Family Altars: Facing Challenges
Work? School? Distractions? These can indeed be disruptions to preparing and carrying out family altar time.
Our pastors are not immune to the difficulties and challenges of establishing and implementing family altar time! Let's have a look at how some of them manage.
What does family altar time look like at this stage of your family’s life?
Infants and Toddlers
"Our main objective for Elkan at this stage of his life is to model the practice of prayer and worship. Since Elkan is in daycare from 7:30am to 6:30pm (both my husband and I work full-time), time with him is precious so family altar is also our bonding time as we engage in prayer and worship together.
To minimize distraction, we do family altar right before he sleeps as a part of his winding down routine. Since Elkan enjoys music, he readily engages in times of worship. When it comes to prayer, we invite him to lead but sometimes, he will want us to lead and he repeats after us. Through family altar, we have seen Elkan pick up our prayer language.
We take time to read to him. Sometimes, it will be a bible story but recently we have used the Trinitarian for our night reading – using it as a way to explain what Trinity does for missions and inviting Elkan to pray for the children, which he does."
- Pastor Esther Lee, mother of Elkan (3)
Cultivate in your children a thanksgiving heart!
"Family altar happens 3-4 times a week for about 20 minutes.
We do this right before the girls go to bed. During this time, they get to choose a Bible story to read. After that, my wife or I will share one thing that the story reveals about God and what it means for us.
Before ending with prayer, we take time as a family to thank God for something that happened during the day.
This is to build a culture of gratitude and thankfulness for God's goodness in our lives."
- Pastor David Sashi, father of Sonia (5), Asha (4), Anya (4 months)
Young Children (ages 4-9)
Develop a routine!
"In this season, family altar takes place on two nights – Tuesday and Saturday. Since Tuesday is our rest day, it was an easy choice for something within the week. With Raena going for DiscoveryLand on Saturday, having family altar later in the evening is the time when we reinforce the lesson for the week."
- Pastor Victor Toh, father of Raena (8)
"Family altar is the time where we help our daughter become more aware of the reality of God in her everyday life. That means involving Him in every aspect of our lives.
My husband and I are conscious to share about God throughout the day. Before we start driving, we commit the day in prayer. During dinner time, we talk about God and before she sleeps, we close the day in prayer."
- Pastor Chang Wai Wai, mother of Gloria (8)
Toddlers and Young Children (Multiple ages)
Pray and worship God together!
"Family altar takes place every night in my children’s bedroom for about 10-30 minutes, depending on practical considerations such as homework.
As a family with children of various age groups, family altar can be chaotic. Though our children have an eight-year age gap, we make it a point to include everyone.
Our youngest is involved through observation and we taught him to put his hands together during prayer and say ”amen.”
We gather together and spend time in prayer where my two older kids will each say a prayer before my wife or I pray for everyone.
We read the Word of God and talk about it in the context of our behavior, reactions to recent events or situations in our lives. This helps our older children see its immediate and practical application in their lives.
My kids also look forward to our once-a-week “little church” where we spend time worshiping together before prayer and the Word."
- Pastor Titus Thevathasan, father of Levi (10), Leeona (6), Leroy (2)
Pre-Teens and Teens (ages 10-17)
Seize opportunities to involve God
"At this stage of their lives, our family altar is not a specific “sit down” time. Rather, we utilize moments throughout the week to have open conversations with them. The key is to help our children make God a part of everyday life – relevant faith.
During meals or free times during the week, we talk about current issues and challenges, bringing God into the picture by sharing how we can live out our values and convictions. During one-on-one time, we pray, read Scriptures, and ask age-specific questions on their faith.
Who is God to them? What has God spoken to or touched them? We help to point them back to God as the source of their lives and, ultimately, come into alignment with Him."
- Pastor Wendy Chang, mother of Charis (17) and Elise (11)
Discuss life with God in the picture!
"When my children were younger, we had weekly times called “Family Council” where we testified of God’s goodness, complimented each other, discussed family matters (such as pocket money and holidays), and prayed for one another. We also took turns to record the minutes so that we could have a record of what needed follow-up. It also helped improve their essay writing at the same time!
Now that our girls are young adults, we do an adaptation of this over family dinner on Sunday evenings. During that time, we go through some of the issues they are facing, particularly challenges in the workplace. While the workplace and work culture today are different from when we started in our career, godly values to live by remain the same."
- Pastor Edward Lim, father of Chloe (26) and Inez (24)
What are the challenges you encounter and how do you overcome them?
Persevere and demonstrate the importance of God
"The biggest challenge we encounter are all the distractions in the room – whether it be soft toys or their inability to sit still beyond a certain amount of time.
Family altar is a journey of molding for both children and parents, especially in the area of patience. Nevertheless, my wife and I persevere because it is important to demonstrate the importance of our time together, to teach them that this is something we do as a family."
- Pastor David Sashi, father of Sonya (5), Asha (4), and Anya (4 months)
Place the spotlight back on God!
"For teenagers and young adults, family altar can be a challenge because they are starting to form their own beliefs, values, and identity.
Formal family altar time may work but consider informal times like dinner where different ones can, for instance, share about how God is speaking to them.
The key is to find teachable moments – instances where we can point our child back to God.
Since these instances happen right when our child has a need, teachable moments can serve as powerful ways to help our child strengthen their faith in a very personal and relevant way."
- Pastor Johnathan Lee, father of Hannah (25) and Odelia (24)
Age with spiritual flair!
"When my children were growing up, my responsibility as their father was to be their provider, protector, and nurturer. Now that they are all grown up, I see myself as more of their mentor and friend – someone they can turn to for advice, spiritual support, and prophetic words of encouragement.
With the birth of my grandson, Blaze, my role has changed.
My wife and I take to heart the importance of modeling our faith and demonstrating godly affection to him. We sing bible songs, talk to him about God’s creation, and regularly speak into his life.
When Rev Samuel Rodriguez was ministering in Trinity, he shared about how his grandfather would regularly pray in the Spirit over him as a child. From that, I saw the importance of praying in the Spirit over my grandson as a way of imparting faith and declaring God’s destiny into his spirit.
I thank God for my grandson because of the spiritual revival that he has brought into my life.
As a father, I was more focused on caring for my children than appreciating them as God’s wonderful creation.
As a grandfather, it is my privilege to observe him grow and develop. This gives me a new appreciation of God’s amazing creation and grace.
Grandparents, I want to encourage you to be godly examples for your children and grandchildren. Dare to ask God for a spiritual vision for your family.
Deuteronomy 11:13 and 21 can be a place to start: “So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today – to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul…so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.”
Enable them to see, hear, and feel our devotion to the Lord. When they hear our prayers of thanksgiving, they become aware of the goodness and greatness of God. When we faithfully serve God, they too will be encouraged to love and serve Him as well."
- Pastor Danny Leong, on what it means to leave a strong spiritual legacy for his children and grandchildren
This article was adapted from Family Altars: Establishing God's Tent in the Home,Issue 02/2018,Trinitarian Magazine
Reflect & Respond
What are some of the challenges you and your spouse face during family altar time?
How have you experienced God's love and support during those times?