What Puritans Can Teach Us About Family Worship

What can I do to help my kids grow spiritually?

For most of us, the first thing that comes to our mind is to teach our kids the Bible. This is great, but depending on the age and stage of our kids this can be rough. So what can we as parents do?

This week I came across a conversation between  Tim Challies and Dr. Joel Beeke on the family worship habits of Puritans.  In it, Dr. Joel Beeke points out that for Puritans reading the Bible was just one part of family worship. But it certainly wasn’t the only part.

Below is a part of the conversation between Tim Challies (TC) and Dr. Joel Beeke (JB). You can read the entire conversation here.

TC: To hear people talk about the Puritans, you would imagine they were harsh toward their children, making them endure endless hours of family worship. Is this accurate?

JB: Endless hours in family worship would have been impossible for most people in the seventeenth-century. In Puritan New England, many people were farmers who had to labor hard to produce food. Children also had much to do in school, household chores, and working alongside their fathers and mothers to learn a vocation. The Puritans also took time for recreation. They enjoyed hunting, fishing, shooting competitions, and wrestling—two New England Puritan ministers were famous amateur wrestlers. They enjoyed music in their homes, owning guitars, harpsichords, trumpets, violas, drums, and other instruments. There was a lot to do; family devotions were one part—albeit the most important part—of a busy daily schedule.

The Puritans aimed at pithy instruction and heart-moving prayer. Samuel Lee wrote that in all our teaching of the family we should beware of boring the children by talking too much. Long devotions overburden their little minds. It is best to hold the attention of children by using spiritual analogies with flowers, rivers, a field of grain, birds singing, the sun, a rainbow, etc.

 

What is clear from this brief exchange is that Puritan families were spiritually strengthened by at least three practices:

They worked together

Whether household chores or learning their parent’s vocation, children worked along side their parents. This provided plenty of opportunities to for parents and children to talk together about life, the Bible, and the Christian faith. It was a way of living out the principles of Deuteronomy 6:4-7.

They played together

As hard as it is to imagine, puritans families had fun together. Sports, music, and just good old fashion play was a regular part of the their household interaction. They understood that all activities could be done for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

They enjoyed God’s creation together

Notice when teaching the Bible, parents were encouraged to use spiritual analogies to help children understand. They used pictures of flowers, rivers, fields of grain, singing birds, the sun, and rainbows, to help explain the Christian life. They used such analogies because they took pleasure in these creations. Puritans understood that one of the purposes of creation is to lead us to worship of our Creator (Romans 1:20).

 

Helping you family grow spiritually doesn’t have to be boring. And it doesn’t have to just consists of a series of Bible studies. If you really want your family to grow spiritually, then take a lesson from the Puritans. Work to together. Play together. Enjoy God’s creation together. Knowing that such practices will enhance those times when you do read the Bible together.