earth until the end of time.
John and Susan Conger