We are helping our children memorize the Westminster Children’s Catechism. It is a series of questions that go through the main doctrines of the Christian faith, explaining them in a question and answer format. It helps the children to know exactly what it is they do believe and why. (It’s clarified a few things for us too!)
What has this got to do with the Sabbath? The following are questions 87 and 90 from the Westminster Catechism for Children:
Q. 87. What does the fourth commandment teach us?
A. To keep the Sabbath holy.
Q. 90. How should the Sabbath be spent?
A. In prayer and praise, in hearing and reading God’s Word, and in doing good to our fellow men.
Wow – these certainly challenged us. It’s difficult to recite catechism questions like these each morning knowing that you aren’t really acting them out. With 5 children 8 and under, Sunday is not always the rest day we would like. We had lots of good intentions but that was all they were. Therefore research and this article! I am hoping that these ideas assist you (and us) to turn Sunday into a day that truly honours and glorifies God, putting Him first in our lives.
Sabbath starts at sundown on Saturday and ends at sundown on Sunday. We have tried a few different approaches to Sabbath keeping and have found that when we designated the whole Sunday as our Sabbath or rest day, we always seemed to end up spending Sunday evening cleaning up and preparing for the following Monday. If we rested throughout the evening also, then I was left with an unorganised house and mountains of work to catch up on Monday morning. Starting Saturday evening means that;
- we have the day on Saturday to prepare
- a lovely evening meal and time together on Saturday night to look forward to
- Sunday to attend church and put some of these ideas into place
- Sunday evening to clean up and get organised for the rest of the week.
Plan! Celebrating the Sabbath well with a large family of young children requires planning and preparation. By the weekend we are tired and just want to crash, but when nothing is organised Sunday is frustrating, the kids get bored and ratty and we don’t get the rest we crave, never mind focus on God. When we plan fun and purposeful time that revolves around God and spend time interacting with the children, their love tanks are filled and they are then happy to spend time alone while we have a break. We end up thoroughly enjoying the family activities we plan and realise that the planning is well worth it.
Make lists! What do you have to prepare ahead to make this happen? When can it be done – don’t leave everything for Saturday afternoon. Lay out the clothes, right down to shoes, socks, tights, jackets and hair accessories. Pack the baby bag, collect the bibles and notebooks.
Clean the house. Spread the jobs throughout the week or have a whole family cleaning spree on Saturday morning. However you do it, make sure the house is clean and tidy before the Sabbath starts. It’s very difficult to show hospitality when the house is a mess.
Make Saturday evening a special meal with a beautifully set table. Make dessert and a meal that everyone will enjoy. Let the kids get out the candles. It doesn’t have to be super fancy food, but with a little effort the table can look special and create an atmosphere that sets the Sabbath off on the right foot.
Show hospitality. Look out for those who would not usually be invited out or who are unable to return the favour. Connect with non-Christian friends – perhaps invite them to church and for a meal afterwards. Invite neighbours around. If you do not know them well, perhaps an afternoon tea will be a good place to start. We like to invite families over in the afternoon on Saturday for an early dinner so that the children can all get to bed at their normal bedtime and guests with their own children can be home at a reasonable time also. Lunch after church is fine at our house but going out doesn’t work so well for us because the littlies need to have naps. Afternoon tea on a Sunday is also an easy option for us.
Prepare all meals ahead as much as possible, even breakfast. Choose meals that can be frozen during the week and reheated, or perhaps fill a slow cooker ready to turn on in the morning on Saturday or Sunday to be ready for the evening meal. Prepare salads and side dishes completely ahead if possible or at least do all the chopping, peeling, grating etc and toss them together when needed. Perhaps prepare a roast and leave it in the fridge so that it is ready to simply pop into the oven in the afternoon.
Go to church on Sunday. There will always be some reason why church is difficult. It interrupts little one’s sleep patterns, friends invite us to do other things, we are tired etc. etc. If church is optional our children get the message that other things are more important than God. Get there on time. (All right, we are not great at this because we still try to let both our babies have a nap before church but we will get better!)
Discuss notes taken, pictures drawn and important points from the morning sermon. Our children use pencils and clipboards to either draw or take notes during the sermon. It helps them to stay focussed during the service. Each family member takes a turn to share their notes or picture and explain something that they learnt or thought was important from the service during Sunday lunch.
Borrow bible or character based books, DVDs or videos from the church library each Sunday to use for quiet time later in the day.
Prepare a couple of Sunday school style activities or bible colouring pictures for the children to work on. Perhaps Dad could lead a family devotion while the children are colouring.
Choose scriptures to memorize for the following week and make posters to illustrate chosen verses. Put them on display throughout the week and read through them throughout the day or before meals until the children remember them. Older children can write out their scripture, parents can write verses out for younger children or choose them ahead of time and type up on the computer. Use old cards, wrapping paper, textas, glitter and the like for decorating. If posters are made on A4 paper or card, they can be slid into a presentation folder or laminated and made into a book and kept for review once memorised.
