The Best Day of the Week...for Your Kids
Several years ago, I was leading a seminar on family worship at a conference and a man told me, “As a child, I always dreaded Sundays. My parents made it miserable.” I was sad to hear about his experience and the only thing I could think to say was, “Well, then they were obviously doing something wrong!” By way of contrast, Joel Beeke once explained that he woke his children up every Sunday and say, "It's time to get up. Today is the best day of the week!" I hope the accusations leveled against Christians who have the highest possible view of the Lord's Day--namely, that we just sit around on the Lord’s Day making sure we and our children do not handle, do not taste, do not touch (Colossians 2:21)--aren’t true! Jesus reminds us, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). So, if we’re to use it rightly and call the Sabbath a delight (Isaiah 58:13), we need to think about how we can cultivate that delight instead of dread in our children’s (and our own) hearts on the Lord’s Day. Here are eight ways we can help our children view Sunday as being the best day of the week:
1. Prioritize corporate worship.
In 2016, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for Christian families to participate in things like team sports or clubs and continue to make corporate worship a priority, but we must. It’s easy to justify that a tournament game is, “Just this Sunday,” without realizing by the end of the year that just one Sunday became several. Unwittingly, parents are helping their children settle their priorities as those things that aren’t worship whenever they arise, so they aren’t thankful for corporate worship, and despise the fact that it sometimes keeps them from their activity. Unless providentially hindered or sick, Christians should be worshipping together on the Lord’s Day. Don’t make it optional.
2. Fellowship with other families.
One of the benefits of being a pastor is being able to always have different people in my home. Each week my children are excited to find out if we’re going to have Sunday afternoon guests. It’s a blessing for children to hear from other Christians, to hear evangelistic conversations with non-Christians, and to have opportunity to see their parents being hospitable toward others. Of course, it doesn’t hurt when the other family has children too, but even if they don’t, it’s an opportunity the kids can enjoy.
3. Have a Sunday feast.
I like to cook and I like to eat, and Sunday afternoons are one of my favorite meal times. To cut down on being busy on the Lord’s Day, I spend time on Saturday evenings preparing what I can for the Sunday feast. We want to spend more time around the table, and less in the kitchen on Sundays. But if you plan it out, Sunday meals can be big, tasty, and can include something everyone in the family enjoys. Skip the restaurant and eat at home—it’s a tremendous blessing that is only known by those who do it. Leave the frozen pizzas and fast food to the rest of your week when things are busy and rushed. Get out that slow cooker, some fresh ingredients and have fun! You can even get the kids involved in the preparations.
4. Discuss Sunday School and sermon lessons.
When we’re sitting around the table for our Sunday feast, I like to ask everyone what they learned or were challenged by in either Sunday school or the morning sermon. We usually have ample material for further discussion once everyone shares, making for wonderful spiritual conversation. Our church uses a Sunday school curriculum for our children that includes take-home pages for parents, which we find useful in guiding conversations and asking relevant questions.
5. Ask about their soul, and share how you’re praying for them.
One of my favorite conversations to have with my children is when I’m able to sit with them individually on the Lord’s Day and say, “Tell me about your heart… what’s going on in there?” Sometimes they aren’t overly interested in sharing a lot, but it gives me an opportunity to tell them what I see in their lives and how God is working. In time, children will love to know that their parents are really concerned about the condition of their soul, and are praying for them regularly. And don’t forget to pray with them!
6. Talk about God’s blessings and express thankfulness.
We should regularly remind our families of the things we are thankful for, and express that thanks to God in prayer. It’s important to encourage children to think about the good things God is doing for them and around them, and have them express those things out loud so we can rejoice together. Life is difficult and it’s too easy to focus on the challenges, so a little coaching to remember the blessings is a great gift from a parent to a child.
I feel biologically tied to Sunday afternoon rest. No matter how much I sleep the night before or how much caffeine I consumed that morning, every Sunday afternoon my eyelids get heavy and my body gets comfortable. Rest is a gift from God, and we should encourage our children to enjoy it. In our home, we don’t make the kids take a nap or lay down, but they are encouraged to have time alone, quietly engaging in an individual activity like reading or drawing. Every now and then, despite the protestations of not being tired, they take a nap too!
Wrestle in the living room, take a long walk, or play with a ball in the backyard. Sunday should be different, and throughout the week most families don’t have time to do fun and relaxing things together just because. I realize there is confessional language that some might interpret as meaning something other than what I’m suggesting, so let your conscience guide you. However, I find it spiritually rewarding to have some time with my kids, laughing and enjoying one another in ways we aren’t always able to.
Don’t let the Lord’s Day be drudgery for your family. Enjoy it! Help your children view it as God intends it to be viewed, namely, as the best day of the week. It may take some planning, but it’s worth the effort. As your children get older, they will thank you.
*This is a companion post to a post the author wrote last year.