By Shell Perris
3 minute read.
In 2013, with 2 children aged 2 and 6 months, my husband and I asked a life-changing question – “How do we help our children to engage in worship?”
When it came to Sunday morning church services, colouring sheets and well-timed sleeps were no longer working for our eldest son, Harvey. We needed to be intentional about teaching him to worship God and engage with church.
The values we set at that moment were going to shape our family’s future experience of church and worship for years to come. It was important we took time to get it right, whatever the sacrifice.
Harvey had been bought a toy ukulele. Our friend’s son also had a toy ukulele and they were equally passionate about their son learning to worship. So, the ukuleles began to accompany our sons to church, alongside strict boundaries that they were only to be used in sung worship. We would intentionally sit in the front seats so that the boys could easily watch the worship band and join in.
Eventually, other young families began to do the same and it sparked something within our church’s children. They began imitating the worship band, to the point where our Sunday morning ‘kit list’ consisted of music stands, water bottles, wires (that were never pugged in!) and mic stands.
Did the children sometimes make too much noise? Yes! Were guitars often used as swords? Yes! Was it inconvenient and a little chaotic at times? Yes! But has it paid off over the years? Yes!
It continues to be a journey as we creatively think about ways to help our now four children, and other children in our church, to engage in worship. However, through our triumphs and mistakes there have been some key learnings and I would love to share a few of them with you. They are not learnings to do with worship itself, more our attitude towards teaching children to love, worship and live for God.
1. BE INTENTIONAL:
One of my favourite scriptures in the bible is Romans 10:14-15:
“But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it?”
[Romans 10:14-15 – MSG]
I sometimes wonder whether we read those verses and think they only apply to the evangelists, missionaries and Christian leaders amongst us. The fact is, the children entrusted to us are not going to hear about Jesus or know how to follow Him unless we are intentional about teaching them the ‘who’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the Christian faith.
Whether you are a mum, a dad, a granny, a grandad, a stepparent, a children’s leader, a church leader, an uncle, an auntie, a family friend or a teacher- if you love Jesus and have the privilege of knowing a child, you have been appointed by God to direct that child or those children to God.
You have the potential to be a world changer and it is vital that we view that responsibility and opportunity as a gift given by God.
Don’t fall in to the trap of thinking that someone else will teach those children about Jesus. Don’t palm the responsibility off on to someone else. You do it. You show the children entrusted to your care what it is to love and worship God. Make space for it. Tell them. Show them. Ask those difficult questions. Make those sacrifices. Be intentional.
2. BE A TREND SETTER:
The bible says that we are to be “imitators of Christ” [Ephesians 5:1]. It’s a known, pyscological fact that children learn behaviours through imitation. They observe and replicate what their ‘influencers’ do and say. Imitation can also lead to the development of traditions and culture. The older a child gets, the greater the consequences of what has been modelled to them in their earlier years.
Therefore, it is absolutely essential that we make sure our actions, words and behaviours are of a nature worthy of imitation by the children assigned to our care. If we want those children to be Christ-like, wholesome and healthy in mind, body and spirit, then we have to lead and practice the way – and that, my friend, requires everything.
Our children will copy what we do. If a child lives in a home where cursing, swearing and gossip is the norm, that child will likely curse, swear and gossip. If a child is told, whether consciously or subconsciously, that they are inadequate, that child will struggle to believe they are enough.
However, if a child is loved and appreciated, that child will know how to love and appreciate others and themselves. If a child is nurtured and listened too, they will feel validated and recognise the importance of validating others. If a child sees their ‘influencer’ worshipping God, getting stuck in to the bible and treating others with love and respect, they will cling on to the same values, habits and beliefs.
So, be an ‘influencer’. Be a trend setter. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how to imitate Christ effectively. He’s not short on ideas even if we are!
3. BE REAL
I believe one of the greatest gifts we can give a child is the gift of ‘reality’. Children love ‘real’. When we live in a world where people’s edited highlight reels shine through far brighter than their realities, it’s hard to filter what’s real and what’s not.
“If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.”
[Romans 12:8-9 – ESV]
In other words, operate out of the gifting, passion and character that God has given to you. Yes, we can learn from each other but don’t be frightened to be original. Have the confidence and vulnerability to be you and be real.
Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Do what you can with what you’ve got and do it whole heartedly.
Intentional trend setting with a measure of reality leads to passionate children who desire to love, worship and live for God. Now who doesn’t want that?!