My daughter is one and a half years old. She is like the Flash. She doesn't stop moving! She's high energy, runs everywhere she goes, and if she slows down then something is typically wrong. She makes other kids her age look like they are moving in slow motion. Naturally, this comes with some difficulties.
She gets frustrated when we are somewhere where she can't freely move. She isn't one to sit and be quiet through a church service or to be calm during dinner out in a restaurant. Just yesterday, as I was letting her run through Penn Station while we waited on our to-go order, she threw a fit when I tried to pick her up to leave and go home. It looked like I was trying to kidnap her...
With a toddler like this, family worship can be interesting. My wife and I are convinced that family worship is a good thing and one way that we are commanded to shepherd our daughter and point her towards Christ, but what does it look like with a strong-willed one and a half year old? My hope is that our experiences may provide you some encouragement as you seek to shepherd your children and show them the glory of God.
What's it Look Like?
We try and have family worship every day. Honestly, every now and then it may not happen at all. That's ok. Typically though, we sing one song from this playlist on Spotify. These are songs that are adapted from the "New City Catechism" designed to be simple questions and answers that can help you and your child learn good theology. We sing the same song called "Who Made God?" This repetition is helpful for our daughter and the song is short enough for her to semi-focus. She doesn't even sing yet, but every now and then she babbles along with the melody. She loves music and we trust as she's growing that this truth is sinking in.
When we first started, we read from "The Jesus Storybook Bible", but it had too many words! We now use "The Big Picture Story Bible." Some nights are better than others. She loves the pictures, but some nights we may read one or two pages and others we may get through five or six. It all depends on our focus that night. We love that sometimes she'll pull it down and flip through it herself, but if we're honest, we may have a page or two ripped out and tucked in at this point. We always wrap it up with a short prayer that usually goes something like, "Thank you God for the fun we had today, please give us good rest tonight, please save Charis and use her for Your glory. In Jesus Name, Amen."
Faithful and Flexible
That's family worship. It may last a total of 5 minutes. The goal is to be faithful and flexible. Not every night will feel like a major win. Last night while I was reading and holding her it felt like I was trying to wrestle a highly skilled luchador (it was a two-page night). Some nights we don't sing at all, but we always try and get in the Word.
In being faithful, I'd encourage you to pick a consistent time that works for your family. For us, it's right before bed (8 pm). For you, it might be right after dinner or in the morning before school or whatever works. The goal is that faithful consistency where our children are learning that this is important and that God is worthy of our worship and praise.
As children get older, this will change and adapt, but this is where we are. It's a joy to see my daughter put her hands together when we say, "Let's pray." Family worship doesn't guarantee that my daughter will know Christ one day, but it is one way we consistently point her towards Him, trusting that He can do far more with our sometimes scattered five minutes than if we did nothing at all.
God calls us as parents to be the shepherds of our children. We spend far more time with them than we spend at church and they are looking and learning from us. We have to start somewhere and we have to do something. God gave us our kid who doesn't stop moving and it's worth the fight to slow her down, even if just for a minute, to show her the glory of the One who gave her her energy.