Parents with young children who have recently become convicted about honoring the Christian Sabbath often find it extremely difficult to practically implement in their households. And to our shame, there is a dearth of mentors and church officers in their churches who can counsel them on how to practically honor the Lord’s Day. We don’t want to be legalistic tyrants in the household, yet we want to honor God joyfully with our families. We often think about what not to do, don’t work, don’t purchase things, etc., and those are important, but we rarely think about what positive activities we should do on the Lord’s Day. The following are some practical things Sabbatarian parents can implement to teach their children to joyfully honor God on the Lord’s Day, followed by a list of Sabbath appropriate resources.
The Blessed Lord’s Day
Parents, especially fathers, should lead their families in spiritual recreations and worship on the Lord’s Day and seek to make the Sabbath a delight to everyone in the household. We should not divorce the concept of rest from the purpose of resting in Christ. Basically, you have one day a week to prepare yourself to face the trials of the week ahead through closer communion with Christ. Will you spend the hours of this day filling your mind and heart with the things of heaven? The key is spiritual recreation and worship. We participate in that which promotes thinking of, speaking about, and communing with, God. Many Christians continually pursue mountain-top experiences at camps, conferences, and revival meetings, yet our God intends to set us atop Mount Zion at the beginning of every week to behold the wonders of Christ and spend the following days living out of this close approach to our King.
“Give [your children] plainly to understand, that so long as they are under your roof it is the rule of your house for every one in health to honour the Lord’s house upon the Lord’s day, and that you reckon the Sabbath-breaker to be a murderer of his own soul.”
J.C. Ryle, The Duties of Parents, p. 15.
Practical Advice For Children
1) Keep them in the public worship service.
Teach your children to sit quietly in church and try to pay attention. Little children have a hard time sitting through an entire service, don’t get frustrated, bear with their weakness. Having daily family worship will help train them to be able to sit through an entire service also. Depending on their age they may not be able to fully participate or even understand the sermon, but assist them as much as possible to participate. Whisper key points from the sermon to them and explain each part of the worship service to them as it happens. A good way to get toddlers engaged is to tell them to notify you, such as by tapping you on the knee, whenever the pastor says “Jesus” or “God” in his sermon.
After church stick around and fellowship with others, have people over for lunch or go to other’s houses for lunch. Hospitality and fellowship are important parts of honoring the Sabbath and the body edifying each other.
2) Review the worship service.
Talk about the service afterwards. Speak with your kids about how well or misbehaved they were and how to improve. Explain the sermon to the children so that they can understand it and tie it in with what you’ve been teaching them in daily family worship and in their catechism and how it applies to events in their lives. Ask if there was a particular Psalm that the kids enjoyed and sing it again at home. Have two sessions of family worship, perhaps one after church and one before bed.
3) Give them time to nap.
Set aside some time for physical rest. This is a good time for parents to get some rest as well, or to read sound theological or devotional books.
4) Have special Lord’s Day toys that only come out on Sunday.
Get age appropriate toys and books that help your kids remember God. They should intentionally have themes connected to creation, Church history, the Sabbath, even things connected with works of mercy and necessity. To make those toys and books more interesting and exciting for the kids, bring them out only on the Lord’s Day.
For example, you can get Christian children’s books and once a month or so give your kids a new one, that way they can spend the next 4 Lord’s Days pulling out the book and dad or mom can read it to them. Carine Mackenzie‘s books are great, she is a confessional Presbyterian children’s book author who has theologically sound books with no graven images of Jesus in them. The artwork is well done, the stories are engaging for young children, and while paraphrased, they stay true to the biblical accounts.
The Fisher Price “Noah’s Ark” set is a good one that can be used appropriately on the Lord’s Day. You can let your kids play with a few special cars only on the Lord’s Day, such as an ambulance, fire truck, or police car…then ask (catechize) them, “What are those cars doing?” Talk about driving to church or to fellowship with friends across town or to rescue those in need.
You can put together a Noah puzzle while listening to an audio Bible on Gen 6-9. Occasionally pause it and ask them questions about the passage. A good one to ask is, “Is the story over yet? What still needs to happen?” or “What makes God’s flood in Noah’s day different than floods today?” Be engaged with your children and you can come up with good ways of teaching them while having fun.
Moody Bible Stories on YouTube is a good resource that is God honoring on the Sabbath. Ask them questions about the stories as you watch, especially taking to them about sin and salvation. There are other Bible story cartoons for kids on YouTube, however, not all of them are as theologically accurate as others, and many of them have depictions of Jesus in them, so beware. Perhaps make your own playlist on YouTube so that those videos won’t automatically play after one that you intentionally chose.
