When you have a toddler, suddenly every food is “yummy”.
“You should try this broccoli. Mmmm.”
“This avocado is so good! Num num!”
“You’ll really like this asparagus. Yum yum!”
It doesn’t matter how you personally feel about that food item right then. If you want your kid to try it, it’s nothing but delicious. And heaven help anyone who tries to say otherwise. A few times during dinner I’ve shot my well-meaning husband the LOOK when he’s said a food we’re trying to get our daughter to eat was “yucky”. We want her to try these foods and she feeds off our excitement. If she sees us eating it and enjoying it, chances are higher she’ll at least give it a try too.
Kids watch us closely to know how to respond to events in their environment. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but it’s likely that they will mimic how we react. If you talk up soccer and get excited about how much fun it is, your kid might be more willing to go to practice. If you’re negative about school, your child will probably whine and put up a fight about going. If you want your child to get into reading, you’ll probably go to the library, read out loud and let your kid see you reading.
If you want your child to be positive about going to worship, you need to be positive about it too. Even if you’re not feeling positive about it. Maybe you’re tired and just want to stay home. Or maybe it’s tempting to skip church so you can make a big dinner or get ready for the game. Maybe something about church is getting you down, you feel bored, or you’re in a disagreement with someone there. Maybe you’re having doubts or questions about your faith. Those situations can happen to all of us at some point. Let me first say that each of those situations, and whatever others you’re going through, can and should be addressed. And those things are all excellent reasons to get more involved with your Christian community at church.
Keeping in mind the need to get those issues figured out, being positive about church can help your kids be excited to go to church. And I don’t think you need to lie to your kids to be positive, either. I think it’s ok for our kids to see that we have problems and struggles too, as long as we keep things appropriate for them. If your kids notice something is off about you on a Sunday and ask, you could say something like…
“Mommy is so tired this morning, but it’s really important that we go worship Jesus. Mommy might need a nap after church today!” (I’ve said this one to my toddler more than once. And Mommy rarely takes that nap!)
“Sometimes even mommy and daddy have questions about God. That’s one of the reasons we go to church, to learn more about God and get answers to our questions.”
“Nobody is perfect, even at church. Our feelings were hurt but we can forgive because Jesus forgave us. It’s important that we go to church even when our feelings are hurt so we can hear about Jesus’ love for us and how He forgives us.”
Or, you can just start verbalizing all the reasons you love church. “We’re going to sing songs to Jesus today! We get to see our friends (start naming them). We get to learn more about Jesus in Sunday school. We get to hear words of forgiveness today, and boy do I need to hear those words!” (I do this one nearly every Sunday. It’s actually kind of fun and gets me more ready to go to church, too.)
Words have power. God’s Spirit working in us gives our words power – speaking in a positive way about church just might change our own attitudes, too!
Just one more encouragement about those reasons you don’t want to go to church. Find a solid Christian friend or a pastor you trust and start talking. The church is often referred to as a hospital for sinners, and we’re all sinners. Your pastor should be willing to sit with you and talk through any issues you have. If he isn’t, find one who is. It’s too important to your faith, and the faith you will pass on to your kids, that you get those issues ironed out! Jesus said that He did not come to call the righteous, but sinners. The bad news is, that’s all of us. The good news is, that means Jesus is for us!