I recently heard a minister say something wonderful about worship. “Worship,” he said “is not an event for us. It’s a way of life.” I love that. In some churches, worship services rival the time, money and effort but into Broadway shows. Worship teams and choirs hold auditions. In some instances, the focus has seemed to shift from God to the performers. An average person feels afraid to sing or participate in any way for fear of being judged inadequate to worship God.
How sad. I think about the shepherd boy David sitting in a field with his sheep. Hannah weeping near Eli. Ruth picking up leftover grain in a field. Mary holding the baby Jesus in her arms in a stable. Worship was never an event for them. It wasn’t about going once a week and performing for God. It was the way they lived their lives every day.
This is what we need to teach our children. Everything they do should be in worship to God. Using their talents to serve and share their faith. Singing praise songs in their less than tuneful voice. Praying prayers of praise as they sit looking out at God’s creation. Everything they do should worship God.
If your children attend an average elementary school, they are probably having breakfast around 6:30 or so in the morning. Schools are great about pressuring the parents of even kids who don’t want breakfast into having morning rounds of “just eat a little something” . At school, your children may be eating lunch as early as 10 am. By 11 am, most elementary aged kids have had two meals or a snack and a meal.
Then Sunday morning arrives. It takes a small miracle to get everyone dressed, ready and out the door in order to arrive at church anywhere close to the start time. There really isn’t the time to take the extra effort to coax a reluctant breakfast eater or make any sort of nutritious breakfast.
Suddenly, your children’s bodies (which are used to having two chances at food by 11 am) are in worship and Bible class. Their stomachs are growling and all they can think about is what your family might be doing for lunch. Now I don’t know about you, but when I am hungry, I quickly get to the point where I am not hearing anything that is being said. All my brain is doing is thinking “Are you done yet?!” It just wants food.
Christianity is actually an interesting mix of grace and work. Step outside of any preconceived ideas and take a look at the New Testament with fresh eyes. When you do, it becomes obvious we cannot save ourselves and we are saved only by and through the grace of God.
On the other hand, Jesus and the disciples worked like crazy. Yes, they attended the occasional dinner party and fished from time to time, but they also worked hard. They were constantly traveling from place to place teaching, healing and serving others. The Apostle Paul even continued to run his tent making business while he preached. Even the early Christians were so busy working deacons were created to help handle some of the work load that had fallen on the elders.
The problem in life is that most people ride the pendulum. If they believed work was required too much when growing up, then they preach only grace – Christians can sit back and have fun – no work expected. If you grew up in an environment with too much grace, then your pendulum probably swung the other way. The truth lies in the balance. We are saved by God’s grace, but God wants and expects us to work in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons – for our own good and the good of the Kingdom.
I love seeing a family sitting in the pews worshipping together for an entire service. I know what you’re probably thinking. If you don’t have any small children living in your house, you are thinking how annoying, wiggly and noisy all of those children are and how they disrupt worship service. If you have small children, you are thinking it has been awhile since I have tried to keep multiple small children behaving during a long service.
While both of those are valid points, in my last two posts, I have addressed why I think our children really need to be in worship with us. I have also thrown out some suggestions I believe will help all of us see our entire congregations as one large family worshipping together. What I haven’t shared is my secret bag of tricks, that will hopefully make the experience more pleasant and meaningful for everyone.
One of my favorite experiences while raising my daughter has been teaching her to appreciate art. She wasn’t born with an innate love of art and art museums. In fact, some of our first experiences were almost painful. I was even known to utter such enlightened sentences as “We may never get to Chicago again and you are going to see the American Gothic painting whether you want to or not!” or the equally popular “Look at this painting. One day you will learn about it in school and you will want to remember seeing it in real life!”
We continued to drag her through art museums all over the country and then one day the light clicked on in her. She asked (at a rather young age) if she could see a specific art exhibit in a rather obscure museum on the Mall in Washington, D.C. She was studying it and wanted to see it in person. Needless to say, we made sure we got to that museum. Fast forward a few years and she was actually nagging us on her first trip to New York City to get her to the Museum of Modern Art and to allow her a full morning to enjoy it. (She still whined about my need to stare at French Impressionists and Picasso, but at least she had developed her own favorites!) The pain in those early years was worth raising a child who loves art and enjoys art museums.