By Cameron Cole, writer for the Gospel Coalition
At a Fortune 500 corporation, many interests and demands consume the company’s time and resources. How does an executive choose what opportunities to prioritize? The same is true for Christian parents. Tremendous resources exist for discipling kids: devotionals, catechisms, and guides for family worship. Parents are paralyzed when confronted with all the good options. Where do we start?
Hear me when I say this: start by going to church. Yes, I encourage you to pray with your kids. Read the Bible as a family. Attempt to have family worship. Use a catechism. These are all excellent disciplines. But if you can only choose one discipline, go to church. Make attending corporate worship the top priority for your family. There’s nothing more positive you can do for your children than to attend corporate worship at your church every week.
Corporate Worship Sets the Tone for Life
A parent in our church once made a statement that caught me off guard: “Corporate worship is crucial to my family. It’s the center of our family’s life.” I know this family. They do family worship as well, and they read devotions, but this father said corporate worship is the single biggest priority in his family’s life. Why?
If you can only choose one discipline, go to church. Make attending corporate worship the top priority for your family.
This dad’s mentality is consistent with how Scripture prioritizes corporate worship. God is the center of our lives. In corporate worship, we make this clear. We receive God’s grace through Word, sacrament, and prayer. We respond to God’s grace with praise, thanksgiving, and love. We fellowship with him under his Word and by his grace. We serve, worship, and flourish out of that communion. In these ways, corporate worship is the whole Christian life in distilled and concentrated form.
God commands his people to meet for worship weekly (Deut. 5:12; Heb. 10:25). It’s not optional or a matter of preference, and this is God’s mercy toward us. God knows how badly we need the benefits of meeting together. God doesn’t need our worship. We, on the other hand, desperately need corporate worship to center and order our lives around the Lord.
It’s Hard to Get to Church. That’s the Point.
Nothing can prepare you for the labor that is getting small children out the door to church on a Sunday morning. I don’t know if it’s spiritual warfare or whiplash from the weekend, but dressing small kids and loading them into the car is a grind. Even when your kids are teenagers, there are days they seem to resist just about anything you suggest. Getting to church is hard. But that’s part of the value of attending church every Sunday. It sets the tone for the Christian’s daily struggle to live in personal relationship with Christ.
Daily fellowship with and service to the Lord involve a purposeful, deliberate approach. Getting up in the morning to pray and read Scripture isn’t easy. Praising God in times of pain and sorrow can be a struggle. Entering conflict, repenting, and engaging in reconciliation requires effort, purpose, and patience. But however difficult these endeavors are, we find life and peace as a result. The intentional effort we make to attend corporate worship each week reinforces for our kids the patterns of intentionality and endurance necessary for a fulfilling and fruitful Christian life.
Model Unflinching Commitment to Sunday Worship
When I was a kid, we went to church every single week, even on vacation. I often complained about it (though I liked the donuts they served at Sunday school). I asked my father, “Why can’t we take a week off?” My old-school Dad would always reply in the same gruff Southern drawl, “Son, God gives us seven days a week. We can sacrifice one morning for him.” The only other “religious thing” we did in our household was pray at meals. Still, my Dad’s maxim and our consistent church attendance made a major impression.
Getting to church is hard. But that’s part of the value of attending church every Sunday. It sets the tone for the Christian’s daily struggle to live in personal relationship with Christ.
When I left for college, this pattern was deeply embedded in my life. I was usually the only person on my hall who attended church on Sunday, but I’d get up and go. When I traveled and missed Sunday morning church, I’d go to a campus service that night.
My family’s commitment to Sunday worship communicated major truths to me: God is the center of life. God is worthy of praise and worship. The Christian life requires sacrifice and discipline. My father rarely talked to me about spiritual matters; I don’t think he had a vast vocabulary for such conversations. Still, he modeled the Christian life well, largely through his unflinching commitment to go to church every Sunday.
If you feel inadequate to lead your kids spiritually, just go to church. If strategizing about your Christian parenting feels overly complicated, just go to church. If you’ve been taking a few too many Sundays off, just go to church. If all of this seems overwhelmingly difficult, ask God to give you the grace to have this consistent discipline in your family’s life. Faithful church attendance can have an eternal influence on your kids.