Our church has a midweek worship, education and fellowship program on Wednesday nights – FUEL (Filling up Every Life). This has become an important part of my family’s weekly routine.
We enjoy the fellowship, a time to share a meal with our church family, to create and develop strong Christian community. We enjoy the education hour. My 5-year-old, Judson, looks forward to it all week. My husband and I are eager to have at least one hour each week devoted to our own adult education. We recognize that study of scripture and thoughtful contemplation on how God works in our lives must continue long after our so-called “formative years” – but making the time can be such a challenge!
However, we usually do not stay for the short worship service which begins at 7:07 each Wednesday. I definitely put the blame on my 2-year-old, Lea. This is when we start the bedtime routine. How can I expect her to sit through church?
But the blame should probably be on me. By 7:00 at night, after a long day at work, racing out the door to be at church on time, I am ready to be at home – not sitting in our church sanctuary wrestling my toddler back to her seat and repeatedly explaining what a “whisper voice” is. Not very worshipful – for me, at least.
On one particular Wednesday, we were heading home before worship, as we usually do. For some reason, on that one night, Judson really wanted to go to church. He asked several times, and I said no – gently – each time. We needed to get Lea home to bed, and we only had one car. He was persistent and in near tears. As a general parenting rule, I would not normally relent from repeated, tearful requests – this is not a good precedent. But this was church – and for some reason he desperately wanted to go.
So my husband found a ride home and he stayed at church to worship with Judson. My daughter and I went home. My husband had no special stories, no wondrous act of God pulling my son to be at worship that night. They just sat together in the sanctuary and experienced the presence of God through worship with our Christian community.
I don’t know what happened that night for my son. The music on Wednesday is a little more loud, a little more fun than what we are used to on Sunday mornings. Maybe that pulled him in? There are more stories, less liturgy. I can imagine that the more casual structure is appealing to a 5-year-old.
This was a great story – a great “God moment” for Judson. On the flip side – my son told me recently that he doesn’t like going to church with us on Sunday morning. I stood quietly, shocked that he would express this so bluntly! With more wisdom than I should expect from a child his age, he explained further that he finds church on Sunday morning to be boring at times and he doesn’t always understand what is happening – but that he will go with us to church, because he understands it is important for Mommy and Daddy.
How can I be disappointed by that?
Worship is defined as: the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity. This is a difficult concept for a young child to grasp. At this age, kids are taught the stories, taught the songs, taught that they ought to love Jesus – but this initial learning can’t happen solely through our traditional Sunday morning worship.
There is a fine line – we need to encourage church attendance to “train” kids to sit through, participate in, grasp the concept of worship. Over time, little by little, they will come to appreciate and utilize each aspect of our worship service as a way to communicate with God.
Or, they’ll help the church find new ways to structure worship so that all generations can worship in a way that is meaningful to them. I can be thankful that we have a program like FUEL to help move that process along.
In the end, it all comes back to deliberate discussion with our kids. And the amazing thing is that this process will not only help our kids understand worship, but also open our own eyes and make worship a more meaningful experience in our own lives.