Teaching a Lifestyle of Worship to Our Children

It’s simple to say, but it’s more difficult to put into practice: A lifestyle of worshiping God must be taught. Deuteronomy 6:7–9 describes it this way:

 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

 I’ll say it again. A lifestyle of worshiping God must be taught. By lifestyle I mean the habits, attitudes, tastes, moral standards, and spending habits that together constitute a person or family’s mode of living. The truth is that every lifestyle is one of worship. We were made to ascribe glory and worth to all kinds of things—our children, a great meal, our Instagram feed. In fact, because of sin, we ascribe disproportionate worth to all kinds of things. And when we do, we’re worshiping those things instead of our Creator. If I’m honest, a lifestyle of worship doesn’t really have to be taught. What has to be taught—what must be learned—is a lifestyle of worshiping God.  

Deuteronomy 6:7–9 tells us to teach this lifestyle of worship to our kids as a part of the regular rhythms of family life. Here are a few key observations from the passage:

First, how do you teach your kids a lifestyle of worship? Diligently! We must give constant, attentive, and persistent effort to teaching all-day worship. You shouldn’t do it occasionally or randomly. Rather, you need a plan to teach consistently. You don’t know when an opportunity may present itself, so you need to be ready, like 2 Timothy 4:2 says, “in season and out of season.” Ready to correct faulty thinking. Ready to rebuke—expressing stern disapproval of what is wrong. Ready to exhort—urging and give earnest counsel. And doing all of that with gentle patience. Parents, you need the reminder of Deuteronomy 6:7 particularly for those times when you don’t feel like it. That’s when you need it most. Your kids are always learning from you. Remember, your family is your primary ministry. They aren’t your only ministry, but they must remain primary, because you’re responsible for their spiritual health.

Second, when do you teach your kids a lifestyle of worship? Throughout your day! The Bible should be the subject of our conversations inside and outside the home—from the beginning of the day until the end of the day. There is no part of our day in which God is not involved. He’s there at home and on the road. He’s there when we sit down and when we rise up. If we are paying attention, we might see a handful of the hundreds of things God is does for us and in us. Capture those times by making gospel observations—relating in that moment how the truth of God’s story intersects with your day. This will help your kids to see how big God is. Then, move from simple observations to gospel conversations—teachable moments—when you can show your kids the implications of God’s grand design for their daily life.

Third, what are the pre-requisites for this diligent teaching? It’s not possible to teach your kids about your faith unless your faith is growing at the same time. You must let your children see your faith in action—in how your read and study, in how you pray, and especially in how you repent. Repentance is more caught than taught, and it couldn’t be a more important practice for training our children, particularly when our sins are against them. Repentance is more than simply saying “sorry.” Rather, in repentance, we’re teaching our children about what 2 Corinthians 7 calls godly sorrow.

Fourth, why must we teach so diligently and consistently throughout our days? There’s much at stake if we don’t. Without this constant and persistent effort our kids may make a number of common mistakes. They may forget how involved God is in daily life, and that leads to a lack of thanksgiving. They may presume upon God, which leads to laziness about obeying his commands and participating in his mission. When we fail to teach diligently, we may even be putting our kids’ souls at risk; we’re giving them a dangerously incomplete picture of God’s kingdom. We’re leading them as if God is a part-time God who is not completely sovereign, that is, in complete control at all times. We may be teaching them that worship is something we do in our spare time, on Sunday morning, and not something we do every day.

Finally, what do we teach them? What does everyday worship look like?

Everyday worship is personal. It looks like prayer, in which we adore God for who he is, confess our sin to him, thank him for what he’s done for us, cry out to him, and wrestle with him. At the end of that wrestling, you experience the promise of Philippians 4:7, the “peace that surpasses all understanding.” It’s the kind of peace that guards our hearts and minds. Where? The only place peace can be found—in Christ Jesus!

Everyday worship means learning together as a family during times set aside for family devotions or even studying the Bible together as a family. Here’s my suggestions. Keep it short—around ten minutes! Keep it simple and Scriptural. Focus on God’s big story. Teach your kids to study the Bible, how to pray, and how to sing. Be adaptable; Just because something worked when your kids were three doesn’t mean it will work when they are seven or thirteen. Also, keep it creative and fun; they are kids after all!  

Sometimes everyday worship looks like diligent course correction. My kids’ favorite response when I ask them to do something they don’t want to do is “One second, dad!” What they mean by that is they’ll wait just long enough for both me and them to forget what I’d asked them to do. It’s super annoying. The problem is that they learned that response from me. I say the same thing to Cheryl. [Insert clinched teeth emoji] Now that this bad habit has been exposed (in both of us!), we must be diligent to course correct and learn the proper response (immediate action) each time we’re tempted to use that annoying phrase.

Here’s the long and short of it. Teaching our kids diligently takes time. Don’t worry about doing it perfectly; you won’t. But you should be concerned about being faithful with the message. Press in every day, and be ready to play the long game!