What do you think of when you hear the words “family worship”?

Perhaps you have an image of a family reading the Bible together at bedtime, or praying together in the morning, or singing a song of worship as Dad strums a slightly out-of-tune guitar. Many books have been published on the subject of “family worship,” and most of them focus on how to read Scripture, pray, and sing songs together to God.

All of these things are good things to do, but is that a complete picture of what it means to worship God as a family?

Not Just Upward, But Also Outward

The truth is that worship is not simply to be directed upward. Genuine love for God cannot help but result in a desire to obey Him. Jesus says it plainly: “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching” (John 14:23).

When a teacher of the law asked Jesus which commandment is most important, He didn’t hesitate. He says that the most important commandment is to love God, and that the second is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30–31). Sadly, so many family worship guides focus solely on the first commandment and very little on the second. Yet to truly worship God, we must not only love and serve Him, but we must also love and serve others. We must direct our love and service both upward to God and outward to others.

Identity Over Activity

Sometimes, when a family hears this call to worship through service, what they actually hear is that they need to “do more things.” And if the calendar is already full, as it often is, the message to love your neighbor can feel like a heavy burden rather than the easy yoke that Jesus promises in Matthew 11:30.

A full calendar simply means that you have plenty of opportunities to obey Jesus by loving your neighbor. You don’t need to find a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter to serve in. Your son’s soccer team, your daughter’s theater class, your PTA meeting, your child’s Gymboree class, your neighborhood—these are all mission fields ripe for the harvest. What most families need is not to do more things, but to live out their calling as a servant in the things they are already doing. To be on mission, families don’t need a shift in activity, but a shift in identity.

How to Worship Together as a Family

Once we see ourselves as servants and missionaries, our eyes will be opened to see needs we can meet and people with whom we can share the gospel. And as we do this as a family, we will be showing our kids what outward love and service to others looks like.

My hope is that my kids will understand family worship to be more than simply one night a week where we sing songs and read the Bible, but that they will see all of life as worship through loving God and serving others. And by God’s grace, that they would continue this life of upward and outward worship long after they leave my home.