Family Worship Tips
In the face of the COVID-19 shutdown, I've been sharing weekly Family Worship Tips with my church family. I decided to collect them and share them here for you too.
Also included below is a "Worship At Home" sermon notes for kids that has been circling the internet. Nancy Ruth didn't make it, but we sure like it!
I pray they're helpful to you and your family.
How do you know if your child is ready to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior?
- Does your child understand sin? Can they define it? Can they name some sins? Ask them if they have ever sinned? If they don’t seem to understand yet, don’t push. The Holy Spirit is still working in their heart, but they’re not quite ready yet.
- Does your child know what Jesus did for us and why? Can your child explain the crucifixion and resurrection? Without Jesus’ death and resurrection, we cannot have salvation. Again, if you’re not sure your child understands, don’t push. Keep teaching them, but allow the Holy Spirit to draw them in His perfect time.
- If your child is ready, go ahead and encourage them to pray to receive Christ. Emphasize that this is not a magic prayer. If you really mean what you said, then you are now God’s child. Talk to them about how to grow in their faith. We grow by:
- reading the Bible
- going to church
- loving and helping others
- telling people about Jesus
- loving Jesus with all of you and living for Him every day
- If your child makes a decision, please let us know so we can celebrate with you. You can contact your church or email Nancy Ruth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- How do you know if the decision is genuine? Look for evidence. Continue teaching and discipling your child. Look for fruit of your child’s decision. They won’t be perfect (none of us are), but look for spiritual growth. Are they attempting to do the things listed above?
Come ready to worship.
There are several things you can do when you get to the church building that will help you get ready for the worship service.
- Get a drink.
- Use the restroom. (It is distracting to get up and leave in the middle of the service.)
- Get a kids activity bag (to use during the sermon). If your church doesn’t have one, you can make one yourself (see below).
- If available, get the kids sermon notes or a bulletin. Write down what you hear or draw pictures to remind you what was said during the sermon. This is also a great place to write down any questions you have about the things you hear in the service.
- Prepare your offering.
Last Sunday I taught a group of three-year-olds a song to help them remember what to do.
Don't be afraid to say "I don't know."
I think something happens when people (especially kids) ask us a question. We feel like we have to have an answer for everything. Part of that pressure comes from the fact that kids think you know everything because you seem to know a lot more than they do. Don't fall into the trap of putting that pressure on yourself.
Part of growing up is discovering that it's impossible to know absolutely everything. Teach kids early on what to do when they come across something they don't know. Model it for them. The first step (that not everyone learns) is admitting you don't know.
This sounds silly, but humor me. Repeat after me. "I don't know." One more time. "I don't know." Was that hard for you? If so, keep practicing.
Now let's practice with an actual situation. One day your kids are going to ask someone (you, a teacher, someone else) this question. "How can Jesus be God and God the Father be God and the Holy Spirit be God, but there is only one God? Isn't that three?" How would you answer that question?
Here's how I typically answer it. (Sometimes I'm more concise, but I usually base it on the kid's age and apparent understanding.) "That's a great question! In fact, that's something even adults have trouble understanding. What you're describing is called the Trinity. I don't know exactly how it works, but I know that God says He is three in one. Sometimes adults describe it as one God in three persons. It's confusing for humans to understand. Here's what you need to know. There is only one God. The Holy Spirit is God. God the Father is God. Jesus is God with skin on." (See this blog post for more about explaining the Trinity to kids.)
Sometimes you won't have anything to add to "I don't know." That's fine too. When that happens, ask kids a question back. "Where do you think we can find the answer to your question?" Then search with them (teaching them to evaluate what they read on the internet).
If you still get stuck, feel free to email me: email@example.com.
Kids are concrete-thinkers.
Do you remember the difference between concrete and abstract language? It's easy to forget once you grow old enough to be familiar with both. Here's a short video to review the difference between abstract and concrete thinking.
Concrete words are things you can see, smell, hear, touch, or taste. Abstract words you can't.
So much of what we hear at church falls into the abstract realm: love, trust, faith, kindness, worship, glory, honor, discipleship, evangelism, missions, forgiveness, repentance, etc. To help kids understand and grow spiritually, we must look for ways to ground these abstract ideas in concrete examples.
