It is a Family Affair:
We at Covenant City Church value the corporate gathering of worship. It is our belief that the gathered saints under the ordinary means of grace is one of God’s primary ways in discipling the people of God, central to which is the formation of family. Not only are children to sit under the authority of parents, but fathers and mothers are to model genuine, affectionate worship toward the covenantal Lord Himself (cf. Eph. 6:1-4; Col. 3:20-21). Too often the church has indirectly called for parents to forfeit their God-given responsibilities through the guise of program ingenuity and/or professionalism amid youth pastors/workers. Though not intentionally, the covenant saints have worked against the formation of the next generation and, thus, handicapped parents in raising their children in the Lord (cf. Deut. 6:1-9). Though we do not want to draw too strong of a dichotomy between church and family, we do not want to, also, be ignorant of the crippling-effect grounded in the misguided philosophies of “youth ministry culture.” Covenant City Church believes, then, that both family and church have primary responsibility in discipling the next generation; that is, the church is to come alongside the family-unit in cultivating genuine love for the Lord. Thus, having segregated “youth ministries” divorced from the broader life of the church becomes counterintuitive to the growth and vitality of life-long spiritual development.
How, then, are families to cultivate a culture of worship? Or simply, how do I prepare my family to sit through church service (for more click here)? What are some practical tools that I can use to train my children in the Lord? How should I be thinking about preparing my family to worship in and out of the gathered assembly? How can these tools create strong habits for my children? These questions and more are foundational to the journey in thinking corporately about the spiritual development of next generations.
The imagery of family has strong evidence throughout the redemptive work of God. God the Father commissioned God the Son to redeem a people for Himself (cf. Lk 22:29; Lat. pactum salutis). The elect people of God are adopted through their elder brother—Jesus Christ—into His kingdom (cf. Heb. 2:11-15). The covenant people, in turn, have been sealed by and given the indwelling Spirit to confidently cry out “Abba Father” (cf. Rom. 8:15-16). Thus, the guise of God’s redemptive work is undergirded by the theme of family which bleeds into the broader scope of church life; that is, the identity of the local assembly is built upon familial terms. Family, then, is a central component in understanding the outworking of the Christian life.
Furthermore, preparing children for the gathered assembly is not a one-way street. Meaning, practices that move toward preparing children to worship with the corporate body does not terminate upon Sunday services. Rather, they are shaping tools for the entirety of life to which local church worship is one part to the entire whole. Thus, here are six (6) practical ways parents can engage their children in worshipping God throughout the week.
Be Actively Engaged in Family Worship. We strongly encourage you to dedicate one to two nights a week for family worship (for more click here). As the saying goes, “discipleship is caught, not taught.” Though we do not entirely agree with this saying, it is helpful to encourage us to model for our children the acts of worship. It is essential that they explicitly see parents pray, sing, and read Scripture together. Ultimately, what we value will become a value to them. Moreover, this will give them familiarity as to the expectation and posture of worship during the gathered assembly; that is, when engaging corporate worship, they will be acquainted with the differing elements that are involved.
Be Actively Engaged in Singing Worship Songs. Singing doctrinally grounded worship songs are simple and effective ways to engage your children in learning about the faith. First, songs are helpful for catechizing; that is, they teach our children truths about God in creative and fun ways. Second, it reinforces memorization and can be a tool for future encouragement. Thirdly, with the advancement of technology, one can easily access songs via YouTube and/or other apps to reinforce family worship. Also, the convenience of smart phones allow for parents to take advantage of car rides, grocery shopping, and/or family outings. Fourthly, it can help children become familiar with songs sung during Sunday service. This helps to actively engage children in worship with the corporate body of Christ.
Be Actively Engaged in Bible Exposition. Bible reading, or bible exposition, can simply be understood as exposing the meaning of the text (for more click here). The church historic has believed that God is a speaking God and, thus, He has spoken to His people through the Scriptures. Therefore, the primary way to know God is through reading, listening, and studying the Word of God. This does not have to be complicated, especially for young children. First, choose a book in the bible (ex. Gospel of John). Second, read a section or chapter. Third, make basic observations. What was the purpose of this section/chapter? Were there any words we did not understand? What is one thing you learned about God? How are we to live in light of this text? By reading the bible together, corporate worship and, thus, preaching will not be foreign but rather a common practice in the life of our children.
Be Actively Engaged in Prayer. The bible commands us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Therefore, there are simple ways to develop good habits of prayer (for more click here and here). First, pray before every meal. Encourage your children to give thanks to the Lord for His provision, faithfulness, and sustenance. This should not be done legalistically, but rather out of gratitude and a genuine affection. Secondly, pray with your children before the start of the day and/or at the end of the night. It is imperative that your children see and feel your dependence upon the Lord. Thirdly, allow prayer to be your first response to every situation. Though I realize that this can seem a bit over-zealous, it is important for your children (as well as for yourself) to see their parents model a genuine reliance upon the Lord. Whether it be for job opportunities, exams, doctor appointments, or illnesses, a healthy practice of prayer can reinforce a Godwardness for your children.
Be Actively Engaged in the Ordinances. Though Covenant City Church believes that the ordinances of baptism and communion should be practiced in the confines of a local church, intentional discussions of these ordinances should be made available for young children. The topic of baptism (for further discussion click here) should be a consistent conversation with our young ones. What does baptism symbolize? Why is it necessary for baptism to be administered within a local church setting? Simultaneously, communion (for further discussion click here) should be explained and demonstrated regularly. At Covenant City Church, communion is taken weekly. In those times, parents should make it a goal to verbally address their children as to the sign of the bread and the significance of the whine. This will allow them to see the value of these ordinances in the order of worship service.
Be Actively Engaged in Doctrine: Parents should make it a habit to engage not only the hearts of their children, but, also, their theological development (for more click here). The Scriptures demand that parents relay the commands of the Lord by “[talking] of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deut. 6:7). It can be as simple as asking the following questions: “Who is Jesus?” “What is the Gospel?” “What is sin?” “Who is man?” “What is the Church?” Granted, these simple questions can have profound answers, but it will serve our children (and ourselves) well to wrestle through these biblical truths. Again, this can be done on car rides, mealtime, and while running errands. This can also helps foster intimate relationships with our children and equip them for the teaching/preaching of corporate worship.
Worship as a Way of Life:
The values and beliefs that shape the outlook and foundation of our lives should be the core premises to which we long to pass onto our children. These things, in turn, should be rooted and grafted amid the biblical truths of Scripture. For the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7) and by His grace “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16b). Thus, the tradition fostered into the lives of next generations are not merely cultic nor arbitrary. Rather, they are covenantal signs instilled in the hearts of our children with hopes of ignition by the Spirit through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
 Many of our pastors at Covenant City Church have spent decades collectively serving as pastors to the youth in the context of local church ministries. Though we have strong desires for the next generation, we acknowledge the misguidedness of our early years and seek to align ourselves to biblical principles. Thus, there are no aspirations in ourselves to neglect the ministry toward young people, but rather a hope to regulate our methods in accords to God’s central means for children found within the Scriptures; the family unit.
McYoung Y. Yang (MDiv, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; ThM, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the husband to Debbie and the father to McCayden (12), McCoy (11), McColsen (9), and DeYoung (5). He is a Teaching Pastor at Covenant City Church in St. Paul, MN and a homeschool dad to his four children. McYoung is continuing his doctoral studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO. His ambition is to use his training as a means to serve the local church in living life through the Gospel lens.