Training Our Kids for Worship
Jul 30, 2020
| By Kristy Wallace
Proverbs 22:6 advises, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” That word, train, brings to my mind athletes working hard day after day, conditioning their bodies to do things that seem impossible to the rest of us. Yet, when I am trying to answer the question “How do I get my kids to _____?” it seems I’m usually hoping for a quick fix. I want to find the magic words or method that will cause my children to comply with my wishes immediately. The reality is, though, that training my children is a process. It’s sometimes very difficult and it is often exhausting.
Our current season has provided a unique opportunity for worshipping together as a family as we stream services at home. Consider it a training ground if you will. Our kids pastor recently wrote a very helpful article on how worshipping together on the weekend can be successful. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend the suggestions there. What I’d like to address, though, are some things we can do as parents in our everyday lives that will contribute to the effective training of our children for weekend worship and for life! Most of these ideas I have learned over the years from wise women and men further along in their parenting journey, and I hope that they are helpful to your family too.
Teach them to sit still and to wait. If there’s a more valuable life skill we can impart to our children I’m not sure what it is. I certainly find myself on a weekly basis sitting quietly in meetings, waiting rooms, traffic, and a host of other places where patience is a gift. I’ve taught my children that patience is “waiting with a good attitude,” and I regularly give them opportunities to practice it. In a world of instant gratification, we must be aliens. Simple ways to work on this abound in our regular routines:
- Insist that everyone stays at the table during dinner time (or whatever meal is best for you.) until the whole family has finished eating.
- Have a regular “reading” time where everyone (including you!) sits quietly with books to read (or look at pictures) for a set period of time. My kids love books with busy pages like I Spy and Where’s Waldo. This practice can also happen with other quiet activities like coloring, Lego building, or watching movies together. If your child generally flits from one activity or toy to the next in constant turns, start by encouraging him/her to stick with an activity until a 15-minute timer goes off and increase the time little by little.
- Don’t drop what you’re doing every time your child makes a request. Probably the most powerful statement you can make is, “You’ll have to wait.” Say it kindly and repeat it when necessary, but teach your child to wait for things. It will do wonders for your stress level.
Let them be bored. There is a great deal of research that suggests allowing our kids to feel boredom supports their mental development and creativity. It can be easy to dole out tablets, turn on the TV, or supply our kids with something to do when they’re underfoot, but teaching them to be responsible for their own time is far more valuable. At home I sometimes do fun activities or crafts, but more often I say, “Go play!” I don’t schedule out all of their time and I don’t feel the need to constantly entertain them (not even during a pandemic). In a waiting room at the doctor’s office or mechanic I use technology as an emergency plan only, and I never use it in restaurants or grocery stores.
I know that my kids are sometimes bored during a sermon, and I’m okay with that. In fact, I think it’s good for them. My oldest child went to services on a regular basis for about four years with only his pen and paper before one day, at seven years old, he started taking notes on the sermon instead of just drawing pictures. He still sometimes draws Star Wars battle plans during a service, but he also fills in his sermon notes page almost every week.
Listen to worship music throughout the week. We live in such technologically-advanced age, which comes with challenges but also lots of perks! Downloading or streaming worship music is a big win! Play this music in the car, while hanging out at home, or when you’re getting ready for the day. Sing along and encourage your kids to do so too. The more familiar the worship songs are, the more engaged they are likely to be during the weekend worship service.
Show them that the word of God is important to you. I know the temptation can be to do Bible study during times when your kids are asleep or otherwise occupied. Although this can make it easier to engage deeply in study, if it’s the only way we do it, we are robbing our kids the chance to see how much these things mean to us. Read your Bible while they are in the room, listen intently to sermons and take notes, and, again, tell them, “I want to talk with you, but right now I am listening to Pastor JD, so I need you to wait.” I talk with my kids about how important the Bible is to us and how I need their help to be able to learn from it. When I say, “This is my Bible study time, you’ll have to wait” it isn’t uncaring or harsh; I’m showing them that God’s word is important and deserves our attention. Another way to teach this truth is to memorize verses or passages together as a family, which you can then talk about and apply to your experiences.
Remember that you’re training them to become worshipers, and just as a coach would train them to become athletes, with time they will take more of the responsibility on themselves and your role will change. In the beginning, it is constant work. Some weeks will go better than others, but every week they are learning from you the importance of worship and the joy of doing it together. It is work well worth the time and effort. Talk with other parents and share ideas, pray together for wisdom in parenting, and