Work on Bible Lapbooks. Simple paper craft and activities relating to scriptures are mounted in manila folders. Key verses are written out and included (or printed for younger children) with the paper activities as memory joggers to illustrate the verses being studied. Ours match the family devotion readings from the previous week.
Play bible based board games. Choose a mixture of very simple games for littlies and some with more of a challenge for the older children. The best games are those that can be adapted to include all family members.
Bible charades. Participants choose a bible story or character to act out without speaking for others family members to identify.
Duplo bible charades. Family members use Duplo blocks to create representations of bible stories for others to identify. These can be still or animated.
Home- made bible trivial pursuit. The family is divided into teams of readers with non-readers. Readers choose a bible passage to read to their team, who then make up questions based on the passage. The passage is then read to the other teams once before the questions are asked. Points are awarded for correct answers.
Deliver a meal to a new mum, an elderly person, someone who is sick or take biscuits (cookies) to a neighbour.
Learn a new hymn to sing through the week at family devotions or sing some you are already working on memorising.
Play the bible on CD or praise and worship music throughout the day. It’s lovely to hear the children humming or singing words to Godly songs. What we listen to will stick in our head and how wonderful if the snippets that go around and around in our thoughts and the thoughts of our children throughout the day are Godly ones.
Read Godly material. Choose something that will bring you closer to God and centre your thoughts on Him; character based stories, great missionaries, and Godly bibliographies are but a few examples. Read aloud to the children while they colour bible pictures, do a craft, illustrate a verse or something related to the story.
Prepare family devotions, bible lapbooks lessons, character lessons or circle time for the week.
Visit a nursing home or retirement village and offer to read to the elderly or write letters for them.
Start a Sunday box filled with toys, books, activities and an ideas list only for use on Sundays.
Look through family photo albums or watch family home movies. Share anecdotes from your childhood and growing up times (e.g. How Mummy and Daddy met) or ask Grandparents to tell stories from the good old days. Scrapbook together. Record special family events and happenings, thoughts and achievements. Include favourite scriptures.
Act out bible stories, plays or mini musicals. Maybe take it on the road and perform at the local retirement home – they are very forgiving!
Make a care box for a missionary family. Spend some time writing letters, drawing pictures and taking photos to be included.
Make phone calls, write letters or emails to friends and loved ones, particularly those whom you haven’t been in contact with recently. Write thank you notes, birthday cards or simply “thinking of you” notes to people.
Make “blessing” baskets for people in the local community. You could choose emergency workers, hospital staff, school secretaries, or anyone else you would like to bless. Don’t forget to include a note of thank you, bible verse or perhaps a tract and an invitation to attend church.
Invite guests over for the following Sunday.
Make family goals, family mottos, family banners or family aims that will focus your family and assist you to pursue Godly excellence.
Put on a puppet show depicting a bible event or focussing on a spiritual truth or character quality.
Do some teddy teaching time. Use a special doll or teddy to act out proper manners at home, church, social etiquette situations or any other scenario where particular behaviours are polite and right. I have a collection of etiquette posters for a variety of situations that I have scanned into the computer, printed and cut into strips. Family teams lucky dip a strip and act out the right and wrong ways to handle given situations. Other teams try to guess which behaviour they are demonstrating and have to say what was right or wrong about the scenarios acted out.
Set personal and family goals for the upcoming year. Review previous goals. Look at all areas of life and evaluate where changes need to be made, what is going well, what needs work etc.
Start a character based praise system. Prepare a bunch of strips of paper and some kind of holder for the strips for each person in the family (such as a large envelope or paper plate halves stapled together.) Take a few minutes regularly throughout the week to note down positive character traits displayed by the children (e.g. Abigail showed compassion when she cared for Peta while she was sick) and post the strip into that child’s holder. Strips are drawn out and read in front of the family at lunch on Sunday. A character chart is useful to help identify character traits that are less obvious and more easily missed.
Use playdough or salt dough to construct something from the bible
Work on a Family service project or Volunteer at a relief organization.
Focus on one family member for the week and write down all the things we love about them in a giant card to be kept afterwards.
Object lessons. There are many books full of ideas for children’s sermons and object lessons.
Download sermons on the iPod to listen to during the week, burn onto CD for children to listen to in their rooms during room time
Hold a family meeting. What’s going well, not working, things we want to plan, needs being me or not being met. Be careful with the format and what can and should be shared. This is not a gripe session – children should be taught to go to a person who has offended them, not bring it up in family meetings.
Visit neighbours or invite them over
Make a book of rememberance recording how God has blessed you and worked in your life. Start a family memorial – a display of small objects that remind the family of answered prayers.
Decorate special boxes or containers for missionary funds or tithes