Maximizing the Benefit of Corporate Worship

“Dad, can you see I’m getting bigger?”

That’s what my four-year-old son has been asking me recently. Sometimes when we’re eating a meal, or he’s drinking a cup of milk, he will make a comment about it helping him grow. I’m reminded of 1 Peter 2:2-3: “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

Like my son who is eager to grow taller and stronger, each of us should be yearning to grow spiritually in our knowledge of the Lord and our devotion to Him.  This happens privately, in our personal times of Bible study and prayer, as well as in the context of our families.  It also happens publically in times of corporate worship in the local church. Unfortunately, though, we often fail to connect these different contexts of worship.

With this in mind, here are some suggestions for connecting private worship, family worship, and corporate worship in the local church, all for the purpose of maximizing our spiritual growth.

1) Read the sermon text ahead of time.

Hopefully you have a way of knowing the sermon text for this coming Sunday.  If you don’t, ask your pastor.  You can spend some time reading and reflecting on the passage yourself, and then you can read it with your family at dinner (maybe on Saturday evening).  If you have children, think of some application questions you can talk about with them. 

For instance, last night we were talking about Jesus’ mysterious delay when Mary and Martha sent Him word about Lazarus’s illness (John 11:1-6).  How would that make you feel?  How is Jesus still loving even when He doesn’t give us what we want?  Our kids are 14, 12, 9, and 4.  Usually I’ll start by trying to get some response out of my youngest, and then move up one-by-one to the oldest.

2) Sing a song.

If you know the song list for Sunday, you could choose one of those.  Our family has benefitted from the “Hymns for a Kid’s Heart” books which tell a story about the hymn writer and include a Bible lesson (CD included).

3) Memorize a verse.

Maybe your church has a weekly memory verse.  Or the kids’ Sunday School class assigns a verse.  You can work on this together as a family, not only memorizing the words but also talking about what they mean.

4) Pray for your church and for the corporate gathering.

We often pray along these lines at breakfast on Sunday morning.  We also regularly say a prayer on our way to the church building.  As we get close, I turn the radio off and voice a prayer for God to bless our time with our church family, to help us pay attention to what He wants to teach us in His Word; I also pray that we’ll enjoy our time of fellowship with friends who love Jesus.

5) Take notes during the sermon.

Jot down some of the main points and other Scripture references that are mentioned.

6) Review the service with the family.

Afterwards, take time to review what you’ve learned and experienced.  This often happens for us at the lunch table or dinner table on Sunday.  I’ll usually start with the little guy, asking him, “What did you talk about in your Sunday School class today?”

Our church uses the Gospel Project curriculum, which is helpful for us because all ages study the same passage.  Our preschooler can share a bit of the lesson, showing us the picture he colored.  Then our fourth grader adds a comment.  Then our seventh and ninth graders will tell us about the youth discussion.  Stacy and I ask questions and offer comments from what we talked about in the adult class.  We’ll also talk about the sermon passage.  “What were the main points of the sermon?”  “What was something new you learned about that passage?”

7) Review the service personally.

Find some time early in the week to go over the notes you took during the sermon.  Reflect and pray over what God is teaching you, sins you need to confess and repent of, promises that will encourage your faith, things you can share with others, ways you can encourage others, etc.

8) Review with your small group.

Maybe your church has a small group that focuses on discussing the recent sermon text(s).  If not, you could ask a friend or two who might be interested in doing this.  You can get together or schedule a phone call to share what God has been teaching you through the corporate worship times with your church.

If we want to grow, grow, grow, then we should maximize the benefit of various means of grace God puts in our lives.  And the weekly corporate gathering of the local church is a significant one!  Don’t take it for granted, but instead prepare for it ahead of time and continue to reflect on it in the days that follow.

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Ben Reaoch (@BenReaoch) is the pastor of Three Rivers Grace Church in Pittsburgh and the author of Women, Slaves, and the Gender Debate (P&R, 2012).

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