Wednesday, January 23, 2013

"Playing Church" at Home

Winter weather and illnesses are great opportunities for families to build their understanding and appreciation of worship by “playing church” at home. Every family does it differently and how they do it will change as the children get older.  Some set chairs in rows and create an altar.  Others sit in circle on the floor or at the table.  Some plan it out carefully even making an order of worship to follow.  Other make it up as they go.  If there are musicians, they might play for some of the singing or the quiet times.  If there are no musicians, the family can choose recorded music to sing along with OR sing on their own OR not sing at all.  The goal is to worship God together in a way that feels appropriate and links the family worshiping at home to the church family worshiping in the sanctuary.

Use the generic order of worship below as a starter.


* Call to Worship :  Say together, “O come let us worship God together!”

* Sing one or more songs for God/Jesus

* A parent reminds the family that each one of them have things they need tell God they are sorry about, maybe from the last week, maybe from a long time ago.  Allow a full minute of silence for everyone to close their eyes and talk to God  about the ways they have messed up.  The same parent then says, “God promises us that whenever we mess up and are truly sorry, God forgives us.  God always loves us no matter what.  Because God loves us no matter what, we can love each other no matter what.  So…”  Pass the peace as you do in the sanctuary.

* Read from the Bible or a Bible storybook. Either select a favorite story or go to the church’s web site to see what is being read in the sanctuary this week.  After reading the story, together make up a list of questions you have about it.  (Use the words Who?, What?,  When?  and Why?  to help think of questions.)  When the list is complete, work on answering the questions together.  Look things up on the internet if you need to.  If there are questions that feel important and that you cannot answer, email the question to someone you think might know.

The Offering:  Think of one gift you can give God as a family during the coming week.  It might be how you treat each other cooped up with sickness or bad weather or something you can do for someone beyond your family.  (Even a homebound family can make cards, send emails, or Skype someone who needs attention.)  You don’t have to do the gift now, just decide what it will be and when you will do it.  Then, in a prayer promise God you will do it. 

* Collect prayers for your family, your church and the world by drawing or writing phrases on a shared piece of paper (the bigger the paper, the better).  When it is complete, pray it together with each person pointing to one item on the page and praying aloud a prayer about it.  (Each family member may take one or several turns praying aloud.)

* Sing at least one more song for God.

* As a benediction, each member of the family says to at least one other person, “Go in peace.  God loves you and I love you.”  This may be done by going around the circle or with each member of the family saying it to every other member of the family.

Obviously, this plan is just a starter.  Use it to bring the ways you worship in your sanctuary into your home.  Add songs and responses used regularly at church.  Delete things with which you are not familiar.  Actually, you may be surprised when children add ones that slipped past you.  In the process you will not only worship as a family, but you will probably answer a few lingering children’s questions about different parts of worship and help them grow in their understanding of worship.

Note to congregations:  To encourage families to “play church” at home on bad weather or flu Sundays, create an order of worship based on the regular Sunday order and including the Bible stories or texts to read with minimalist directions for doing them all at home.  If possible use the texts to be read in the sanctuary.  Email them to families or post them on the church’s website.   Invite families to share their experiences with doing this in emails or on a special place for comments about this on the church’s web page.

And, share with the rest of us ways your congregation or family “plays church” at home in the comments for this post.


  1. I love the idea - but I wonder about the name. I think that a family who is doing this isn't just "playing" church - its "being" (or "doing"?) church. Of course, I get why you're using "playing" as for children play is serious... Just a nuance...

  2. Yep, I held the same conversation with myself. But, if we're getting down into the nuances, "being church" or "doing church" is more than worship. So, it should be "doing worship." But we really don't "do" worship, we "worship." So it should be "worshiping at home." But who wants to do that - especially if you have never tried it before? So, it's back to "playing church" which children understand and might find fascinating ("who will be the preacher?" "can I play my violin?") and which parents may find a little more freeing than demanding. Words!!!!!


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