ARTICLES

Raising Kids Who Worship

June 27, 2021

Today’s guest post is by Shelly Wildman. Shelly is the author of First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship. She and her husband Brian are parents to three adult daughters. Shelly formerly taught writing at Wheaton College and currently runs Walkabout Tours, which takes small groups of women on spiritual retreat and tours in Europe.You can learn more about her at her website and connect with her on Instagram or Facebook.

It’s a conversation held weekly, if not daily, in our home—the church. What is it? Why is it important? And, in a culture that seems to have gotten it wrong in so many ways, what’s the correct view of the church? 

Parents of young children have a responsibility to teach their kids the importance of, not just church attendance, but a commitment to worship and to the local church that will last through adulthood.  

In my book, First Ask Why, I share a few reasons why parents must encourage a healthy view of worship in their children. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 5, “Loving Our Team: Intentional Worship.” 

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God’s Word provides countless reasons for us to worship, but here are a few practical suggestions. First, a commitment to corporate worship gives us a chance to practice spiritual self-discipline. I am so aware that on some Sundays worship can feel like drudgery; our minds may not be fully engaged or our hearts may not be in it. We may feel burdened by a relationship that’s difficult or a financial situation that may not be optimal. We may be harried or distracted by our kids. Someone we love may be sick or hurting or all the above. Sometimes it’s hard to worship!  

This is exactly when discipline takes effect—on those Sunday mornings when you just don’t want to go to church, when you are fed up with those sinful people who attend your church (you can count yourself among them), when you just don’t seem to have anything to give anymore. In moments like those, Richard Foster encourages us, “Go, even if you don’t feel like it. Go, even if worship has been discouraging and dry before. Go, praying. Go, expecting. Go, looking for God to do a new and living work among you.” I believe God will bless you for it.  

Second, one of the most significant reasons to make worship a priority in your family, I believe, is to prepare your children to become adults who worship. I know there are no guarantees that our children will choose to follow Christ, but I firmly believe that if we want our children to worship when they are adults, we must get them into the habit of worshipping when they are children, because worship takes practice.  

My pastor for twenty-five years, Kent Hughes, and his wife, Barbara, wrote a book called Common Sense Parenting that greatly influenced my husband and me when we were raising our daughters. In it they encourage parents to commit to a local church body and to regular worship: “To imagine for a moment that you can raise a godly child with little or no commitment on your part to the local church contradicts common sense, not to mention Scripture.” If we want to train our children in godliness, if we want children who worship when they are adults, we must regularly bring them to church when they are young.  

This is why author and professor James K. A. Smith, in his book You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, calls us to examine our lives and our habits in a new way because, he explains, “Our hearts . . . are like . . . embodied homing beacons: our loves are pulled magnetically to some north toward which our hearts have been calibrated.” In other words, our habits show clearly what we worship, and our lives reflect what’s important to us. Smith suggests that we contemplate our involvements—are we being pulled toward God by the activities we choose or away from him?—arguing that regular corporate worship trains, or habituates, our hearts toward God. “First and foremost,” Smith argues, “our households need to be caught up in the wider household of God.” Worship must become a habit for us in order for us to pass its importance on to our children.  

Finally, corporate worship influences our children simply because of the cast of characters within it. The wide variety of folks in our church not only gives our kids a chance to practice interacting with people different from themselves but also provides them other examples of godly adults. (After all, a teen knows her parents don’t know everything!) Think for a minute of the older couple who show up faithfully, year after year. You may not even know their names, but there they are at the end of your row, engaged in worship, Sunday by Sunday.  

Do you know that the faithfulness of this couple speaks volumes to your child? When our kids see older folks in our churches who have raised their own children, who have persevered through years of discouragement or even doubt, who have experienced joy and pain within its walls, they see that church is where our needs are met and our questions addressed over the course of a lifetime. The very presence of older generations in our churches tells our children that faith is something worth holding on to, no matter what the years may bring.  

I believe the answer to keeping our children interested in church for the long haul starts with ensuring that they have a true, authentic experience of worshipping God and continues with requiring a firm commitment to a body of believers.  

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