Worship is essentially the response of hearts to the truth of who God is and what He has done for someone. When explaining what worship is to kids, help them understand that it goes beyond head knowledge about God to a heart connection with God. Worship is their heart response to grasping something of the wonder and hugeness of their creator and Savior as He intersects their world.
Here is a fun way to help kids understand the definition and representation of worship in their lives. It uses the word "WHOA."
W - WONDER and the WORD.
"How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures." Psalm 104:24
Kids often experience and articulate wonder from an early age as they learn to point at and are constantly confronted by so much that is unfamiliar and new. They are filled with wonder with everything from a newly turned page in a picture book, the image of an animal on TV, or the scale of creation as it is gazed upon from the back seat of the minivan. All are accompanied by sharp intakes of breath or "Look, mommy, look!"
Or consider the barrage of questions kids fire off as they try to process and explore their ever-expanding environment and experiences. "How do the leaves know when to fall off the trees? What are stars made of, and how many are there? Why don't we fall off the earth as it turns? Where do rainbows come from?" What a fantastic opportunity to encourage wonder in our kids.
As we share God's Word and His unchanging truth with kids, we provide them with the building blocks for worshiping Him. We enable them to scramble up higher and higher and get a better and better view of God's glory and majesty. The higher up they can climb, the more breathtaking the spectacle, and the more truth they know, the greater the heights of their worship.
The more kids explore and get to know God through the Bible, the better they can recognize Him and His activity in their own lives. Even encouraging them to take the time to read or listen to God's Word each day serves to elevate its importance and worth in their eyes and is in itself a form of giving 'worth-ship.'
H - HEARTFELT
"I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of your wonderful deeds." Psalm 9:1
Worshipping God can have many different expressions, and exuberant enthusiasm is always deserved. God is simply always worthy of the best heartfelt worship that we can bring. Without the inhibitions that can come with age, kids can experience freedom in worshipping as they respond wholeheartedly to God. Whether through sung-worship in church, dancing joyfully like spinning-tops, or in their wholehearted participation in any activity done with God in mind, heartfelt worship can be expressed.
Thankfulness is a great place to kickstart worship for kids. The practice of being thankful can quickly turn a heart from a preoccupation with self towards God's goodness and lovingkindness. As we explain the Gospel message to children and help them understand their need for a Savior, thankfulness can become the bedrock of worship in their lives.
Ensuring we model wholeheartedness in our worship and devotion to God will bless our kids who watch how we live at home, at church, and in the community. Imperfect but authentic worship that comes from the heart is contagious.
O - An OFFERING of OBEDIENCE
"Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them." John 14:23
Any activity can be worship as kids recognize God is constantly present and involved in their everyday lives. This perspective on life prevents them from growing up compartmentalizing their lives into the 'sacred' and the 'spiritual' and believing some activities or days of the week are more important to Him than others. We have many daily opportunities to remind kids that we can bring glory to God as we do everything for Him. This mindset can be a great aid to motivation too!
Making good choices each day is worship as we live to please God. Every time we forgive someone for hurting us. Each time we choose to put others before ourselves. Each time we help someone in need or encourage someone with our words or actions, we please God and bring Him glory in our obedience. Every we give our time and our abilities for Him to use. This is worship.
In the Old Testament, the Israelites brought their offerings to the tabernacle or temple as worship to God. God set out strict instructions as to how His people were to relate to Him in worship, and He made it clear that heartfelt obedience was His desire. Even those working in the tabernacle did not get to choose what acceptable worship involved, as Aaron's two sons found out to their cost!
More than God's desire for the outward obedience of a sacrifice brought to the priest was His desire for an inward broken-heartedness and true repentance. God's desire is not for children to simply learn to perform the rituals of worship on a Sunday but live lives pleasing to Him. Not to obey so that God will love them but because He already does.
A - ACTIVE ADORATION
"Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name." Psalm 103:1
Can you ever remember being too excited to sleep or too excited to keep a wonderful secret to yourself or feeling super-pumped for 'the game'? Then you will not be unsympathetic to a child's inability to contain themselves and keep still in a church setting (or any other setting!) As teachers are trained to differentiate and teach in a way that impacts children with different learning styles, we bless children when we help them worship and praise in a variety of ways that will enable as many as possible to connect their hearts to God.
Not only do we want to encourage them to be wholehearted in their praise but also to use their whole bodies too. Motions accompanying a song of praise can help in the remembrance of truth and give children a way to be constructively active in worship. Many children are gifted at drawing and coloring and can be encouraged to use their gifts and abilities to praise God and bring Him glory.
Giving children visual prompts for worship can help them focus as well. Acting out in the physical what we are doing in the spiritual helps children see and understand more clearly. Some examples of this may be bringing a gift to the foot of a cross. Giving out plastic jewels for the children to stick on a crown or simply lay down as they thank God for who He is.
Using songs with lyrics that focus on the character of God or taking the time to explain more complex lyrics to children allows them greater access to worship. Many of us have a memory for songs that far outstrips our memory for sermons, and yet both can feed our souls and fill us with truths from Scripture for years to come.
In essence, kids' worship is an offering of active, heartfelt, Word-based wonder! We are made to worship the God who created us, to bring Him the praise and glory He deserves. Let's worship Him in everything we do and help our children 'see' Him in the every day and respond in praise.