The other day I was driving one of my kids to piano lessons in Manheim. We were heading down a street when I saw something interesting. An electric car parked on the street was recharging. I had seen the car before but was curious about how it was hooked up. Then I saw it. It was plugged into a tree. Talk about green. I guess the owner converted the tree into a charging station. Electric cars need to be regularly recharged or they won’t run.
What do your kids need most to grow spiritually? How do their souls “recharge,” if I could put it that way? As a Christian parent, you want nothing more than for your kids to have real faith and for their faith to be resilient and growing. As a parent, what do you believe works and strengthen faith in your children? What has God said about that?
I’m working through five essential gifts to give your kids. The five essential gifts are five practical steps parents can take to effectively disciple their children. Caring for your child’s body and soul is your most important responsibility. These five gifts explain how you can do discipleship effectively.
The first essential gift to give your kids is your prioritization of their discipleship. Their souls and spiritual growth must be most important to you. The second is a basic theological framework through catechization. You need a good blueprint to build a good framework. Start with the Heidelberg Catechism. The third gift is really the most important of all. The third essential gift to give your kids is weekly corporate worship. God commands it for your and their greatest good.
Every single Sunday of the year, take your kids to a church where the law and gospel are passionately preached and the sacraments are regularly administered. Corporate worship is your child’s weekly recharge, so never miss it. Missing shows that corporate worship and spiritual nourishment is not the top priority and leads children to drift away from God. Take them to a church where the ecumenical creeds (Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds) are believed and confessed sincerely. Take them to a church where their doctrinal statement is an old confession or catechism like the Heidelberg Catechism. I recommend taking them to a conservative and vibrant Reformed or Presbyterian church where their confessions and catechisms are integral to church life. Go with them. Show that you need corporate worship as much as they do!
Weekly corporate worship comes third because the first two gifts influence and direct the third. Here’s what I mean. Parents who make the discipleship of their kids first priority will inevitably find a good church and make it the top priority. Also, Christian parents who have a clear blueprint for building a basic theological framework for their kids through catechization want their church to have a clear and faithful blueprint too. Best case scenario, the blueprints are the same. Parents also want support and encouragement from their church as they work together to build the framework from the blueprint. So, weekly corporate worship is most important, but the first two gifts give direction to this third gift.
Why is weekly corporate worship most important? To understand the answer we have to understand how faith is created, sustained, and grown. It’s like the body. How do we keep it alive, energetic, and strong? We feed it. But we don’t just feed it, we feed it the best nourishment. Heidelberg Catechism 21 says that:
True faith is a sure knowledge whereby I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in His Word. At the same time it is a firm confidence that not only to others, but also to me, God has granted forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation, out of mere grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits. This faith the Holy Spirit works in my heart by the gospel.
First, we want our kids to have that kind of faith, true faith. Second, that kind of faith the Holy Spirit sovereignly works in them by the gospel. In Romans 1:16, Paul says, “the gospel . . . is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,” and in Ephesians 2:8 teaches that faith is a gift from God (cf. Jn. 3:27; Acts 13:48; 16:14; 18:27; Gal. 5:22-23; Phil. 1:29-30; 2 Pet. 1:3-4). But what means does God use to create faith in our kids, and how is their faith then sustained and strengthened? We need to know the answer so that we prioritize the means God provides and uses.
Heidelberg 65 asks, “Since then faith alone makes us share in Christ and all his benefits, where does this faith come from?” That’s the million-dollar question. Heidelberg answers, “From the Holy Spirit who works it in our hearts by the preaching of the gospel and strengthens it by the use of the sacraments.”
Carefully consider Romans 10. Start in verse 13 and trace Paul’s argument. He’s talking about people hearing the gospel and believing or trusting in Christ. In verse 14 he mentions preaching. In verse 15, he mentions a preacher who is officially sent. Then in verse 17 Paul says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” The context is most certainly the public proclamation of the gospel from an ordained preacher and seems to be public corporate worship as well.
As a parent, if you want your kids to have true and enduring faith, they must have a steady weekly diet of law and gospel preaching inside of corporate worship. They must hear alongside others seeking to know and love God.
But Heidelberg 65 also says that true faith is strengthened by the use of the sacraments. This is a big discussion, but your kids need covenant baptism. It is a comfort and gospel witness throughout their life. As they credibly articulate and confess their faith, they also need the Lord’s Supper to nourish their souls. The sacraments are visible signs and seals that God ordained to declare and seal the promise of the gospel to your children. The Holy Spirit works through the Word and sacraments ministry of the local church to create, sustain, and strengthen faith and assure, encourage, and comfort all believers that their entire salvation rests on Christ alone (cf. HC 66-67). Your kids need the nourishment and comfort God gives in corporate worship.
A good youth group, a Christian school, Christian conferences, camps, and colleges can all be helpful, but you won’t find any of them in Scripture. The Bible says much about the Church and corporate worship. The means that God has ordained to work and strengthen faith in your kids are the regular and faithful preaching ministry of their local church and the sacraments distributed from their minister. Corporate worship is a taste of heaven and is the powerful and sufficient gift God has given to recharge or fuel or nourish and sustain His covenant people including covenant kids.
I would be careless not to mention a few more things relating to weekly corporate worship. The shepherding care of godly elders is essential to your kids’ spiritual health and growth. The elders’ loving relationship and spiritual oversight are invaluable. Not so much an isolated youth pastor, but a group of elders knowing, loving, and shepherding them. That’s what we see in Scripture. Also, corporate prayer is key. The church must pray for your kids diligently. Singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs connect your kids to the praise of the entire church to which they belong by covenant promise. Additionally, worshipping together as a family communicates big things to your kids. As a family, hang on every word of the service and delight in God together. Your kids need more than their peers; they need the entire church to love, encourage, and support them.
I’m often disheartened when I see parents prioritizing many other things, often good things, over and above weekly corporate worship. Sickness aside, families sometimes miss corporate worship for various unjustifiable reasons. This communicates something significant and detrimental to their kids. Sports, traveling, hunting, camping, cabin weekends, and the like are great blessings but pale in comparison to meeting with God with the church in corporate worship. These good things don’t have to keep us away from God’s weekly provision of soul-sustaining nourishment (or recharge). One time the Shirk family headed to a cabin over a weekend. We visited a church near the cabin. When Kristina and I headed to New England, we visited a church in Providence, RI, and received God’s provision of grace with our brothers and sisters there. There are good reasons to miss corporate worship, but they are very few. There are countless bad reasons. Parents, trust God on this. Trust His means of grace for your kids. Give them the gift of years of weekly corporate worship. There is nothing like it, and the nourishment within it provides what your kids need most.