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Engaging Children in the Rhythms of Rest

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Sometimes it is daunting to think about entering into various spiritual practices with children, especially the spiritual practice of sabbath or rest. If you have ever been around a group of children, words like “quiet,” “peaceful,” or “restful,” are not usually used to describe them. 

One of the challenges of engaging children in sabbath is that everything in our culture goes against it. We are busy, scheduled people. Yet rest provides “downtime” that is good for children both physically and emotionally. Because children grow quickly, rest allows their bodies and brains to take a break. It helps them process information. It also increases attention spans. 

But practicing sabbath with children is more than taking naps or sitting quietly. It is about enjoying God and his world and taking a break from our busy, scheduled lives. Here are some simple ways to invite children into the spiritual practice of sabbath.

Focus on the “get-to’s” and not the “have-to’s.” As my family practices sabbath, we intentionally focus on what we “get to do” instead of the obligatory things we “have to do.” So on Sundays, along with enjoying God through worship, we get to play, nap, read a book, or do what we never have space for during the week. Chores, homework, and other work is put to the side; there are six other days when we have to do those things. 

Make the Sabbath day special. My grandparents might have set aside Sabbath as a day to stiffly wear their Sunday best and sit quietly in reflection. While this doesn’t sound enjoyable, I appreciate their desire to make Sunday set apart from other days and want to build on that. How can I set apart Sunday from other days and make it special? For my family, fellowship is a part of our sabbath, at church and at home. We often invite a friend or two for a simple dinner or dessert and some games. As I write this, during the pandemic we have expanded that to online dinner and game nights. We also cook simply on Sundays (or splurge and order out), nothing fancy that either takes too much work or makes the kitchen messy. Sabbath days have a different rhythm and feel to them than any other day of the week.

Preparation is key. Faith practices take time and intention to become a part of our daily lives, so preparation is key to enjoy a sabbath regularly. In order to really enter into a day of rest, I have found that I have to physically and emotionally prepare to sabbath. What needs to get done before Sunday, so that we can enjoy our sabbath? Can I prepare some food ahead of time? How can we prepare our home so the long to-do list of chores isn’t seen as we try to rest? Are there ways you can engage kids in preparing for Sabbath? Maybe you can ask them for suggestions abou what a special day might look like. What are some “get-to’s” for them? What kinds of meals would they like, and how can they help prepare them in advance? 

If you are looking for ways to talk with children about sabbath and rhythms of rest, here are three resources to explore: 

  • The Bible Project explores the theme of rest and the Biblical concept of sabbath in this video

  • Sabbath Rest: Keeping the Sabbath Day is from Josephine Robertson’s blog Crazy Whole Life and is great for sharing with parents. It provides two examples of sabbath rest from real families. It’s a great starting place as families think through what sabbath rest might look like in their own family. 

  • The one-page resource 5 Ways to Practice Sabbath with Kids encourages families to receive, rest, worship, celebrate, and restore.

What are some ways you practice sabbath with children?

Mimi Larson is Faith Formation Ministries’ Children's Ministry Catalyzer. If you have questions or challenges about faith formation in children, welcoming children in worship, choosing curriculum, equipping volunteers, empowering parents, and more, contact Mimi at [email protected].

The Faith Practices Project, hosted by Faith Formation Ministries, invites you to refresh your spirit by experimenting with life-giving spiritual disciplines. Find more resources and ideas for the practice of Sabbath

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