Growing up in Colorado, I attended a small, Baptist church out in the country, and I loved it. The drive was 40 minutes one way, but my mother took us every time the doors were open. We were rarely early (or on time), but we always stayed late. After the service, the church building and the fields surrounding it were a place of fun and adventure. We played all kinds of sports and had races low-crawling under the pews. I loved being in that place.
After I got saved, the church took on even more meaning to me. It was no longer restricted to a single location or even the services or events themselves. The Church was God’s people, and I could meet with them anywhere! Loving the Church (people) was an easy transition for me following regeneration because of the love I already had for the church (place).
We all have goals and aspirations for our children. There are certain things we want them to know, do, and be when they leave home and enter the adult world. One of the things that I try to cultivate in my kids is a love for the church – both local and universal. It is, after all, the Bride of Christ (Rev. 19:6-9), the Body of Christ (Rom. 12:3-8), His Holy Temple (Eph. 2:19-22), and His Flock (Acts 20:28). We are told to meet with the Church regularly (Heb. 10:24-25) in order to sanctify others and be sanctified ourselves (Eph. 4:11-16), which puts the mystery of God’s plan on display before a watching world (Eph. 3:7-10).
But sometimes I think my children enjoy church for the wrong reasons. For instance, a friend (who will remain Brian Triplett) once told me that he refers to the church building as the “church house” – a term borrowed from the Puritans. This helps his children to distinguish the church body from the church building. I adopted this into my own vocabulary, but now my second child regularly refers to it as the “Donut House”.
Other times, however, I can tell that they truly love being at church because of the people. Like when I ask my son on a Friday night, “What would you like to do tomorrow?” And he responds genuinely, “Maybe we can go to church?”
So, as I attempt to balance the “worldly fun” (i.e. donuts, running, playgrounds, and games) with “spiritual seriousness” (i.e. singing the same song as everyone else, not talking during prayer, and paying attention to the Bible lesson), I thought it would be helpful to ask Brian and Pastor Daniel for practical ways they’ve sought to instill in their children a love for God’s Church that endures beyond the sugar high and, by God’s grace, into adulthood.
Below is the question I asked and their responses, which I hope you find as helpful and encouraging as I have.
“How do you cultivate a love for the church in your children?”
“I first check my own heart. If I’m not excited about worship and the fellowship of the believers, it would be hypocritical to expect my family and children to act otherwise. I have to ask myself, “Do I look forward to corporate worship, fellowship groups, etc.? If not, why?” Confirming first that I have a love for the church is essential, then I can turn to the externalities.
I’m careful with my language when I talk about the church and worship. I try to be intentional with my language. I want my kids to be clear that “the church” is those baptized believers we are worshipping with not the facilities and events surrounding those people. I also make sure my demeanor is one of excitement and joy when I talk about the church. We don’t have to go to church, we get to go to church. It’s a privilege, it’s natural, it’s enjoyable. Simply put, it’s what we are made for.”
-Brian Triplett (Elder)
“Like most everything we would like to see in our kids, if we want them to love the church, we better demonstrate that WE love the church ourselves. Our children see where we use our time and resources and where our deepest friends are. We make gathering together a priority and we make participation in all that church does a normal expectation for our family. We frequently have people from the body in our home and we encourage and support any childhood friendships they may have in the church. We also take our children with us when we go to visit or serve people in the body.
As they have grown we have also begun to teach them about God’s love for His bride and how we too should love and cherish the church. We talk often about our appreciation for the church we are a part of and we pray regularly as a family for those in our flock. Ultimately God is the only one who can give a lasting love for His bride to our children, but we do our best to show and talk of the great joys of being a part of God’s people.”
-Daniel Gillespie (Pastor)