My husband and I both work at our church, so my two young daughters are at the church nearly every day of the week. I was raised in the ministry, so being in the house of God regularly is my “normal.” I’m so thankful that my parents instilled a love for the church in me from an early age and taught me that church involvement is a blessing, not a burden. As I watch my daughters play in the church office or worship from their pew or giggle with friends in the lobby, I pray that I can do the same for my family. When I think about what made church important to me as a child and what is making it fun for my children, three things immediately pop into my mind:
MAKE CHURCH A PART OF YOUR FAMILY CULTURE
There are some things that are simply not optional in our lives. Food. Your children know that at some point you will all eat. (You’ll eat three meals and nine million snacks a day if you follow my daughters’ food demands.) Sleep. They may fight it. They may not be great at it. But at some point everyone does sleep. Brushing your teeth. It’s a must, you know?
These are just a few things that every family does, but I’m sure you can list half a dozen more things that make up your daily lives. There are so many things woven into our family culture that we don’t have to think about. Make church one of those things.
Make church attendance and Christian living as much a part of your lives as food. It’s not a question of if you’re going, but when. Make it a cherished, fulfilling part of your family culture! This begins with our attitudes and speech as parents. Do we act too tired to go on Sunday mornings? Too stressed to get it all together for mid-week service? Do we consistently choose other activities over church nights? Do we talk bad about the leaders or saints in front of our children? No, we act and speak as if church is a privilege, an excitement, and a joyous thing to go to. When church is a cornerstone in our family culture, it becomes a vital source of strength, not an optional source of entertainment.
Sunday School and the children’s ministry are amazing ways for children to be met on their level at church, but don’t let those ministries be the only involvement your children have in church! Does your church have a small group program? Start a small group with your kids that will involve and reach other children in your community. Bring your children with you to your own small groups. Let them get to know people in your church. Budget for going out to dinner with other families after a service. Attend as many church functions as possible as you show them that church is vital, vibrant, fun, and fulfilling.
We were recently headed to choir practice at our church, and my six-year-old piped up from the backseat, “I’m in the choir, you know.” It’s our adult sanctuary choir that sings while she is in Sunday School class, so I asked her why she thought she was in the choir. She replied, “At practice a long time ago I sat in the front row. Then all the singers came and sat there for practice. I sang with them. So now I’m the choir!” After giggling a little bit, I realized she was right. She has been to every choir practice with my husband and me, and she always sits in the middle of the sopranos. They lovingly include her as she sings the whole evening with them. She has no clue that she’s not really a choir member - she just knows she’s having fun and feels welcome and included.
Where you spend your time is where your young children will spend theirs. Your activities become theirs. Surround them with the right environment, include them in the church functions, and you’ll start laying a strong foundation for them to build upon.
TIE THEIR INTERESTS IN WITH MINISTRY
This goes for tiny ones all the way to grown ones - find the spot where their interests and service collide. We are called to be servants in the Kingdom, and there is nothing like the feeling of knowing you are serving the body and meeting a need. As parents we can’t let our children think that the only people to be used of God are the ministers behind a pulpit. We each have giftings and callings on our lives. We each are vital members of the body. So, where and how are we called to use our gifts?
We don’t have to wait to graduate college or to get licensed or to get married to be used in the Kingdom. We can encourage our children to start now by being a servant. Does your little toddler love playing with her pretend vacuum cleaner? Bring her to church clean up nights and let her “clean.” Does your elementary school student love to read? Maybe he could read a picture book to the nursery class. If your kids are anything like mine, they love being “in charge.” Assign your row or seating section to your child and make it his or her job to make sure everything is left clean and spotless after church. As your children get older and their interests more developed, find a way to plug those into ministry. Make meals for local homeless shelters, plant flowers in elderly saints’ gardens, sing in nursing homes, draw pictures and send cards to shut-ins. Nothing is too small to be used and magnified by God.
There are many more ways to keep your children plugged in to your local church, and God will be faithful to give you the wisdom you need for leading your family. But don’t forget the power He has already given you, young mama. Your little ones are looking up to you in every way. Watching you, imitating you, learning how they want to be and not be because of you. Your greatest tool as a parent is to fall so deeply in love with God and His Word that it just shines right out of you. Your children will see your passion for Him and for church attendance and Christian living through your actions, your attitude, your speech, and your daily habits. Parents lead by example, so be encouraged today that every Spirit-led step you take is leading your family to glory.