Is the Home Circle Breaking: Family Devotions in the Global Church

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These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7, NIV)

Think back to when you were a child.  Did your family engage in family worship every day?  Perhaps you sang songs together, read mission stories, learned memory verses, or shared prayer requests together.  If you did participate in family worship time daily, how did this impact your spiritual life?  If there were no family worships at your home or you didn’t participate in them, what might the effects have been on you?

Ellen White writes in My Life Today:

In a sense the father is the priest of the household, laying upon the family altar the morning and evening sacrifice. But the wife and children should unite in prayer and join in the song of praise. In the morning before he leaves home for his daily labor let the father gather his children about him and, bowing before God, commit them to the care of the Father in heaven. When the cares of the day are past, let the family unite in offering grateful prayer and raising the song of praise, in acknowledgment of divine care during the day. . . . Do not fail to gather your family around God's altar.  (My Life Today, 208)

Raising our children to know Jesus is truly the most important job a parent has.  We are reminded of that again and again throughout the Bible.  A great way to do this is through the implementation of a daily family worship or devotion time.  But how is the Adventist church doing with this?

Ellen White stressed the importance of “the atmosphere of the home circle” (The Adventist Home, 16) and of family worship. Today, though, it seems that Adventists are increasingly ignoring the central role of family devotions. This prompts the question: is the home circle in danger of being broken in many Adventist families?

Recently (2013), a global study was conducted in nine divisions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  This research was conducted under the direction of the General Conference Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research. The study was designed to assess the experiences and attitudes of church members regarding different aspects of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and church life. 

One of the aspects surveyed was the frequency of family worship in members’ homes.  Overall:

  • Only slightly more more than one in three church members (36%) indicated that they have family worship daily.
  • But almost two out of every 10 respondents (17%) report that they have never had family worship.

            

When comparing family worship practices regionally, the West-Central Africa Division (WAD) proved to be the strongest in participating in family worship with 51.1% of respondents who conduct family worship at least once daily. The East-Central Africa Division (ECD) came in second with 43.6% of respondents worshipping daily with their families, followed by the South Pacific Division (SPD) with 36.0% of respondents doing the same.

The world divisions with the least frequent engagement in family worship were the North American Division (NAD) and the Inter-American Division (IAD).  Almost a third (29%) of NAD respondents indicated that they never participate in family worship, with an additional 17% answering that they did so less than once a month.  The NAD was followed by the IAD, where 21% responded that they never have family worship, and 12% reported doing so less than once a month. 

    

As you can see, while a portion of each division reports participating in family worship, there is a portion that seldom or never does so.  Is this due to lack of care?  Or perhaps another reason?  In his article entitled “Necessity of Family Bible Time,” Focus on the Family’s Robert Velarde writes (https://www.focusonthefamily.com/faith/the-study-of-god/why-study-the-bible/necessity-of-family-bible-time):

In Christian homes it's not so much that parents don't desire to help their children understand God and His truths; rather, it's usually a matter of finding time combined with not knowing how to go about family Bible study. The time problem is symptomatic of our fast-paced culture and resulting lifestyles. We are so used to the hectic pace of our daily lives that it becomes difficult to fit ‘one more thing’ into our schedules. Unfortunately, when it comes to family Bible study, it should not be viewed as one more thing but as a central focus of our devotion to God. It is a parental responsibility commanded by God, and it also provides a wonderful opportunity to help build and strengthen bonds between family members.

Throughout the Bible, we are encouraged to raise our children to know the Lord.  Deuteronomy 6:7 tells us to “impress” the commandments of the Lord upon our children; we are to speak of them “when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  That’s a lot of time spent teaching!  There is no such thing as “too much time” or “too much effort” when you consider what is at stake – eternal life with Jesus in heaven.

You can find reports on the Church Member Survey (2013) from nine divisions here.