Yep, Mark, I follow a similar approach in order to prepare Chad for the Sunday meeting at Covenant Life Church, only this event is much more important than basketball. Actually, as I understand it, parenting is all about preparation. I need to prepare Chad to fulfill his call as a man to serve and lead, and ultimately I must prepare him for the fast-approaching day of judgment.
My approach to preparing Chad for the Sunday meeting has been informed by the doctrine of the church as clearly taught in Scripture and the Savior’s love for the church as compelling demonstrated on the cross. I want to inform my son theologically about the church and demonstrate for him a passion for the church. I want to transfer to him my love for Covenant Life Church in particular.
Imparting a love for the church must begin with my example. Modeling precedes teaching. Before we teach, we must provide a genuine (not a perfect) example for our children. So, in order to effectively prepare Chad for Sunday, I must first prepare my own heart.
I build anticipation for Sunday by statements I make about Sunday. For many years I have referred to Sunday as my favorite day of the week. And I love Spurgeon’s description of the church as “the dearest place on earth.” That’s how I feel about CLC. So, as Sunday approaches, and finally arrives, I talk to Chad (and everyone else I come in contact with) about how Sunday is the best day of the week, when we go to the dearest place on earth.
Covenant Life Church on Sunday is also the happiest place on earth. There should be no happier gathering than the one where we are reminded of the Savior’s substitutionary sacrifice on the cross, where He satisfied the righteous wrath of God and secured our forgiveness and justification. Thus, preparing Chad for the Sunday meeting begins first in my heart and with my example. But there are certain grace-motivated practices I seek to model for Chad and inspire him to emulate each Sunday. The following would be a sampling:
- Greeting–I want Chad to serve others by cheerfully greeting them. This also helps him put to death selfishness and overcome the fear of man.
- Serving–Chad’s love for the church will grow as he serves in the church. At present, he serves on the children’s ministry administrative team, and together we hand out bulletins and greet folks as they arrive on Sunday.
- Encouraging–I want Chad to take special note of the army of folks joyfully serving each Sunday and express his appreciation to them. The Savior defines true greatness as humbly serving others for the glory of God. True greatness in the form of humility and servanthood is on display each Sunday at CLC, and I want Chad to discern and acknowledge true greatness. So, each Sunday I help Chad to be intentional about thanking folks for the different ways they serve. And I have him encourage whoever has preached that day. Yesterday, he thanked and encouraged Joshua Harris (my favorite Senior Pastor) for the outstanding message he preached from Luke 15.
- Singing–I want Chad to sing sincerely and passionately during worship. Singing is an appropriate response to the Savior for His amazing grace. Through singing, Chad is loving God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. A parent can discern a lot about their child’s heart by the presence or absence of participation and passion in worship.
- Learning–I believe in the importance of hearing expository preaching as a primary means of grace for the Christian. The preaching event must be a priority for our children. Therefore, listening carefully and responding appropriately to the sermon is very important. Both Chad and I take notes during the sermon. This helps us to listen carefully and is invaluable as we review the sermon together during the week. Yesterday, Chad told me he took seven pages of notes on Joshua’s sermon (his notebook paper is small).
So this is what I do. I’m not suggesting you have to do the same thing, but every father must do something to prepare their sons (and daughters) for Sunday. Please don’t think that preparing my son for the Sunday meeting takes a lengthy period of time. It does not. Since we have discussed these practices at length, many times, I am able to remind him in just a few minutes. He is quite familiar with the question: “Chad, how are you and Dad going to please and glorify God at the meeting this morning?” This brief conversation can make all the difference in both our lives that day.
Before I conclude, I must mention the importance of review after the Sunday meeting. If all we do is prepare our children without review, there will be minimal application and therefore little effect. So, Chad and I have multiple conversations about the Sunday meeting throughout the week. It usually begins on the car-ride home, and is normally a part of the time we spend together each Monday afternoon. Monday is my day off, and Monday afternoon Chad and I hang out together. Unhurried conversation on a wide variety of topics is a part of this time, and we often review our experience of the Sunday meeting. If not during this time, we’ll go over the Sunday meeting when we have devotions together during the week. Much of my review with Chad involves encouraging him and celebrating how he has applied truth to his life. Discerning and celebrating evidences of grace in Chad’s life is a daily priority and practice for me as his father. I want my son to experience my affection and hear my encouragement each and every day.
Now this has gone on way too long and you shouldn’t have to devote an entire day to reading my post. But there is one more point I must make, so please hear me out. I am not an expert on fathering. Daily I am reminded of my weakness and sin, and I often need to ask for my son’s forgiveness. I am a fellow sinner and address all fathers from that perspective. And ultimately my confidence is not in my fathering skill or the aforementioned practices. My confidence is in God’s grace and His eagerness to reveal the gospel of grace to my son. Left to myself, I am in way over my head as a father. But God hasn’t left me to myself. He has called me to this holy task. He has given Chad to me as a gift and a holy assignment. Chad needs to be trained and I need to be sanctified. And God has promised to do both by His grace and for His glory.