As we work with young children, people usually ask when we should begin to teach worship? Or when do I think worship begins in young children? I do want to answer those questions, but I want to do that by looking first at where worship started in the Bible. Let’s begin by going all the way back to Genesis.
The first place in the Bible where we actually see the use of the word “worship” is in Genesis 22:5 in the story of Abraham going to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham told his servant to stay by the donkey so that they “could go over there and worship.”
However we see worship before that, in the story of Cain and Abel. What was their squabble over? An offering. What is the purpose of an offering? Worship.How did Cain and Abel know to give an offering? They were most likely taught by their father, Adam. Who taught Adam? His Father, God.
In Isaiah 43:7 God says to Isaiah “of everyone who is called by my name, who I created for my glory.” So God made man for His glory. He made us to worship Him.
Children can, will, and do worship, because that is what they were created to do. We could come up with a long list of activities that teach worship. We could make a list of cool things to get kid’s attention in worship. However, I believe we need to go to the front lines to truly teach worship – the parents.
When we built a new church building, our attendance numbers jumped considerably. One of the things we discovered was that many people were coming and searching but did not grow up in church. My husband and I got an up-close look at this with a couple in our small group. The Dad became a Christian and led his wife and children to the Lord. As our small group was working through the stories of the Bible, this Dad said, “I am so glad you don’t assume that we already know these stories, because we are hearing many of them for the first time.”
Parents need the tools to teach worship to their families. They need tips to know how to teach scripture in the car going to school, or to soccer, or running errands. It seems so practical to us, but to new Christians who are also parents, it’s revolutionary.
I love to teach classes and write about teaching children worship. Being on the Children’s Worship Team at my church is a privilege. But how can you take part in teaching children to worship? Teach their parents.
Constantly identify for parents and grandparents in your congregation how to relate worship to children. Our pastor always lets new people know that our congregation is all about families and that we want children with their parents in our worship services. When a new sermon series is started, offer resources (via bulletin or website) that help parents relate the topic at home. Answer questions such as: What does this look like in everyday life? What are the most important take-aways from this series? What scriptures can my family learn so that we can live the Biblical truth being taught each week?
We can train teachers, musicians, choir leaders, band members, even greeters, and ushers. And they can teach our children in the short time that they are with them each week. However, if we lay out the instructions of Deuteronomy 6 for our parents, helping them understand that they can start from the very beginning, we will see worship change in our church.
There was never a more beautiful example of this than very recently on a Sunday morning. From the choir loft, I could see a Dad in the crowd holding his one year old daughter. As the Dad lifted his voice, he lifted his hand to the Lord. The baby studied her Dad for just a bit, and then she put her own hand in the air. When he would put his hand down, she would put hers down. When he would lift his again, so would she. It was a wonderful picture of how, where, and when worship starts.
Worship seems to be an abstract concept to teach to parents, much less to babies. Yet from the first utterance of the word “mine,” we begin to teach them to share. We teach through our speech and our actions. We give a toy back when it is snatched away and say, “We must share.” By the age of three, most children understand sharing. They may not like to do it, but they understand it.
The concept of worship is the same. If we consistently identify it by our actions and our words, even the youngest of children will come to understand it. Consider a child costumed as a favorite character. They have never met the character, and yet their clothes bear the character’s likeness. Their bedroom is a shrine to the character. They can sing the character’s songs and even quote lines from the character’s movie. That is worship. All that is left is to pick the right character, one who is real, God.
Darlene Abbott serves as Co-Director of Kid’s Worship Choir at The Church at Station Hill, a regional campus of Brentwood Baptist Church in Nashville, TN. She is a writer of preschool and children’s music and curriculum. She created Preschool Praisentation with Kathie Hill and has contributed to many products by LifeWay. Darlene is the creator of the Music Mom Products which include music teaching games and activities. She travels as an instructor and clinician for church workers, choir leaders, music educators, and day school teachers as well as women’s events. A graduate of the University of North Alabama, Darlene currently resides in Spring Hill, TN with her husband and three children.