By Melanie Cave
Have you ever noticed that at church we tend to sing more than one song in corporate worship? Why is that? Why don't we just sing one song? I think it's because worship is about connecting our heart to Jesus's heart. Sometimes we feel really close to him, and sometimes we feel far away. There is always a connection and the opportunity to draw close to God, but it can be hard at times. What is your connection with Jesus like right now? In corporate worship (or any worship), we need to choose to direct our hearts towards connection with God. We need to choose to draw closer to God. That's why we usually have a few songs, because it takes most of us a little while to re-connect with Jesus, and then to hear what's on his heart, and to join in with what he is doing!
What gets in the way of our connection? No matter how young or old we are, guilt, worry, shame, anger, fear, and sadness can seem to get in the way. We need to learn to notice these things- "Yes, I'm feeling angry"- and then bring these things to Jesus and receive his forgiveness, peace, love, and comfort. This self awareness and honesty opens up our worship.
An example of how I might chat this through with a child who's struggling with worship: "So you said you're worried about going out to your group. Can you feel all that worry in your body? (Child nods) Where is it? (Child points to their tummy). Do you think you can picture all that worry as a great big blog inside your tummy. (Child nods and smiles- feeling understood). Lets gather it all up inside ourselves. (Child- "Its a big dark squishy blob and I'm squishing it smaller in my hands." The child shows me this action with their hands.) Good. And now let's then give the whole squishy blob to Jesus. Can you do that? (Child closes their eyes and after a few seconds opens up their hands). What does Jesus want to do with it? (He's taken it and kicked it really far. Its gone!) And what does he want to give you in exchange? (He's given me a big hug.) Now how's your connection with Jesus? (mmm good.) What do you want to do to express that? (I'm going to go dance now.)
Sometimes we let things get in the way of us and Jesus- distractions- it might be what we think about (daydreaming or shopping lists), using or phones or other screens, or simply noticing what other people are doing and being distracted by that. Children and adults get distracted, and focus is a skill that we learn as we grow. We need to learn to notice when we're distracted, put away the distraction (put the phone away, write down the thing we're worrying about, move away from the person who is distracting) and choose to focus on Jesus. Both adults and children need reminding from time to time that this is the time for worship- for connection.
In our OH2 gathering we talked about giving each other permission (both adults and children) to ask each other: “Is what you’re doing helping you connect to God right now?” Its a great challenge and encourager and it opens up great conversations!
Looks can be deceiving: on the outside a person might look connected, but on the inside, their heart is elsewhere. Or on the outside they might seem to not to be paying attention, but actually they are connected. Eye's closed could mean, prayer, open visions of heaven, or just catching up on sleep! Drawing pictures might be prophetic images from God or simply drawing or doodling. A child crawling on the floor might be play, or it might be an imagination thing where Jesus is taking them on an adventure.
So we ask the question “Is what you’re doing helping you connect to God right now?” to create connection and understanding and to gently encourage, that this is our connection time with God, so let’s make the most of it!
With a child who struggles with distraction, I would start with heart connection with them by asking the question. “Is what you’re doing helping you connect to God right now?” If they say they are distracted, you can help them make good choices.
- Would it help you be less distracted, if we moved away from these children?
- Would it help if I prayed with you? Is there something blocking your connection with Jesus?
- Would it help if we went together and got some paper and a pen so you could draw?
Adults can suggest options for the child- what would help you connect to Jesus now? (drawing, singing, dancing, soaking). If they usually sing, maybe ask them to try something else and see what they notice something fresh. If they say "I don't want to connect", that's ok. We can't force relationship. This is hard. But we pray in our hearts that Jesus will woo them and draw them to himself. Not turning this into a battlefield can help- its amazing what the Holy Spirit can do in an atmosphere of worship- but feeling nagged can mean the child's mind is overly focused on the parent's expectations. We can set the ground rules that during this time of worship in church they need to respect that others are trying to connect with Jesus, so whatever they choose to do with the time, they need to not distract those around them from Jesus.
Seeing you connect to God in worship will help children. But probably more powerful is hearing you authentically say from time to time, "wow, I'm finding it hard to connect today, I'm going to ask someone to pray with me" or "I'm going to try even try drawing this morning to see if that helps me connect." This will equip the child to push through in worship, to persevere with God, when its not always easy.
“Is what you’re doing helping you connect to God right now?”