Clint Humfrey is the lead Pastor of Calvary Grace Church in Calgary and a Council Member for TGC Canada. He and his wife, Christel, have been married for 16 years, and together they have three sons, ages 8, 10, and 12.
When did you first start doing family worship?
Our family worship is more akin to something like Luther’s “table talk.” By table talk, I mean intentional discussions about how our lives relate to God, the Bible, and our hearts. It began with my wife and I before we had kids. And then as our sons got older we would add more intentional elements. So our table talk really began when my wife and I got married!
What does it look like in your home
Our calendar is inflating as our sons get older. So it can be difficult to have the evening meal together every night, but that is what we aim for. Our intentional table talk happens every night of the week unless we are eating out, though we still pray in the same way, even at a restaurant. Before we eat, I will pray or will ask my wife to pray or ask one of my sons to pray, giving thanks for the food. Sometimes I will give some guidance to the boys for things to pray for as well as the meal.
After we have reviewed our day, or news items, or other events in our lives, I will make a decision to connect one of those items to a point of doctrine, or some type of recognition of God’s sovereignty, creation, and the goodness of the gospel. Sometimes it can get a little silly. My kids tease me about turning everything into a theology lesson. But it’s intentional.
Then before we clear our plates, I will take the Bible (or the Bible on my phone) and the New City Catechism (or the app), and will share a key verse, a short Bible story, a proverb or a psalm. The text may be connected to our table talk discussion, or it will be from the catechism question or section of Scripture I’m working through with them that week.
Now that my sons are old enough to read well, I will often get them to do the reading. I rotate the reading and the praying so that each of them is engaged regularly.
We will go round the table attempting to memorize the catechism answers. I will read out the question and the answer, and then check each of us to see if our recitation is correct. Everyone is quick to correct, so we are competing a little bit and laughing a lot.
I will test the boys a bit to see if they understand the theology behind the catechism or Bible verse. This will be a time for them to ask those stumping questions. My wife and I will do our best to offer clarity to those questions, but they can be hard sometimes.
Then it depends on how things are going, but if the theological knots to untie are few, we might sing a line or two of a hymn from Hymns of Grace. If we don’t sing a hymn, sometimes we will play a hymn or Christian worship song on a phone while we do the dishes. Then the spontaneous singing adds to our doing. From the clean-up hymn, we can move to sing Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins or some other cowboy song.
Our style is much more table talk than some approaches to family worship, but we have found that a little bit, with regularity, has paid dividends.
Normally it is about ten minutes at the end of a meal. It can be abbreviated if we are in a rush to go somewhere. Sometimes it is longer when we are talking through something specific and drawing out the spiritual applications.
Advice for those starting out?
I suggest four things:
1) Start small.
2) Value consistency more than sophistication. It doesn’t need to be an exhaustive seminary class every time.
3) Trust the Bible. A simple, succinct meditation from Scripture offered in sincerity may bear more fruit if it happens daily.
4) If you’re stumped, use a tool like the New City Catechism that has both the Bible and the good theology.
New City Catechism booklet or app. (TGC)
Hymns of Grace (The Masters Seminary)