Every Child Worships

Preparing Our Kids for Sunday Morning

Though I grew up in a less-than-perfect family (like every human), one positive thing my family did marked me forever. Every Saturday night, my siblings and I, one after the other, would take a bath and then deliver our shoes to my dad to be polished, all in preparation for the Sunday-morning worship service at the Toledo Gospel Tabernacle. There was never a debate about whether we would go. We never needed to fit church into the family calendar. The weekend schedule of the Tripp family was planned around the one thing we would never think of missing: Sunday worship. For that, I will be forever grateful.

It seemed like we were always the first family to arrive. My dad hated being late for church. And because he had lost much of his hearing in World War II, we always sat right up front. I heard well over a thousand sermons in that church, preached from all over God’s word. I learned all of the great hymns of the faith, many of which I can still sing by memory. I learned the core doctrines of the faith as I sat there with Mom and Dad.

I grew up thinking that “going to church” was a normal part of life. It didn’t seem religious to me or super-spiritual or like some unique commitment. From my youngest days, it seemed to be something that all Christian families did. For my family, there was no exception to this Sunday rule. Even on vacation, my mom and dad would locate a church for us to attend. I am so thankful for the way this important spiritual habit was nailed into my understanding of life.

But as I look back, I’m not sure my mom and dad ever talked about preparing our hearts for worship.

Everyone a Worshiper

Luella and I are the parents of four children, all adults now, and when they were growing up in the house, we committed to talking with them about the importance of Sunday. I was a pastor, which meant we were in church every week, so we wanted to ensure church attendance was more than just a routine. We didn’t implement any rituals or habits on Saturday night (like my dad did) but instead had an ongoing conversation about worship. Specifically, worship is not first an activity that we participate in, but our identity as human beings.

Note the words of Romans 1:25: “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” Clearly, when Paul uses the word worship here, he is not referring to a formal religious concept. He is talking about something that happens in our daily lives. We must understand — and help our children understand — that worship is much more than a religious activity. At its most basic, worship concerns core human identity.

Every human being is a worshiper. God wired every human being with this impulse for worship to drive us to our Creator. So, the most irreverent, irreligious person worships. Paul doesn’t divide people into those who worship and those who don’t. No, Paul divides people by who or what they worship. And there are only two choices: you will worship your Creator, or you will worship something in creation.

“You will worship your Creator, or you will worship something in creation.”

As a parent, you want to use the situations and relationships in your children’s lives to remind them of this spiritual reality. Maybe you do so when a daughter is obsessing over somebody liking her in school or being accepted by her peers. Perhaps sports or academic success has become something of an idol for your son, and you can use that concern as an opening to have the conversation once again about his identity as a worshiper.

My youngest son was a basketball player in high school, and he was practicing out in the backyard one day. I heard the ball stop bouncing, and he came inside and asked me, “Dad, when do you know if a good thing like basketball has become an idol in your life?” Praise God, praise God, praise God! I was thrilled in that moment because it meant that our fifteen-year-old boy had come to grasp his identity as a worshiper and that his heart was prone to run after idols. That was the result of divine grace by means of many conversations and comments.

Every Week a Reminder

If our children begin to recognize their identity as worshipers and the tendency of their hearts to chase after the creation instead of the Creator, then the Sunday gathering starts to make more sense. No longer is it a weird religious activity with singing and reading, standing and sitting. No longer is it merely a duty, an inconvenience, or even a fun social event to run around with friends. Instead, corporate worship gets attached to the core of who they are as human beings and how they operate. On Sunday, we gather together to be confronted with our idolatry so that we can confess it and know the freedom of worshiping God alone.

In the same way, you want to talk with your kids about the most beautiful relationship they could ever have — their relationship with God. We were created to live in a worshipful, obedient, and dependent relationship with our Creator. But sin shattered that perfect relationship and separated us from God. And the consequences have been plaguing us ever since.

God did not design us to live independently of him. Healthy independent living is a delusion. Only as we submit to, fellowship with, and depend upon our Creator will we be who we are supposed to be and do what we are designed to do. We need help not just because we are sinners or failures in some way, but because we are beings designed by a wise, loving, and good God for dependent living.

The regular gathering of the church is the assembly of God’s needy children. It’s a reminder that we are created for him and that life is only ever found in him. The church gathering weekly reminds us to lay down our pride, our self-sufficiency, our delusions of independent strength, our fear of what others will think, and our self-righteousness, and to humbly open our hearts, confessing our need once again to the One who has the power and willingness to help.

Prepare Their Hearts

Sunday worship makes sense only if you understand that you were made for relationship with God, that by instinct and design you are a worshiper, and that because of sin, your heart will chase after created pleasures that promise life and freedom but fail to satisfy.

Talk to your children about their need, their weakness, and their dependency. Contrast those qualities with a society that encourages independence and isolation. Teach them about the beautiful reminders Sunday worship provides. And by grace, may they grow excited about communing with God and the saints every week!