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Topic: Parenting

Shepherding the Family Into, Through, and After the Sunday Gathering

October 26, 2015

Last time I sought to lay out a brief biblical summons to God-glorifying, gospel-fueled ambition. He has vested us as men with leadership in our homes, our churches, and in some measure, our jobs and relationships.

We do not to live lives void of real meaning, God has made us for a mission while we live on this earth: to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to make disciples of Jesus Christ. We hear these summons often, the question is what do we apply this God-glorifying ambition to specifically, and how do we do it. This article seeks to apply ambition to one area, namely, how we as husbands and fathers prepare our families for Sunday worship.

Sundays can be a pretty mundane routine. The weekend has been busy, perhaps taken up by the kids’ sporting events, trips we are trying to squeeze in, excessive entertainment, or entertaining friends or family. We wake up Sunday morning cold. We have not really thought much about the reality of the gathering to come that morning. Perhaps you wake up later than you want to, or your kids do. Breakfast can seem to be a drudgery, there is a rush to just get out the door, and tempers can even flare at times. But once you arrive at the building you all exit the vehicle with practiced smiles.

We then endeavor to shake hands, say the right things, and do what is expected. Once the service actually starts we sing, perhaps in a perfunctory manner. Our minds tend to wander a bit during the pastor’s prayer. The sermon is attended to with genuine interest, but as opposed to thinking and writing so as to reflect later in the week we are perhaps distracted by the thought of lunch, or a game on later that day, or a business transaction that will take place Monday morning, or that conversation you know you need to have with that friend of yours. You leave the building that morning, head home for lunch, and everyone is pretty much back to business as usual.

I think many, if not all of us, could attest to some, if not most of these items being a part of our weekend realities. Can we expect more? I believe we can, and must! Men, we must take initiative in this area. Again, as I said in the last article, I in no way am aiming to disparage the kind of initiative that a wife and mom can make in the home. It is absolutely critical. But as the appointed head that God has set up in that home, men must seek to be intentional here.

For a pastor, it is required that he shepherd and manage his own household well (1 Tim. 3:4-5). While pastors peruse this website, doubtless many of you have no aspirations of serving in that capacity in your church. However, when we look at 1 Tim. 3:1-7, we see characteristics that should be true of all of us as Christian men, we should strive for these things. We are called to raise our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:1-4). Our Lord desires to see godly offspring (Mal. 2:15). Here is one area we can exercise a godly ambition so that, by God’s grace, we might see genuine growth in godliness amongst our families.

So here are some practical thoughts.

First, read the Bible with your family throughout the week.

Depending on the age of your children this can look different in terms of length and content, but get a plan and stick with it. This could be done at the breakfast table, after dinner, right before bed, whatever fits your schedule. Often I will share with my family what I am getting from my own personal devotional time. Our family has used the Jesus Storybook Bible in the past, and now we are reading through different books together. Over the past several months we have gone through Nehemiah, Titus, and we are about to start Ephesians.

Let’s just be honest, this first one is a big one, because if we want to steer our weekends in a certain direction for Sunday church gatherings, we need to be consistent throughout the week. Men, pray to God for the ambition to read, reflect, pray, and obey the Scripture, teach it to your kids formally and informally, pick a book of the Bible and discuss it together, pray for genuine needs, and see all that God does.

On Saturdays, limit the amount of activity that goes on. Be aware that when you invite someone over for dinner or you decide to start watching a movie at 9:00pm, this will affect your Sunday mornings. A friend of mine remarked to me last week that can get much more challenging as your kids get older, but if we are consistent to emphasize the importance of this, it will become part of the culture of our household.

We have tried as a family to be mindful of this for many years. Limit activities on Saturday evenings, get the rest you need, and be ready to engage Sunday morning with a clear mind.

Second, if possible, know where your pastor is preaching from and read that text together as a family on Saturday nights.

Meditate on God’s Word in this way, ask questions, ponder, anticipate the main point of the message. This step seeks to ensure that you do not come into the service cold. Your heart has been readied by the living and active Word of God, such that when this Word is proclaimed it only adds to the ongoing discussion that began the night before. This is a simple but crucial step in bringing the family around the importance of the Word.

Third, on Sunday mornings give yourself space in terms of time to be ready.

Lead here. Get up early. Remind others of what will be occurring that day. Pray specifically and intentionally at breakfast. Lead the conversation in a Godward direction. Most Sundays my family will walk to church. Whether you walk or drive, use the commute to again focus your hearts and minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Finally, as you walk through Sundays well, come out the other side ready to discuss with your family all that was learned and how it can be applied.

Lunch time at the Kimble house is thoroughly enjoyable as we engage our kids about all that they learned that morning in their class and in the service. This makes for lively conversation, genuine questions, and follow-up that instills long-term learning. It is truly a joy when we can walk through the weekends in this way.

So men, may we glorify God and have an ambition infused with gospel realities, and may we lead our families well in this way.

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