My wife, Catherine, and I have 2 little girls at home (4 and 2 ½) and one on the way this Christmas. Our house is wonderfully full of noise, toys, crayons, random socks, baby dolls, shoes, and dirty dishes. Every night we attempt to clean it up again and every day our two little tornadoes carve their path of destruction again. We have a great time together.
When I come home from work, or when I have a day off, I can either take my worship leader hat completely off and focus on cleaning the house, getting the girls to help, putting them to sleep, running errands, doing fun outings, and matching up random socks, or I can try to find ways to keep my worship leader hat partially on while doing all of the above. If my calling is to lead people in worship on Sundays, then certainly that calling isn’t suspended during the week when I’m at home.
I don’t have a ton of experience yet, since our oldest is only four, but by God’s grace, I’ve been able to achieve a certain level of success at leading my kids (and wife in the process) to worship Jesus as we go about our lives together at home or in the minivan or in the grocery store. Here are some practical tips:
Sing a lot
When you’re driving the car or scrubbing a dish or sweeping up a gazillion cheerios off the kitchen floor, put a song of praise on your lips. “God is So Good” or the chorus of “Ten Thousand Reasons” or “Jesus Paid it All” or whatever. It doesn’t matter. Get in the habit of singing simple songs or choruses of praise out loud in the spaces that come up during a day. You will be permeating the atmosphere of your home with worship, and it will not only cover your family, but it will get into their hearts like little seeds, and those seeds will blossom in surprising ways in the years to come.
Make it a routine
Every night after our kids are in their PJs and have their teeth brushed, they sit on my lap for stories, songs, and prayers. They each pick one book, then I tell them some stories (the list of “must-haves” keeps growing), and then we each sing a “worship song”. It can be anything “to God or about God” (my rule). Sometimes they sing something that’s recognizable, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes I hear something about how God wears sparkly shoes, or something about Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. I’m not too strict. Then we take turns praying to God, and every few weeks I just need to remind them that Jesus is a real person, so we can talk to him like he’s in the room with us (because he is).
Making a few worship songs part of your nightly ritual is a good idea for many reasons. First, kids love rituals. Second, it gives you accountability (once it becomes a ritual they won’t let you “forget”). Third, it means that one of the last things to happen in your family every day is singing songs of worship to God. What could be better? Fourth, it gets them used to articulating praise to God. It makes it normal for them.
Don’t make it too religious
About that nightly ritual: if they start to goof around and stick their feet in your face, don’t turn all grumpy and mean and insist that they behave themselves and act like perfect little cherubs. For goodness sake, they’re kids. Don’t make it too serious or they won’t look forward to it. But make sure they know that Jesus is actually listening, and that this is one of the most important parts of the day.
Capitalize on the “I’m scared” moments
Every kid eventually cries out after you leave their room, or in the middle of the night, or when they’re playing alone in a room, that they’re scared. Somehow they pick up on the idea that being scared is a thing, and so whether it’s just being alone, or a shadow, or a bad dream, they cry out for a parent to come back to their room because they’re scared.
This is a prime opportunity to teach your kids the power of worship. Yes, go to them. Yes, ask what’s wrong. But instead of another stuffed animal, or staying in their room until they fall asleep, or turning the light on and looking in their closet for the monster, or another cup of milk, practice telling them that when they’re scared they can worship Jesus.
Why? Because Jesus is the one who keeps them safe. Because Jesus is like a lion who lives inside of them, and when they worship him he roars and scares all the scary things away. Because when we worship Jesus he reminds us that he’s always with us even when our parents are in the living room. Tell your children this. Model it to them. Use the “I’m scared” moments as golden opportunities to point your kids to the power of Jesus and the power of worship.
Some of the most beautiful moments I’ve had with my kids so far have come when I stand outside their room and hear their quivering voices singing themselves to sleep with “Jesus Loves Me”. And it slowly teaches me to let go of my girls and trust them to Jesus who loves them more than even I do.
Keep them in church for the opening worship
If you’re in a church that asks you to keep your kids with you for the first part of the service until they’re dismissed, then be grateful. If you’re in a church with a more traditional model of dropping them off for the whole service, then consider keeping them with you until after the singing is over if possible, particularly if you’re at a church with an opening block of singing. Long readings, silence, or liturgy can be tough in long stretches for little kids. This teaches little ones how to behave in church, it shows them that they’re part of something bigger, and it gives them a chance to sing along with a whole bunch of other people who love Jesus.
Put it on in your home
We’re big fans of the Slugs and Bugs albums that mix scripture, silliness, good melodies, sibling love, parental affection, and the gospel in short singable songs. We also like to put worship music on in the car, or in the house when the kids are playing or coloring or eating breakfast. You’ll notice the spiritual temperature in your house change when you have worship music playing. I’m a big fan of Randall Goodgame’s new verses to “Jesus Loves Me” (on this album) which balance the fact that Jesus loves me when I’m good and when I’m bad.
Sing over your kids
One of my favorite songs to sing over my daughters is the old John Wimber Vineyard songs “The Spirit Song”. I sing this at every bed time.
Oh let the Son of God enfold you with His Spirit and his love
Let Him fill your heart and satisfy your soul
Oh let him have the things that hold you and his Spirit like a dove
Will descend upon your life and make you whole.
And then the refrain:
Jesus, oh Jesus, come and fill Your lambs…
What a great prayer to sing over your kids as the day draws to a close. Yes, feel free to sing silly songs and “Old MacDonald” and “Twinkle Twinkle”, but don’t miss out on the chance to sing worship songs to God over your children.
Encourage singing as a normal expression of love
When you as a parent sing love songs to your kids, about how beautiful and special and smart and creative they are, they begin to learn that singing is a normal expression of love. When you take the next step and sing love songs to Jesus, about how strong and wonderful and caring and forgiving he is, they begin to learn that singing to Jesus is a normal expression of love as well.
I wish I could share all of the little worship songs my little girls have made up on the spot. There have honestly been so many that I’ve become accustomed to them. It starts with the parents, and it starts with Dad. If you sing over your kids, if you sing to the Lord, and if you make it normal and fun and safe, then you’ll be on your way to leading worship at home (and washing a lot of dishes too).