Practicing with Children

Family Worship

Too often my life feels super chaotic… I know, who’s life doesn’t feel like that sometimes?
I try to set some self-care discipline around life to help create order from the chaos. I’ve realized that “balance” isn’t really what I crave. Balance is status quo, static, and unmoving. What I need in chaos is creation. God still creates out of chaos. God still creates light out of dark. God still separates the waters that have become too troubling. God scoops up all the dirt and ash of my life and breathes in.
My spiritual director asked me how I feel like a new creation in Christ. I realized that the most powerful experiences of renewal and redemptive creative work occur in worship. And while I do find I can worship as I pastor, preaching and lead worship, I truly release myself to being remolded when I worship with my family in our home.
My husband serves a two-point charge and our girls- Sophia, 4 ½ and Gracie, 6 worship at my church. They’ve gotten used to Mommy preaching and the sitting with a wonderful person from the congregation or going to children’s church, but there are days… when they want me and I cannot be with them. “Can I sit with you up there Mommy?” is a question they still ask. We’re still working on Sophia not attempting to twirl in my stole during the Children’s moment.
In seminary my husband and I were pretty good at having a discipline of worship at home. We’d light candles, sing songs, read scripture, and spend time in silence. Then, we had two children sixteen months apart while serving as Associate Pastors at a large church outside of D.C. And now, for the last eight months we’ve been settling into a life as solo pastors of churches no longer in a fast-paced area and finding out what balance… or better….the unceasing creation of Christ looks like for us. Just about every other week, we’ve been sharing in a practice of Family Worship. It’s not always on the calendar, sometimes Grace or Sophia will say, “Can we have family worship tonight? Please! I want hymns and communion!” And other times we are more intentional.
We have no real structure other than we always have communion, singing, prayer, and scripture. Our family worship has consisted of liturgical dance, praying in color, and everyone playing an instrument from our collection of instruments around the world. We’ve even been known to have drama (which means we may act out the scripture- or the other kind of drama- whining and tantrums…) Always there are moments where we discuss what we are doing and why. Always there are questions and interruptions. Always, God is present.
One night we talked about liturgy. Gracie is reading now, and as we came to the Prayer of Confession. Kevin said, “Do you know what confession means?” “It’s a prayer,” she said. Sophia colored and listened. “Yep, it is a prayer, but it is a special kind of prayer where we share with God the ways we are sorry for not always living the way God wants us to. Like, I know I should be more patient, listen more than I talk, and spend more time in prayer and I want to be better at those things so I can have a closer relationship with Jesus,” I said. Gracie comes over and pats me on my knee, “But Mommy, it’s okay. Jesus loves you all the time.” Kevin chimed in, “You’re right, Jesus always loves us and is always with us, but sometimes we move away from him and when we pray with others and have confession, we come closer.” I think he was about to start telling her about Doretheos of Gaza and his wheel, but decided instead to start playing guitar some more. We then prayed the Prayer of Confession and Gracie stood up and said, “I’m going to go have some quiet prayer time with God right now.”
She didn’t come back for a long time it seemed… I think Kevin played at least two songs. Sophia and I prayed in color. We then had Holy Communion together and ended with a hymn.
Our regular habit of family worship began in January after an incident where Grace, who is kindergarten, was being bullied. The mother of the bully bullied me one Monday afternoon, and so after a couple months of working with the teacher discussing individual incidents about the situation, we decided to take more action and moved Gracie’s desk. We talked with the guidance counselor, teacher, and principal about helping Grace separate herself, build confidence and courage, and talk more readily with the teacher when she felt threatened. That night I looked in the children’s bible for Jesus’ instructions to the disciples to shake the dust off their feet. It wasn’t there. So I pulled out one of our bibles and read the story line by line and discussed it with the girls. It was a bible my mother gave me when I was a teenager, they call it a Rainbow Bible and every verse is color coded with a theme (as if each verse has one theme… but it’s pretty). The girls loved the colors. The next night, Sophia asked, “Can you tell a story from the Rainbow Bible again?”
Some nights our worship is deep and powerful. Sometimes it is funny. Sometimes it’s Kevin and I singing hymns while the kids are super distracted. It always seems that we learn something. Last week we only had regular sandwich bread and the girls learned—you can have communion without Hawaiian Bread.
There is so much to do. We have three churches between us, two girls at different schools, two dogs and so many people relying on us. Chaos is the enemy of peace. Too often I try to stay in control of the chaos, but these nights I remember I worship a powerful Creator God, who is creating still, all washes away again and we are a new creation in Christ. — Beth Anderson

Beth Anderson is the pastor at Bermuda Hundred UMC in Chester, VA. She’s part of a clergy couple and mom to two beautiful girls. Beth blogs at


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