Forgiveness is an abstract concept a child (or teen) may struggle to understand. Try an example instead. John got mad and stomped on my foot. It hurt! If John was really sorry, he would tell me he was sorry. That is repentance. John is repenting of stomping on my foot. If I tell him it's ok and we keep playing, then I forgave John. Forgiveness is when we accept someone's apology and we become friends again.
Granted, this is a simplistic explanation. But, they're kids. They'll come to understand these concepts better as they hear and see more and more examples of how these things look, sound, and feel.
Your challenge this week is to look for one way to take what Pastor says in his sermon and explain it to your children with a concrete example.
Teach and model the importance of prayer.
Be sure prayer doesn't get relegated to mealtimes and bedtime. First Thessalonians 5:17 says, "pray continually" (NIV). Invite your family to pray with you. Pray for your family. Pray for your church. Pray for the lost. Pray for missionaries. Pray for your community. Pray for specific needs.
Think of additional times your family can pray together. Before church? Before a game/fine arts event (when we start having them again)? Before practice? Before leaving the house? In the car? When you pass a specific neighbor's house?
This doesn't have to be a long, involved, theological prayer. Just share your heart with the Lord.
Here's a great blog post about ways my mother modeled this for me. It continues to make a great impact on my life.
Lord, please bring families humbly before You. Make us a people of prayer. Teach us to continually seek Your face. Help us to love You more and more. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.
You've heard it said that the key to real estate is "Location, location, location." The key to Bible study is "Application, application, application."
It's not enough to know about God and the Bible. James 2:19 says, "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder" (NIV).
When I was in seminary, learning how to evaluate biblical commentaries, I was shocked. My conservative Christian professors often recommended commentaries by non-Christian scholars. One of the most respected Old Testament Hebrew scholars believes the whole Bible is full of myths and legends. What my professors commended was this man's scholarship and knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures. This man knows the text inside out and is an expert at deciphering complex Hebrew grammar and meaning. However, when it comes to application, my professors warned me, he misses the point.
We must be careful we are not raising Bible scholars like this man. We don't want Bible experts. We want people who love the Lord with all they are and seek to love, serve, and glorify Him.
How do we do that? By emphasizing application. James 1:22 describes it this way: "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says" (NIV).
I use a stoplight to teach kids about applying what we read in Scripture. Here's how it works. (Download a free PDF version of this strategy here.)
Caution: You are about to encounter God through His Word. PRAY and ask Him to speak to you and help you understand what you read.
Check Surrounding Traffic: What do the verses before and after your section say?
How many of the five Ws and one H can you answer about your passage (who, what, when, where, why, how)?
Do you see any repetition? Repetition is like sirens and flashing lights in the Bible—very important.
Stop Light: Does your passage describe a change you need to make? Something you did wrong (a sin) that you need to tell God you are truly sorry for (confess)?
Caution Light: Is it a warning? Does it give instructions you should follow?
Green Light: Do it give a command (marching orders) for you to obey? Does it give an example for you to follow?
Proceed accordingly: Live it out.
Relate today's message with your kids' world.
Before Coronavirus hit, some teenagers helped us shift things around in our house to prepare to replace a ceiling. (Long story.) While they were moving things to different rooms, one young man found a strange device. It was a square block of wood, about 4" x 4" x 1" with two tracks cut into the top in the shape of a plus sign. A handle seemed to hover over the top with a white knob.
"What's this?" the young man asked.
"That's a do-nothing," I replied. "My grandfather showed it to me when I was a little girl. When you rotated the handle on the top in a circle, pieces slid in those tracks, going round and round. See?" I showed him. (See the video below.)
"It's something to do just to be doing something. It's a do-nothing."
The young man still looked puzzled. I tried again. "I guess you could say it's an antique fidget spinner." Finally, the lights went on in the young man's head. He got it.
We have to do the same thing when teaching the kids biblical concepts. It's not enough to define the words and repeat the abstract ideas and concepts often found in adult teaching. Try to find a way to link it to what your child understands.
This tip is not always easy. That's why I have a job. Just do your best. It's part of being a parent. You do the best you can to explain and answer your kids' questions. Then you look for help when you get stuck.
Feel free to email me if you get stuck (firstname.lastname@example.org). I love trying to answer kids' tough questions about God, the Bible, and the Christian faith.
