Ahh, what a morning. You and your children gathered with the rest of the church to sit under the teaching of the word, engage in the worship of God and encourage other beleivers. It was intense, but a good kind of intense. Your family's spiritual highpoint of the week has now past. What should we do afterwards to practically assist the family for the future?
First thing we do is take a breath, thank God for what we have received, experienced and been able to give. As much as we long for the goal of healthy discipleship patterns for our kids, we don't want to turn church behaviour into a performance metric where children dread coming home to a dressing down or a lecture. We also want to be people who are more concerned about the content and activity of church then about critiquing one's participation in it.
So once we have an loving, encouraging and supportive attitude, then we can turn to the next step.
It is a good idea to take some time to reflect on how things went. And I don't just mean for the kids.
How did you go? Did you show good spiritual fruit in the way that you guided your family this morning?
Were you a good example of a worshipper and being loving toward your neighbours?
Is there anything you need to own-up to? Do you need to repent of unrighteous anger or some other mistake. If so, confess to those you sinned against and request forgiveness.
If your children were not sinned against, but still witnesses of this sin, it's a good moment to still bring them in and show them you're humbling yourself and repenting. For instance "Kids, Dad spoke unkindly to Mum on the way to church this morning. I should use my mouth to build Mummy up instead of hurting her with my words. I have asked Mum to forgive me, would you also forgive me for setting you a bad example of how to treat others?"
Once you've checked the log in your own eye, then you can take a moment to review how things went with the kids. Here you can identify any strengths and weaknesses, including those things that may need some extra attention in the lead-up to next week.
See this week as one step in the long term project. Don't get bogged down if things fell apart this week, and don't expect it will all be perfect next week! Think about yourself - how long has God been working in you by his Spirit and you are still not perfect? Your sanctification happens over months and years, and the spiritual growth of your children is a long term project.
After Church and in the days following, look for opportunities to "circle back" to Sunday and be reminded about what you heard, and what application needs to take shape in our life.
You could start by having a discussion about the sermon at Sunday dinner, asking about what stood out, ask about application "do you think we do a good job in our family of doing XYZ?", "do you remember what we sang about this morning?", "we should pray about so-and-so who told us about their situation" and so on.
Other questions could include:
"What did you learn about God today?"
"What did you learn about the Bible today?"
"How can we obey God better?"
"What things can we do at home this week to make changes?"
"What should we pray for?"
This helps draw Church out of just being something confined to a couple hours on one day of the week, to being something that is an integrated part of your family's spiritual life. Parents especially need to help draw the implications of church into family life.
After Church, have you identified anything that needs to change? This includes our practical strategy and the application of God's word.
Looking at the practical strategy, our reflection may have shown up a few issues, so now is the time to make a note or do something so that the issues is resolved for next week. Is there a toy that needs to be removed from your church knapsack? Is there a discussion you need to have with your child? Is there someone your child needs to apologise to because they kicked them in the shins? Do we need to spend some extra effort on "mat time" this week?
Like dirty dishes in the sink, these issues are best dealt with as soon as possible before they pile up and become a stench in your nostrils. Deal with them and then go into the next week with a "clean sink".
At this stage, I think I have said enough on this topic. However I will add supplementals if the need arises. I hope you have been given at least some help from this mass of ideas over these last several articles.
If I could leave you with one thing, it would basically be a repetition of what we've said at the beginning: "What are you aiming for?"
The old adage is that "if you aim at nothing you will hit it all the time." If we want our kids to engage in discipleship with the rest of the church when we gather, then we need to show them how and help them do it. Some kids can learn to ride a bike by just giving them a bike and leaving them alone, but a lot of kids need the support and teaching that an adult can provide. Your kids can cotton-on to worship eventually, but it's going to be much better for their spiritual health, and your family, if we help them get on that "bike" and learn to pedal it under the kind and watchful eye of their loving parents.