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Developing A Child’s Sense of Worship

For a child to participate in your weekly service in an experiential way—expressing love to God, hearing from God, responding to God—the child needs to develop a proper sense of worship. Let’s cover several essential points of your service presentation, preparation, and perspective that will either develop or hinder your child’s sense of worship. Your child’s sense of worship ultimately determines his or her participation in the song service, in personal application and response to God’s Word, and the commitment to weekly personal changes during the altar time experience.

First, evaluate your service presentation. Does it give the kids’ the impression that they are in a worship service or just a school classroom setting? The service should be structured like a worship service with an environment of respectfulness, expectancy of meeting with God, and desire to respond to God. Is your service cutting edge? Good. Is it exciting and fun for the kids? Good. But an exciting, fast paced, cutting edge service can still leave your kids void of the spiritual development necessary to know God and stay out of hell. Even though your service may have great appearance, Paul describes one of the most commonly missing elements that will develop a sense of worship in your kids. “My preaching was not with wise or persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power (1 Cor. 2:4).” If you think technology is persuasive enough to make true spiritual changes in your kids, it is not. If you think your efforts alone to “put on a quality children’s church” are enough, they are not. We must each week submit ourselves, our way of thinking, our wills to the fact that the power of God’s Spirit must be present and allowed to move in our services if anything of lasting spiritual value is to be accomplished. As pastors, we must not lose sight of the absolute necessity to admit our dependency on God and the moving of His Spirit for a spiritually successful children’s worship service. The moving of God’s power and presence in your service is essential to develop a sense of worship in your children.

Another reason we must live in dependency on God’s Spirit for our services is that no one can come to Jesus unless the Spirit draws him. So many parents, children’s pastors, teachers, are at a complete loss as to why church kids can attend services every week for years and have no interest in the things of God and no desire to obey Him. If our services are being conducted with technical excellence but are void of the power of the Spirit, their spirits won’t be drawn to Christ. Technical excellence can never replace the power of the Spirit! Only when the kids come face to face with the power of God’s Spirit and presence in your service will they be drawn to Him, feel the need to repent, and submit their wills to His.

Second, for a child to develop a sense of worship, your lessons must have a sense of urgency. What type of preparation goes into your service? Is it well planned? Good. Is it prepared in advance, not last minute? Good. But if you have not heard from God for the ultimate direction and goal of the service, there will be no sense of urgency in your message. You must have a clear sense of what changes God wants to take place in the hearts of your kids that week. You do not have any assurance that each of those kids will ever have a chance to hear that message again. God wants to make a permanent change in their lives, bringing about a new and deeper commitment each week. If we don’t challenge them to change, they certainly won’t feel the need. As we travel to speak at various churches, we often see the various messages from the gospel being presented to the children as merely ethical teachings, some options for the kids’ lives, giving the kids a chance to “take it or leave it.” I’m not saying that the pastors are not expressing that the message is from God’s word, but they are not expressing the truth of how urgent it is for the kids to submit to what God is saying. It is a matter of spiritual life or death! It is a matter of accepting or rejecting Jesus! Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will obey what I command (Jn. 14:15).” People who don’t love God aren’t going to heaven. Kids need to be taught the truth and the truth is that if they have no desire to worship God, no desire to obey Him, no desire to submit their lives to Him, then they don’t love Him. They are not going to have eternal life just because they go to church each week. We must preach the message with the urgency because the truth is that it is a matter of life and death whether or not they put into practice the teachings of God you are speaking to them.

In each of our services, whether camp services or Sunday morning services, the lesson is focused on some area of commitment to God, something in the lives of the people present that needs to change. The altar time is then focused on responding, committing to that change, and taking time to listen to God. Emphasis is also placed on adoring God through worship songs. Being perfectionists, we like to put on a quality program—fast moving segments, no down time, well-prepared and precise teaching, and contemporary music. However, our main goal is that the kids (1) feel God’s presence and power, (2) realize there is an urgent need to serve Him, and (3) respond to that. A quality program is not enough. Jesus must be preached through a message of urgency, in the power of the Spirit. We must be truthful with the kids about what scripture says is the end result of unfaithfulness, “You will destroy all who are unfaithful to You (Ps. 73:27).”

Third, it should be obvious to the children that your overwhelming service focus is Jesus. A real life example: This past summer, we spoke at several kids’ camps. At one particular camp, some inner city kids attended from a home missions church at which we had helped out at a few years back. These two brothers barely knew us, having only attended the church on occasion. They had never seen scores of kids seeking God, especially for long periods of time such as in a kids’ camp altar setting. We wondered what they would think. At the end of the week, we sat with them for a few minutes during lunch to see how their week was. We asked each boy individually what he liked best about camp that week. The expected answer was the Adrenalin Rush (large, inflatable competition game), swimming, magic, Rodney (our vent figure) or the like. The youngest boy said, “I liked singing to Jesus.” The night before we had seen him come back up to the altar after being in his seat for a while. Gary had just encouraged those kids who had gone back to their seats to not give up yet, but give God a little more of their time. The youngest brother was coming back to the altar, pulling another boy by the hand. When Gary asked him what he was doing, the boy said, “I’m going to walk and sing to Jesus…and I’m bringing him with me!” When the oldest boy was asked separately what he liked best about the week, he said, “The services.” I questioned, “I thought it would be the Adrenalin Rush.” He answered, “I liked that, too, but I liked praying to Jesus.” This experience has nothing to do with us personally or the technical aspects of our presentation. The difference was because it was obvious to the kids that Jesus was the overwhelming focus of the service and that made them want Him!

Fourth, if your kids are going to have a good sense of worship, there also needs to be a balanced perspective with your worship music. It should be contemporary, something the kids will like, but not necessarily radical. If all your music is radical/contemporary, the kids will not take their focus off the beat long enough to re-focus on adoring Jesus and listening to His voice. Some opening music that is just for fun is fine. However, you want upbeat music at the beginning of your worship that celebrates God’s goodness but then gradually move into something contemporary, yet more meditative that calls for repentance and soul searching, songs that allow intimate worship and stillness before God to listen to His voice. A major concern we see in services is assuming that a child’s physical reaction to music means a spiritual change. Children’s physical response to the music can be just that–a sign that they are physically responding to the enjoyment of the music. Let’s have more wisdom than to assume that if there is plenty of hyped-up music, which is bringing about physical responses from the kids, that their spirits are being changed. There is no substitute for bringing a child to a place of stillness, repentance, and listening before God during the song worship time.

In review, our services need to be such that they develop a sense of worship in our children. First, our services must go beyond technical excellence to absolute dependency on the power of God’s Spirit for true spiritual change to take place. Second, we must preach with a message of commitment to God with urgency because spiritual response to God is a matter of life and death. Third, it should be obvious to the kids that the overwhelming focus of the service is Jesus, not the contemporary methods being used. Fourth, song worship needs to go beyond physical involvement, beyond hype, to a point of intimate worship and stillness before God that brings soul searching and repentance. As we, as pastors, implement these principles in our services, our children will develop a sense of worship that creates a desire for God, a responsiveness to His Word and the moving of His Spirit, and a commitment to personal, spiritual change.

© by Alisa J. Linn
Children’s Ministry Today

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