"Therefore, I urge you, brothers (and sisters), in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship."--Romans 12:1 For the past week, I've been praying for my kids that they would have a heart that fears and loves God. As today is Sunday, I have been thinking about what that means in regards to Sunday worship. And so, this week, I thought we'd take a look at how we might be able to train our kids to be active participants, starting with the worship service and into the week.
As a family, we are blessed to attend a rather large church with a great worship team and awesome teaching pastors. However, I am learning that doesn't mean I'm automatically worshipping when I step into the sanctuary. Sometimes, like today, I feel like I am going 80 miles an hour and then enter the service like I'm hitting a wall! Ever been there?
Over the past few years, I have been learning that worship is a state of heart that seeks to exalt the Lord above all else. It is a gift of love and sometimes requires sacrifice on my part. I need to let go of the things that seem urgent and pressing and then choose to lay them down so that I can devote my energies and focus to the Lord. (But I do have my list nearby, so I can write things down so I don't forget later on! Can't count on myself to remember those thoughts!)
For our children, going to church may be part of our weekly routine. I know that merely taking our kids to church and sitting through the service is not the goal. I am beginning to look at the worship service as a tool that the Lord gives us. How so? Depending on how we utilize it, we can help our children grow closer to the Lord or it can create a disgust or antagonism towards the church later.
As with most of life, how our children see church really starts with us. Do you and I enjoy being in the Lord's presence? Would I rather be somewhere else? Is it just another stop on our weekend schedule that we need to make before we get on to the "real" focus of the day? Or are we there so we can catch up with our girlfriends and hear the scoop from the previous week? Unfortunately, even if we don't say it, our kids can pick up that message. When we run in late to service but rush out early, it could look like we're just putting in our time before we move on to the game, the birthday party or the lunch date. It's not what we say about church that counts. It's how we live.
So what can we do to start training our kids to see worship as the central focus of our time at church? Although I am not 100% perfect at this, one of the things I try my hardest to do is be on time at church. Why? Because I think it makes a statement to Him that He is worth my best efforts to be present for the entire service. Think about it: Do we rush our kids off to school so that they won't get in trouble for being tardy? What does it tell our children when we do that yet casually saunter into the service half an hour late? We wouldn't dare risk being late for school but somehow with God it's okay? Guilty as charged.
In order to get to church on time, however, the "living sacrifice" we need to make may need to begin the night before. If we have afternoon or evening activities, I may need to leave early so that the kids can get to bed (especially younger ones) at a decent hour. Sometimes I need to take 10 extra minutes before going to bed at night to set up a light easy breakfast, lay out clothes for the next morning, and collect Bibles, offering money or anything else we may need for the morning. When my children got a little older, they were responsible for doing those things on their own.
I'm not trying to be legalistic here. There are some mornings, like today, when I got to the worship service after it started. But I don't like to make that a regular occurence. I want my children to know that worship is not about squeezing God in to our timetable and convenience but us making sacrifices, whether it be leaving an exciting party so we can get enough rest or waking up early, so that we can be fully ready and present at the service. Ideally, I even like to get there early so we have time to find a seat, take Jonathan to the bathroom and settle down before the first worship set begins.
At the very heart of all this is love. God does not desire reluctant or legalistic worship. And so, as we prepare for worship on Sundays, let's do so with a heart of love and thankfulness. All things considered, it really isn't very much for a God who has given us everything.