One of the ways that our philosophy for kids discipleship at Providence works is that we encourage kids to be part of corporate worship by the time they are in Kindergarten. We want our elementary groups to be a supplement to worship and not a substitute for it. But more than simply taking your kids to a worship service and enduring through it (which is the reality sometimes), we want to be able to teach and instill from a young age why we gather for worship and be able to explain to them what we do when we gather to worship. More than just forcing our kids to attend worship, we want to be forming our kids by attending worship.
One of the largest components to almost any “Big Church” gathering is the preaching of the Bible. And even if your kids are young enough to want to zone out and not really pay attention to all of it, for even the Apostle Paul put people to sleep during his sermons (Acts 20:7-12), there are some foundational truths that you can teach and remind them of each week that will train them for a lifetime of faithful sermon listening. The bigger reality, at a young age, than asking them what the sermon was about is teaching them what the sermon is for. It’s more important to be teaching them why we preach than teaching them what was preached. Here are four things to teach your kids weekly of why we preach when we gather together and bring our kids to big church.
1. We Preach to Remind
We preach to remind one another of what the Bible says and who God is. As C.S. Lewis says, “We have to be continually reminded of what we believe.” Preaching isn’t a chance to learn something new, but to be reminded of something old. Peter reminded the churches in exile that he always intended to remind people of certain things (2 Peter 1: 3-15). Sin makes us forgetful people that are blind and numb to the realities of the gospel and the goodness of God and the truth of the Bible. So we preach to remind. When your kids, or ourselves if we’re honest, complain “I’ve already heard this before!,” the correct response is “Yes, we have. And we need to hear it again and again.” The Bible is a big book and our God is a big God so we preach and teach and learn to be reminded again and again of the old gospel story. We tell of his salvation from day to day and from week to week and from sermon to sermon (Psalm 96:2). So remind your kids weekly that we preach for the sake of being reminded.
2. We Preach to Establish Authority
We preach to establish authority that only God’s word is eternal and infallible. It’s more important to know from what the preacher said things than what exactly the preacher said. The authority isn’t in the preaching or the preacher, but in the source and material of the preaching. For the Word of God is living and active and the Word of God endures forever (Hebrews 4:12, 1 Peter 1:22-25). Nothing that the preacher says is of value, but only what he says in accordance to the Bible. What is the Bible? The Bible is God’s Word. Everytime we go to big church and listen to a sermon we go to remind ourselves that the Bible is God’s Word and it alone is of absolute and eternal truth. We evaluate the sermon not based on its eloquence, but based on its ability to convey and remind biblical truth.
3. We Preach to Unite
The weekly gathering of the church is in many ways a weekly family reunion. We’ve been scattered all week and we come together to be encouraged and to encourage. The preaching of the Word, more than anything else we do, is a chance for the church to be united around things that we all affirm. The preaching is a chance to teach your kids that Christians have lots of differences and differing opinions on secondary issues, but when we sit under the authority of the Bible we remain united on what really matters. As Augustine once said, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty.” The preaching is a chance to be united in the essentials of the Christian faith. That God’s Word is eternal and infallible. Jesus is alive and defeated sin and death. Mankind is utterly lost and rebellious and without hope apart from Christ. The Holy Spirit has been given to believers. We preach to unite around these things and we teach our kids that the church is made up of lots of different types of people, but they all affirm and agree with what matters most. We teach that we preach to unite.
4. We Preach to Change
Ultimately, we preach to change. We preach because without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). We preach to change because our hearts are idols factories that get quickly misaligned and misdirected and need to regularly be recalibrated and redirected to God’s love for us and our pursuit to love God. We preach because sanctification is a process and not an event and all of us are in process of being transformed more and more to the image and likeness of Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18). We preach to change because we must teach our kids, and even more so ourselves, that sin doesn’t satisfy, this world is not our home, and that we can’t be content with the way we are. The authority of the Bible is the one thing that Jesus said would sanctify us (John 17:17). So we preach it to change us. We preach to wake us up from the slumber of our familiarity and to awaken our affections towards faith in the gospel. Let the monotony and the regularity of the preaching of the Word change you supernaturally to fix your eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. So teach your kids that being bored by the Bible and the sermon are oxymorons because biblical truth is anything but boring. Therefore, pray each week that you and your kids would be seen and shown glory just like Moses encountered (Exodus 33:12-23) and that they would be transformed and changed by it.
So pack the goldfish. Grab a stack of Providence Kids coloring sheets from the welcome desk and be ready to dig for crayons underneath your seat. Bring your sermon notes journal even if your kids can barely write. Be willing to be distracted and miss part of the sermon knowing that your kids are gaining something by the sermon. Parents, do not make the mistake that assuming that your kids are not paying attention implies that their presence isn’t providing discipleship. Every week use the worship service to explain why we do what we do and why we preach. “There is no formation without repetition,” as Jon Tyson says, so talk about why we preach often to your kids and use the purpose of the preached Word to instill a lifetime of faithful sermon listening and a generation who love to listen to God’s Word.