It’s Sunday. You have done the best thing for your kids and made sure they attended worship and Bible class. What happens next? Your answer could add value to the faith building and strengthening benefits your kids can get from spending time with their church family worshipping God and learning more about Him.
If your kids are like me, the first thing on my mind after church is lunch! And that’s natural. So what are you talking about when you have that lunch? Are you critiquing the sermon? Venting about someone or something that frustrated you? Is your conversation primarily critical and negative?
Or do you immediately switch back to the secular world? Are you talking about movies, activities or politics? Are you discussing the things you are going to buy for yourselves? Making plans to have fun with friends?
It’s not that you can never disagree with a theological point in a sermon. Or that you can’t make plans for the week or errands you have to run. It’s just that there may be a better, more intentional way to spend that family time together. Time that can extend the Bible lessons your kids heard. Time that could be used to help them make plans to use what they learned God wanted them to do in their lives in the coming week.
There are other ways to spend that time at lunch together that will also encourage your kids to grow spiritually. Maybe your family can spend that time discussing your interactions with various people and decide how your family can serve some of those people in the coming week. Or perhaps you need to spend some of the time explaining something that was taught, said or done to make sure they understand and know what God wants them to learn from it.
Unfortunately, there may be times when you also need to explain something that was said or done that was not scriptural, biblical or the way God would want things to happen. Avoiding these important conversations can leave your kids thinking that those things were acceptable and this misunderstanding could become a stumbling block for their faith in the future. Obviously, these are delicate conversations that should be had in age appropriate ways, but even young children can sense when there is a lot of tension in an environment. They can also misunderstand things they overhear and need clarification from you.
Finally, your kids may have questions or doubts that occurred to them at any point during the day. Giving them a safe and consistent place and time to have these conversations can ensure they get biblical answers to them – rather than those the world may propose later.
Sunday lunch is a wonderful way to spend time together after church. Using it intentionally could also help strengthen your kids’ faith.
Many families make at least a day trip to the beach during the summer months. It’s a great way to enjoy nature, get some exercise and just have fun. Did you know though you can also have fun at the beach using its resources to teach your kids about God? You don’t have to “sermonize”, just work in casual observations and conversation as you do various activities.
There are probably a ton of things you can do at the beach to point your kids to God, but here are a few of our favorites:
Watch the sunrise or sunset. Take your towels and sit with your kids enjoying the beauty. It’s a great quite time to have a family devotional. Or just talk with your kids about the beauty of God’s creation and how much He must love us to give us so many beautiful things to see in our world. End your time with a prayer thanking God for His blessings.
Take a walk along the shoreline. This is a great time to have those important parent/kid talks about anything and everything. Let your children take the lead. If they are reluctant to talk, asking an open ended question might get them talking. This isn’t a time for lecturing, just listening and trying to get to know your children’s hearts.
Collect seashells (Don’t keep any with animals still inside.) This is a great way to get your kids to notice God’s creativity. Talk about the diversity in the shells you find. If you keep finding the same type of clam or oyster shells, challenge your kids to look closer and see if they can notice differences in the same type of shell. Talk about the creativity we have if we are reflecting God’s image. Discuss the gifts God has given them to serve Him. Encourage them to think of creative ways to use those gifts to serve others and share their faith.
Notice the waves and the tides – high and low. Talk about how God knows what the world needs – and more importantly, what we need. What are the advantages of each tide? Or just tides and waves in general? (For example, coral needs the action of waves to grow. Coral tanks in aquariums have to create fake waves to keep the coral alive and growing.) What things does God give us that we need? Or have a discussion about needs versus wants. There are a lot of possible application lessons in the waves and tides.
Do something with your child that is exercise – running, swimming, biking on the boardwalk bike path, peddle carts, etc. Afterwards talk about the importance of keeping our bodies healthy so we have the strength and health to serve God. Talk about the other areas of health like mental, emotional and spiritual. What does God want us to do to stay healthy in those areas? What new healthy habits can your family develop?
Build a sand castle. If you build it near the water’s edge, you know what will eventually happen. When your castle is damaged or destroyed by a wave, you can talk about the things that can destroy or damage us. Talk about the ways you could protect your sand castle. Then talk about the ways God tries to protect us by giving us commands to follow.
The beach can be an amazing fun family vacation. It will create lots of family memories. Why not also use that special family time and the teachable moments at the beach to strengthen your children’s spiritual foundations? It’s time well spent.
Like many other Christian educators, I prefer children to worship with their families and not in a separate children’s worship service. Often children’s worship is little more than entertainment- with children learning they should always have fun during worship and that worship is about how they feel, not about worshipping God. Your children are missing so many things vital for their spiritual growth and health when they are separated from you – even for just part of the service.
You may have experienced a few frazzled worship services with your children and decided it is best for everyone if they are removed from the auditorium as quickly as possible. It doesn’t have to be that way. With a few tips in your pocket and a couple of extra loving Christian hands, your family can reap the benefits of family worship with very little pain and suffering!
In many churches, children never worship with the adults in worship services. Others whisk them away before the sermon begins. Some may provide other options during worship for children, but only during the school year. A few congregations only offer worship activities for infants, while children remain in worship.
Personally, I think we can learn a lot from how children were treated in the Old Testament. From what we can tell, often the Law was read in front of the entire population – including children. To me, it seems the best place to learn how to worship God is by worshipping Him with your family. For many children the only time God and their family are together is in the church building. As a result, the only time children can worship with their family is during worship service at church. Even if you also worship with your kids at home during the week, there is a special emotional connection that happens when families worship together in a church worship service.
Regardless of how you feel about your kids being in the worship service with you (and I strongly encourage you to arrange that no matter what is available), you will find yourself at some point with your children on the pew next to you in worship service. So what can you do that will allow you to worship and teach your children to worship at the same time? There are probably plenty of things you can do, but here are some of my favorite tips.
As your children enter their teen years, you may begin to feel a sense of urgency in your parenting. You only have a few years remaining when you will see your child daily and have hours a day to help build their spiritual foundation. By your child’s senior year of high school, even the most proactive Christian parent can feel a sense of panic. What have you forgotten to teach? What more do you need to say?
There is a way though to create a special gift that will be a subtle (or not so subtle) reminder for your child of the spiritual truths that were so important to you – the ones you pray are also a part of who they are and who they will become. The great thing is you can put your own special touches on it that will also reflect your love for your child and the value you place on your relationship.