Playing Bible trivia, or going on Creation walks where you point things out and have them tell you what day God created those kinds of things is a God glorifying use of your time on the Lord’s Day. Kid’s Choices game has scenarios where you can have your kids tell you what they would do in that situation. For example, “you are with friends in church and the group of boys start to single out and pick on one of the boys. How would you respond?” Then talk through it with them using the Bible – especially the 10 commandments!
5) Let them have dessert, and catechize them with it.
Give them dessert with each meal on the Sabbath and ask (catechize) them, “What does that dessert taste like? A: It tastes like the Lord’s Day!” Use dessert as an illustration and have them memorize Psalm 34:8, for example, “O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.“
The idea of the Sabbath is spiritual recreation, not no recreation. The means of grace are a recreation and rest to us because the Lord Himself is a delight and rest to us.
Additional Sabbath resources for kids:
Some of these may be cheesy and not perfectly theologically precise, but edifying for children none-the-less. Parents should examine this material to ensure it matches family convictions before using with the children. All resources are graven image free, except where noted.
365 Bible Stories by Carine Mckenzie is a great Reformed substitute for the second commandment violating “The Jesus Storybook Bible.”
Christian Biographies for Young Readers by Simonetta Carr
Institute for Creation Research, Answers in Genesis, and Reformation Heritage Books have many resources for children that are Sabbath appropriate. Search for “colouring books” on Trinitarian Bible Society‘s website for many Sabbath appropriate coloring books.
The World’s Greatest Stories audio series – These Bible stories are taken word for word from the Bible and are dramatized with some background music and Mr. Sarris’s voice inflections.
Bible Lessons For Juniors – Each lesson includes the following features: faithfully narrated Bible story, applicable Bible references, questions and answers, written activities, thoughts to guide discussion, Scripture memory texts. Parents can adapt the material to the age and comprehension level of the child.
Moody Bible Stories – Noah, Moses, Joseph, Samuel, David, etc. (unfortunately there are a few Arminian lines thrown in here and there, but most of that will go over the little ones’ heads, and the older children will catch them right away, but they can be easily explained by the parents).
Moody Science DVDs – There are 18 of these 30 minute episodes, telling some wonderful facts of God’s creation and pointing to God’s power and majesty. Usually he gives spiritual application too (also some Arminian lines). But for the most part, they are great! It’s cheaper to buy the whole set, and often they are on sale.
Vision Video movies – biographical movies about the lives of Reformers and missionaries.
Bob Jones University movies – The University has produced several movies which you may feel are appropriate for Lord’s Days, including Flame in the Wind (a bit graphic in places about RCC persecution under the Inquisition), Beyond the Night (a missionary story in an Islamic country), The Printing (about printing Bibles in Russia under communism), Red Runs the River (a Civil War setting about he conversion of General Ewell through Stonewall Jackson), Wine of Morning (set in biblical times—contains one shot of Christ on the Cross), Sheffy (about a circuit-riding preacher, but this is very Arminian), C.H. Spurgeon Tonight (a documentary on Charles Spurgeon), To Serve a Higher King (a play about William Tyndale), Captive Faith (about Russian Christians in prison), Where Luther Walked (a documentary on Martin Luther), and Zwingli and Calvin (a documentary). The only caveat with Bob Jones stuff is to watch for Arminianism however, the ones mentioned above have little of that, except as noted.
Festival of Psalms: Sing a New Song – In 2000 there was a country-wide festival of Psalm Singing in Scotland, and this video was produced from it. There are interviews with folks about Psalm-singing, beautiful highlights of the countryside while choirs are singing the Psalms in 4-part harmony.
Psalm 23 and Psalm 1; Ten Commandments; Books of the Bible; Parables; etc. coloring books. (Buy the coloring book, but Xerox copy the pages for multiple usage among your family members. Have a special box of crayons, markers, or colored pencils for use only on the Lord’s Days).
Bible Colour and Learn is a good series of coloring books for children with biblical scenes. However, most of the New Testament coloring books have images of Jesus, so maybe just stick with the Old Testament stories.
Scattergories Bible Edition – this game will easily facilitate talking about the Scriptures.
A big thank you to Rev. Shawn Anderson and Christopher Myers for much of this practical advice. If you have advice or would like to share how you honor the Lord’s Day practically in your home, please comment below!