"Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."--Deuteronomy 6:7 One of the nice things about having an older teenager alongside a preschooler is that I can enjoy the younger years while still having meaningful conversations with the older one. I have noticed that with some teenagers, they can become more quiet and withdrawn, and it takes a little bit of encouragement to get them to start talking. (I happen to have one of those.)
In the past couple of posts, we talked about how we can include and train our babies and children to sit through a worship service. Generally, every year, I expect a little more participation. It does take a little bit of explanation and work at home so that they know what is expected.
For example, before we eat breakfast, I usually pray with the kids and thank God for the privilege of worshipping Him in His house that day. That helps them to start gearing up their minds for what is ahead. When we get to church, I usually take Jonathan to the bathroom before the service starts (another reason why I like to get there early), to avoid mid-service interruptions. While there, I remind him of appropriate behavior, but more importantly, why we are there in the first place. All these conversations don't take a lot of time, but I hope that it helps to keep worship in the forefront of the kids' minds on Sunday mornings.
But what about the kids who are a little older? One of the things that I have had my daughter do once she hit the junior high years was to start listening and paying attention to the message. Not only does it help her to practice listening and note-taking skills (helpful in school!), it gives us a topic to talk about on the car ride home or around the dinner table in the evening. In this way, we don't have to prepare a message or lesson---we just use what our pastor shared as the starting point.
Okay, sometimes she still doodles all over her notes, but I am hoping that this is training her to get in the habit of actively listening in the service (or any time there is a speaker). After years of playing during the message time, I need to start transitioning her into thinking that church is not about doing my own thing or reading my own books, etc. It's about listening to the Word of God. I don't drill her on what was said, but instead ask her to share something that the Lord surfaced in the message that resonated with her. The more interesting conversations are not over content, but on the things that the Lord is showing her.
Sometimes it does feel a little awkward, especially if you're not a naturally relational person (like me). Sometimes I feel like I'm talking to a wall. But I am learning that my growing teenager needs me to engage with her just as much as I do with the little one. As she matures, it has been neat to hear her share some of her insights. Sometimes she asks questions. Both have sparked opportunities and teachable moments that I pray will continue to build into her life.
Deuteronomy 6 tells us that we are to talk about God's commands with our children wherever we go (sitting at home or walking along the road) and whatever we do (whether we're getting up or going to bed). When we have these kinds of conversations with our children, we keep the Lord an essential part of our daily life. My prayer is that in doing so, God becomes greater and more real in their lives and not limited to a Sunday exercise.
Even though it doesn't come naturally for me, I am beginning to see the fruit of establishing that kind of relationship with my daughter. It's so easy to just focus on what needs to be done. My prayer is that as I take the time to do so, we will begin to challenge and encourage one another to walk in the faith. Who knows? One day, she may be the one teaching me.