How to Build a Family Altar and Why You Need One

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2 NIV

Altars. In the pages of the Bible, altars signaled God’s presence (Jacob), represented mediation between God and man (Noah, Moses), and established and maintained covenant (Abraham, Joshua). The sacrifices offered on these altars often required blood and fire. 

After the crucifixion, Christ ushered in a different altar referenced by Paul in Romans 12. It was an altar for living sacrifices, one where Jesus’ blood made the offering holy and the fire of the Holy Spirit burned within the sacrifice.

In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers wrote, “It is no value to God to give Him your life for death. He wants you to be a ‘living sacrifice,’ to let Him have all your powers that have been saved and sanctified through Jesus. This is the thing that is acceptable to God.”

What kind of altar do you need for living sacrifices? 

A family altar, for starters. Not a physical altar of stone or bronze, but intentional time set aside for God.

Whether our families are loaded with littles, teeming with teens, or have narrowed down to empty nesters or singles, a family altar calls us to worship, Bible reading, discussion, and prayer. (Fun and food are permitted.) Here’s how:

A: Adoration 

Worship sets the mood. Do you have a musical family? Play live music. If not, YouTube’s a great resource for worship tunes ranging from Maverick City to Gregorian chant. Explore the other arts as well. Dance. Coloring sheets or sketching. Poetry. Worship focuses on God. His goodness. His greatness. This perspective shift positions us well for what’s next. 

L: Learning 

Stay centered on Scripture but branch out. Food. Clothes. Maps. All contribute to an understanding of the Bible’s original audience. Watch dramatizations like The Chosen. How do they compare to Scripture? Object lessons are fun too. Bottom line, get in the Word. 

T: Talk 

Talk about God together. Ask questions. Wonder. How much manna did it take to feed more than two million Israelites in the wilderness? Does a word or phrase jump off the page? Does someone need clarity? What stumps you? Some questions may carry over onto the prayer list.

A: Ask 

Journal answers to prayer and jot down new needs. Pray for each other. Parents, take advantage of this time to bless your children (see resources below). Intercede for extended family, friends, and others. 

R: Realign 

Paul wrote that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. What application does your Bible reading and prayer point toward? What actions or attitudes need to be realigned with God’s truth? What’s God’s will concerning ____? Do any answers to prayer require an adjustment? 


How long should we meet? That depends on the ages of your kids. Start short and build over time. 

How often should we meet? You can’t meet too much. Work with everyone to clear the schedule. Try mealtime or before bed, but whenever you meet, consider that time sacred. Holy. Covenantal. 

But what about activities? Expect some competition. In the Old Testament, the Israelites struggled with false gods like Baal, Ashtoreth, and Molech. Today, it’s busyness. Extra-curricular activities. I’ve seen too many families lose kids at the altar of sports. Our kids played sports too, but it was balanced with discipleship. 

Another competitor is anything with a screen. Set electronics aside unless they serve a specific purpose during altar time. 

But-but-but . . .

I’ve found when I put God first, I finish everything that needs to get done. I’ve seen God literally multiply my time, but I’ve also had to let some things go. 

Concerning the altar at the Tabernacle, Leviticus 6:13 tells us, “The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.” 

Keep your family’s fire burning. Fight for your family altar. Model how to become a living sacrifice. It’s your spiritual act of worship that blesses God and the next generation. 


Establish the habit of praying together with your spouse or your faith community if you’re single.

Work together to find time to gather. Ask God for help. 

If the kids are old enough, take turns leading, choosing worship tunes, reading Bible passages, preparing snacks, and writing down prayer requests and answers. 

Click here for Devour the Bible sheets: One Bite at a Time for elementary students and Small Bites for preschoolers. A resource list for this blog is below.

Resource List:

Fire on the Family Altar by Cheryl Sacks

The Blessing by Gary Smalley and John Trent

A good study Bible: NIV, ESV

Age-appropriate Bibles: 

Toddlers – Jesus Storybook Bible; My Tender Heart Bible

Elementary students – Action Bible

Bible atlas: Zondervan Essential Atlas of the Bible; The New Moody Atlas of the Bible

Bible almanac


Object lessons/Tim Shoemaker devotionals:

Mashed Potatoes, Paint Balls: and Other Indoor/Outdoor Devotionals You Can Do With Your Kids

The Very Best, Hands-On, Kinda Dangerous Family Devotions, Volume 1: 52 Activities Your Kids Will Never Forget (Fun Family Bible Devotional with Object Lessons & Activities. Includes Detailed Parent Guide with Lesson Plans.)

The Very Best, Hands-On, Kinda Dangerous Family Devotions, Volume 2: 52 Activities Your Kids Will Never Forget (Fun Family Bible Devotional with Object Lessons & Activities. Includes Detailed Parent Guide with Lesson Plans.)

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