Know that you're in my prayers. Remember that God has promised to give us the words to say as we talk to people about spiritual things. That includes conversations with kids. Just do your best and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.
Talk about the Bible lesson together.
Ask your kids if they heard any big words they didn't understand. Half the fun of that question is listening to them try to pronounce a word they don't know! Correct their pronunciation, then explain what the word means.
You can bring up big words of your own too. As you listen to the sermon, write down important, big words your children may not understand. After the service, ask your kids if they heard that word. Let them guess what it means. Then talk about it together. Define it, then explain the pastor's point.
Remember that kids don't need to understand everything. Try to focus on ONE main idea. How can your family live it out this week?
Keep up the good work in engaging your children in worship. They are part of the church as well! Your efforts to include them in this time of social-distancing will stick with them for the rest of their lives.
Give kids something to listen for during the service.
The children's sermon comes early in the service. Use it as a launching pad. Challenge kids to raise their hands every time they hear the same topic or word mentioned through the rest of the service.
Does that sound like too much? Try this. Before the service, make a grid on a piece of paper. Put the following words in each quadrant: God, gospel, Jesus, and people. Make it a game. Every time your child hears that word, make a mark in that quadrant. At the end of the service, compare your answers.
If you have more active kids (boys), try this twist. Put each word on a separate piece of paper (God, gospel, Jesus, people). Put each word on one wall of the room. Every time kids hear that word, run, and touch the correct wall.
Don't forget to come back at the end of the service and talk about the message together. What was ONE main idea from the service? What does it mean? How can you as a family live out that main point this week?
Keep up the good work, church family. You're doing great! Remember that it doesn't have to be perfect. it's the cumulative effort that kids will remember.
- Generic Sermon Notes for Kids - COLOR
- Generic Sermon Notes for Kids - BLACK & WHITE
- See also the image to the right.
Encourage everyone to sing all the songs together. Kids can play or draw during the sermon.
After church, choose a favorite song from the service and make it your family's theme song for the week. Sing it every day. (If you're not confident in your musical skills, google a video of it.)
Worshiping God through music is a great way to open the door to have spiritual conversations with kids. Talk about the words of the song. Ask your kids what they mean? Fill in the gaps of their understanding as best as you can. Do your best to explain the bigger words and concepts. If you need help, email Nancy Ruth (email@example.com).
Enjoy worshiping the Lord this week as a family!
Focus on ONE main point.
Sermons are crafted for adults and often have three to seven main points. (Whew! No wonder I have to take notes.)
Kids can't process that many. Pick ONE to emphasize as a family in your post-live-stream discussion. Start as you did last week. "What did you hear? Which song was your favorite?" (Since we'll have music this week.) Then ask what they heard about ONE of Pastor's main points.
Talk about what the big words in that point mean. It just like explaining anything else to your kids. Just do the best you can. If you don't know the answer, say so and look it up together.
Be sure not to stop there. Talk about how you as a family can put that main point into practice THIS WEEK.
What is ONE thing you can do to apply this point?
I've loved seeing your pictures and stories of worshiping God together at home. You all are doing great involving your kids in the church!
You're in our prayers.
Love, Nancy Ruth
We hope your family’s planning to join [your church] for the live stream service Sunday. We encourage you to make this a time of family worship.
How do you wrangle the mass chaos that is family for a time of family worship? Here’s the first step. Ready?
Adjust your expectations. It’s not going to be perfect. If you know this upfront, you’ll save yourself a lot of heartaches. Here’s what we suggest:
- Tell your kids you expect everyone to stay in the same room for the whole video worship service Sunday morning at 10. You can be in PJs if you like, but make the effort to all be gathered together in one room. Use the restroom in advance & have cups of water available.
- Don’t expect kids to sit still. Tell your kids they may move around & even play in the room, provided they are QUIET. If you end up with a screaming kid that won’t be hushed, it’s ok. This is a video. Pause it and try again later.
- Encourage the whole family to sing along with musical worship. No one can hear if you’re good or not. Set a good example & go for it!
- After the lifestream ends, ask your kids about it. What did they hear? Which song was their favorite? You may be surprised what your kids picked up when they were “messing around.”
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