When my youngest was about seven, I decided it was time to help her engage more in the worship service. Because she liked to doodle, I bought her a journal and pens and told her it might be easier to listen to the sermon if she wrote down some of what the pastor talked about. I suggested that she draw a picture of what he read from the Bible or write down a question she might have.
The next Sunday, she opened her new journal with enthusiasm when the sermon began. The pens moved voraciously, and my heart swelled with pride. She was listening and learning! I couldn’t wait to see how her young heart responded to God’s Word. When the service ended and she hurried off to ensure she was the first in line at the snack table, I opened the journal and read this story:
I was eating my cheeseburger. I could taste the cheesy chicken and bread. It was time for class, but Bob tripped me. I punched Bob, so the teacher sent me to the principal. I tried to tell her, but the principal said I was in trouble.
The made-up story was followed by an elaborate picture… of Bob. I still have the page from her journal nestled in my Bible, serving as a humble reminder that ultimately, God is the One who does the work in my child’s spiritual life.
This truth, however, does not discount our role as parents and spiritual parents in passing down a love for Jesus to the next generation, and specifically a love for worship. God is lovingly sovereign over the spiritual lives of our children, yes, but we must seek, by the grace of God, to set an example and cultivate a love for worship in the next generation.
Cultivate a Love for Worship by Setting an Example
For younger kids, they learn so much by example; they’re impacted greatly simply by watching and observing what happens within their own context. As a young child, I observed several holidays where my mom would switch out our entire cabinet of everyday dishes and replace them with ones that displayed holly and other festive decorations. When I went to a friends’ house one afternoon during Christmas time, I asked why they were using their “normal” dishes. I just assumed that what I observed from my mom was a norm for everyone, and for a brief time in my life, I even carried on this laborious tradition.
Because our kids are so influenced by our example, simply modeling for them an eagerness for the rhythms of a worship service helps cultivate a love for it in their own heart. If you’re embarrassed to sing, don’t think that your kids won’t catch on. Or if you sing out in the car but remain silent in the sanctuary, don’t assume they won’t follow your example. Show them what it is to sing heartfelt praise, to humbly confess, and to listen intently as the Scripture is read.
Cultivate a Love for Worship by Talking About the Service
Talk about the service with your children. Sunday lunch or Monday devotions are good times to take advantage of talking about the service, and not just by asking, “what did you learn?” but for our young kids, help them to remember their experience of corporate worship with all their senses: What did you see? What did you feel? Did you smell anything?
For this last question, you may get a giggle or a silly answer, but your kids may also surprise you. For Lent one year, our church members each wrote a sin they were struggling with on a rock. Those rocks were gathered and put in one large pile that eventually sprouted flowers on Easter Sunday. The week we created the pile of rocks, a child from our congregation said to me, “I smell rocks, which means I smell my sin.” It was a child-like response, yes, but he used his senses to make spiritual connections, and it was beautiful.
Cultivate a Love for Worship by Prioritizing It.
Since our children learn by example, they also pick up on the value that you and your family place on worship. If we believe the church should be a priority, that it’s centrality amid our activities is significant, then we need to follow through with consistency in Sunday worship. Those who regularly miss corporate worship with a child because of a sporting event or because they are too tired to get there most weeks, can’t expect that the child to grow into an adult who makes worship a priority.
If it’s just one of the “things” to pick from on a Sunday morning, that’s a difficult pattern to break the older a child becomes. Make corporate worship a life liturgy for your child, even if it means sacrificing another Sunday morning event. The blessing that comes from the regular rhythm of corporate worship is real and tangible, and when it becomes the norm, it’s missed when you’re not able to be there. But when families don’t attend regularly, the hunger for worship tends to diminish.
And as you approach the weekend, talk with as much vigor about the upcoming worship service as you do your child’s soccer or baseball game. Do you ask questions in preparation for worship like you would another event that your child is excited to attend? The Lord has set aside one day a week for us to rest and worship— one day a week for us to stand with our extended family giving praise and glory to our maker. We should do what we can, by the grace of God, to cultivate an environment in our homes that eagerly anticipates meeting God in His house on the Lord’s Day.
It should be the prayer of every member in a church that the children who run the hallways and scour the snack table eventually fall in love with worshipping God together. Pray unceasingly that your child’s heart will bend toward their Creator and that they will grow to anticipate the worship of this great God who loves them abundantly, even more than we ever could or ever will.
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash