Why should we go to church? No really. Take a few seconds and mentally provide an answer. If you’re like most people, your answer will primarily fall into at least one of the following categories:
- to learn (about God, us, the Bible, etc.)
- to fellowship with Christians
- to serve
- to worship
- to share the gospel
Which most sounds like your answer? Do you have any other major categories to add? How would you order these answers in level of priority?
Now, here’s the real challenge: ask your kids to answer these same questions. Why should we go to church? What is the most important reason we should go to church?
All of these reasons listed above are important, but one governs and orders the others. The Bible highlights worship as the primary reason for gathering with God’s people weekly.
Of course, we also want to learn, to fellowship, to serve, and to share the gospel, but those ultimately serve the highest good of worshiping God.
How can you instill this thinking in your home? Let me suggest three steps: teach, prepare, and order.
1. Teach your family about worship.
If you want worship to be the focus of church for your children, you will need to teach your children how to view the worship service.
But what exactly is worship? And how can you explain it to your children? Here is the working definition I created for my kids: worship is telling and showing God how good and great he is.
How do I teach my kids? I ask them a series of simple questions each week.
- What are the reasons people go to church? Friends, to learn, to worship God, snack time (3 year-old Sunday School, am I right?!), etc.
- What is the most important reason we go to church? To worship God
- What does it mean to worship God? To tell and show God how good and great he is.
- What are some ways we can tell and show God how good and great he is? singing, praying, observing the Lord’s table, submitting ourselves to the preached Word, giving in the offering, etc.
2. Prepare your family for worship.
If worship of God with God’s people is the highlight of every week, it’s important to prepare your family. Here are a few ideas.
Prepare on Saturday.
Preparation starts long before Sunday morning. Make it a pattern to getting into bed early on Saturday. Plan dinner parties, sporting events, or family activities for a different night so you can be rested and prepared for worship.
Take some time to set out clothes and prepare any food ahead of time so Sunday mornings can be as stress-free as possible (depending on the age of your kids the “as possible” is pulling a lot of weight here).
Prepare in prayer.
Take some family time to pray Saturday night or Sunday morning. Talk about a reason God is worthy of worship each week (e.g., “he is gracious … long-suffering … just“) and then talk to God about that reason as a family.
Prepare an offering.
Encourage your children to consciously prepare to give worship to God. Talk to them about how to sing to God, teach them how to listen as a worshiper, and help them prepare a financial gift (no matter how small).
3. Order your day for worship.
The New Testament sets Sunday apart as “the Lord’s Day” (Rev 1:10). Most people today live in cultures where they can dedicate the entire day to God and his things. Since environments shape us so much as people, we should create Sunday environments that remind us how special worship is and set Sundays apart intentionally.
Here are a few starting points.
Make Sunday different.
Our bodies and our souls are intertwined, so it only makes sense that structuring our physical environments can prompt our hearts to respond well to truth.
One of our goals is to make Sunday feel different—from start to finish. Many of these differences aren’t necessarily spiritual, but they recognize our experiences can encourage us to treat the day differently.
Find a restful pattern.
Whatever your understanding of how New Testament Christians should apply the Sabbath, we can all agree that it’s hard to worship with all your heart, soul, and mind if you’re running around and exhausted on Sundays.
If you’re heavily involved in serving, finding rest on Sunday can be difficult, but it’s essential. To neglect rest or make Sundays a frenzied chain of activities prioritizes side things over the main thing (worship). Put another way, it is not spiritual to be “busy with much serving” to the neglect of full-focused worship. (Luke 10:41–42)1
Reserve special experiences.
As mentioned above, we do everything in our power to make Sunday feel different. Here are a few special experiences we reserve for Sunday (hint: most of them are not particularly spiritual, but signal to us all that Sunday is special):
- We have the same special breakfast every Sunday.2
- We listen to a reserved music playlist each Sunday morning.
- We have the same lunch every week—something low-stress and quick to prepare so we can spend as long at church as possible and be eating within 5 minutes of walking in the door.
- We let the kids sit in the living room for lunch while we watch a special show they only watch on Sundays.
- We all take naps Sunday afternoon (yes, even the adults).
- Every Sunday afternoon, we have an early dinner we call “Tea Party.” We make tea and serve fruits, vegetables, cheese/crackers, and small sandwiches. It’s become a very special time for my kids and their favorite meal of the week.
These special experiences (notice all three meals are special and unique to Sundays) help remind our bodies and souls that Sunday is different and set apart.
A Parting Word
You’ve probably seen those videos of horror movies put to silly music or children’s movies paired with Alfred Hitchcock-style background music.
Whatever words are said or scenes are shown, the music overpowers them. Why is that? In part, it’s because our senses, emotions, and reason are intertwined. We may know Pooh Bear isn’t a mass murderer, but it’s still hard not to feel creeped out if the music is just right.
How can you make the music of your homes (i.e., your Sunday activities, food, free time, etc.) match your words (i.e., teaching, family prayers, etc.)? The right pairing will communicate God is so worthy that once a week, we dedicate a whole day to celebrating how good and great he is, just as the wrong pairing will say that God is common and normal.
If your words say “Sunday is special” but your day says, “this is a Saturday with a church service,” your kids will get the second message loud and clear. How can you set the day apart for your family?
I realize your church may have a lot of activities and you may occasionally have a Sunday absolutely full of activity. (I’m a pastor—and I get it.) My point here is that this frenzied pace needs to be the exception rather than the rule. If your church structure discourages this type of thoughtful worship, give your leaders the benefit of the doubt. The first activity to give thought to is your Saturday. If you have a very slow and restful Saturday, you may find you can still participate in every activity Sunday in a rested and worshipful state. If you are unable to find a restful pattern, slowly and gracefully withdraw from one or two key activities on Sunday in preference to intentional worship. ↩
If you’re interested, we have steel cut oats with sausage, fruit, and coffee (the only day the kids get coffee). In case my children’s Sunday School teachers read this, they each get like 1 Tablespoon ☕. ↩