Improving How We Talk To Our Kids About Church
When I was young I remember pretending to sleep in one Sunday morning. Don’t tell!
Over time I learned to love and need worship.
And now that I have children I want the same for them.
- But why?
- And how do we talk about it?
Maybe we’ve been told about studies that show the positive effects of church communities on young people, or how they provide social support, role models, and caring people.
Or perhaps we’ve been told that church fosters bigger purpose and meaning—a worldview much more significant than their own little bubble.
And of course there’s how church prioritizes Jesus—the purpose and promise of pretty much everything. Forever. That reason should stand alone, but if we’re being honest there are other reasons too…
Church also encourages altruistic behaviour and service. These are virtually unrivaled when it comes to factors in forming a young person’s faith.
But it’s not always helpful to say that stuff to our kids.
Nor is it helpful to always make it all about fun when the kids are small and we piggy back on the fact that they like to see their friends. (There will be times when it won’t always be fun.)
So what then?
Well, “it’s the right thing to do.”
And although I agree with that, we need to explain why we think that way, especially when some people say they can still believe in God and stay at home, or even ‘go to church’ while on a golf course.
Let me offer a few perspectives:
1. It’s Not About Church. It’s About Worship and Learning
“The church” is a people, not a building. Nowhere in the Bible does “church” refer to a structure.
Now I’ll admit that I also say “time to go to church.” But I’m trying to improve. You’re ALREADY the church. But if you shift to “We’re going to worship” or “We’re going to learn about Jesus in Sunday School,” it starts to change your perspective.
2. It Keeps Us Focused on God
Worship keeps us focused on God. It’s a God-ordained way to keep our eyes, hearts and lives centred on the real Centre. It’s a way to turn down the distractions and focus on the Main Attraction—what’s truly important.
When the vertical gets priority the horizontal gets perspective.
Okay, so you won’t say that snappy little phrase to your kids. But the idea is this: “When we put God first that’s the best thing we can do to make sure we see the world like he wants us to.”
NOTE: I should also say that psychologists say it takes about 6 weeks of doing something every day for it to become a pattern in your life. The more you commit to regular worship, the easier it becomes, and the more you want it.
3. Our Family Does This Together
Parents choose what’s important for their kids. Do you tell them that drinking fluids or going to school is an optional personal choice? Of course not.
The combination of singing, praying, learning and interacting with others is good for everyone and helps us grow to be more like Jesus.
Adults have a responsibility to guide their kids along the right path, especially the path that is literally more significant than any other path on earth.
When they’re older they will decide for themselves. And that age will vary depending on household and personality. But in the meantime, parents set priorities. Here’s a helpful way to say it: “Going to worship God is something our family does together.”
NOTE: When one parent doesn’t make it a priority, that can create a slightly different situation. [More on that tricky reality in an upcoming blog.]
4. Our Church Family Needs Each Other
Resist the age of church consumerism where we go to get.
One family leans on another, supports each another, and grows together.
And I honestly think that as Christianity continues to become more counter-cultural, the idea of church-as-support-group will become more of a focus. In the past month alone I have talked to people in three different generations for whom this is true.
5. God Wants Us To
In the letter to the Hebrews, the writer is encouraging others in the faith. He writes: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing…” (Hebrews 10:25). In the 1st century this was already a problem!
Many places in the Bible talk about the importance of worship. The words ‘worship’ and ‘praise’ come up about 500 times.
And when Jesus is resisting the Devil he says: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (Matthew 4:10).
What God wants is more important than what I feel.
And there’s this:
6. Jesus Did It
Jesus often went to the synagogue to worship. And so far as we know he didn’t even have a fixed address when he was an adult. But he made it a priority. And he’s the Son of God!
So What Do I Say?
“God wants us to get together to worship him because he wants the best for us, it’s good for us, and it keeps us focused on the right things.”
Yes, we go to say thank you, and to get help, and also have some nut-free snacks.
But the main thing is this: “God wants us to get together to worship him because he wants the best for us, it’s good for us, and it keeps us focused on the right things.”
That said, I’m a practical person and I know modern life has twists and turns. People are dealing with:
- more frequent travel
- increased weekend activities (for kids AND adults)
- split custody situations
- shift work and double-income families
- home realities where one parent doesn’t make it a priority
- and a culture where going to church isn’t the popular thing to do anymore
And I just don’t think it’s helpful when we’re so dogmatic that we load people up with more guilt.
They key isn’t to be legalistic, but to communicate and be consistent.
And when you do, some amazing things happen:
- You train yourself to make time for the RIGHT things. (The opposite of worship isn’t atheism, its sloth.)
- You train yourself to take God’s people seriously as fellow-travelers on a journey.
- You train yourself to identify Jesus’ Way and guard against the false and cheap promises of the 1000 deceptions around you.
- You train yourself to have an outlook of thanksgiving and generosity instead of entitlement and scarcity.
- You train yourself to see better from a godly perspective and not just a me-perspective. As Max Lucado says, worship is “God’s cure for poor I-sight.”
As you improve how you talk to your kids you will need to clarify your own reasons. But let me say this:
If going to worship is a footnote to your faith, you may be increasing the chance that God will be a footnote to your kids’ lives.
I realize that some churches have environments that are not very kid- or teen-friendly. Others are. Some are in the middle somewhere.
And you’re right: the environment makes a difference.
But through it all, the reasons you communicate have massive impact.
Communicate and be consistent. The example and words of a parent are mountains of fortitude in a child’s life.
In the end, why do we worship? “God wants us to get together to worship him because he wants the best for us, it’s good for us, and it keeps us focused on the right things.”
Worship. God deserves it—and we need it.
I want the absolute over-the-moon best for my kids.
And that God-first vision starts on the first day of the week.