It’s the busy fall season. If you have teenagers, you know it’s hard to keep a normal bedtime. Unless your children are more organized than mine (entirely possible), your high schoolers are staying up late finishing homework. Or because they went to a dance, stayed late at a friend’s house, or got back late from a game, tournament, meet… or just because they’re teenagers.
Our family worships God in community every week, because we want to demonstrate our priorities by our habits. Which means yes, I did get my daughter up for church the day after her Homecoming dance. And no, my son does not play travel soccer. Ever since I read Take Back Your Kids when my oldest was an infant, I’ve been a true believer in every-Sunday church attendance. The first secret of a pew whisperer, after all, is “being there.”
But one week this summer, a string of activities convinced me that if my kids did not get to sleep late the next day (which was a Sunday), I would probably be compromising their health. They almost never ask to stay home from church. It is unthinkable: both have been in church every week of their lives unless they are sidelined by illness. But this time, they asked. They had been left exhausted by wonderful camps; they were gearing up for a new set of events starting bright and early Monday morning. They wanted sleep more than anything else.
So we made a deal: they could sleep as late as they wanted to, and when they woke up, we would offer Morning Prayer together. Just this once. (It is kind of cool when your kids think that Morning Prayer at home is a treat, by the way.) My firefighter husband had to work that Sunday, so he was fine with the plan.
I served as the officiant and assigned each child a Scripture reading. Instead of a homily, we had a brief discussion of the Bible lessons. I started by asking my kids if they understood what the reading was about. Once everybody understood the reading, we moved on to talking about what it meant for our lives. It was probably one of the most focused faith conversations we had all summer, because it took place in the context of a worship experience they recognized.
The entire experience took just about half an hour. My kids got the rest they needed. I got to once again demonstrate that our family takes faith seriously. And we were back in church the next weekend. Because Morning Prayer at home is not our normal, but it’s an okay exception in a hectic time–especially when the kids involved are old enough to find it meaningful.
In case you are thinking, “How do I lead Morning Prayer?” it’s easier than you might think. Forward Movement has put the daily office on the internet. You don’t need to know how to find the scripture or pick the canticles: just click right here. Any service you need is already organized for you. We used actual books, because we had them already. But you could just pull up the service on a smartphone or tablet and pass it around.
If we want our children to worship God as adults, it helps to worship God with them when they’re still children. If Scripture contains stories and lessons we seek to pass on through the generations, it only makes sense to discuss them together. My kids are theologically reflective, and they have honest questions about what the Bible and the church teach. I think most kids do. Unless we make time for those conversations, they likely won’t occur.
Morning Prayer at home made a good faith conversation happen on a week when it might not have happened otherwise. It’s an option for you too.
[Editor’s note: the prayer app pictured on the iPhone above is from Forward Movement, available here.]
Have you ever offered Morning Prayer – or another daily office – at home with your family?