One morning not long ago, as I stood in my bathroom curling my hair, my four-year-old son bounced into the room. He looked at me puzzled.
“Mama, is it Sabbath?”
“No, it’s Thursday.”
“Then why are you getting pretty?” he asked bluntly.
I work from home. That doesn’t mean I’m not ridiculously busy, but it does mean I can do my work wearing nothing fancier than exercise gear without anyone knowing the difference. (Don’t judge. I do try to dress nicely for my husband often enough to convince him I’m not letting myself go.) Obviously, my little son has equated Mommy getting fixed up with going to church.
Yes, I want my kids to know that Sabbath is special. But not just because that’s the day we dress up more than other days. I want Sabbath to be the best day of their week for so, so many other reasons.
Because they love their church family. Pastors’ kids often get the short end of the stick when it comes to church family. They may be held to an unreasonably high standard of behavior because Daddy or Mommy is a pastor. They may bounce from congregation to congregation as their parents serve the needs of multichurch districts. Or they might grow up in an elderly district where they are the only children around. Whatever the situation, it’s extremely important for the pastor’s kids to feel that they have a church home, with an extended family that cherishes them and a Sabbath school they look forward to attending.
Because Sabbath is different. Our kids are little, and little kids have lots of energy. Part of our family’s approach to Sabbathkeeping is that we avoid regular weekday recreation, which means they don’t play with everyday toys during Sabbath hours. But that doesn’t mean they have to be bored! We have a box of age-appropriate toys reserved for Sabbath hours, usually whichever toys are their favorites. That means they look forward to getting out the Sabbath toys all week long.
Because Sabbath is full of love. Sabbath is busy. We sometimes privately joke that as pastors, we may be Sabbathkeepers but we are Monday-resters, since that is my husband’s day off. Still, it isn’t healthy for Sabbath to be so busy that our own children get lost in the shuffle. Whenever possible, we try to carve out special family time on Sabbath afternoon. And on Friday nights, the kids tumble into our big bed together for hugs and storybooks before they go to sleep.
Because Sabbath is a time to serve. When babies are little and need naps, it’s not the season for dragging them around all day. But as they get a little older, there is so much joy in joining service activities along with Mom and Dad and other church members, especially when parents talk excitedly about it and help kids feel that they are being included in something valuable. Even when we have guests over, our preschooler is now old enough to feel very important by helping to set the table or serve visitors a glass of water.
Because Sabbath is prepared for ahead of time. Our family takes the biblical directive to prepare for Sabbath seriously. That means the house gets cleaned, meals are ready, clothes are ironed, shoes are polished, and everything that can be done is finished before sunset on Friday night. When the sun sets, it’s like a collective sigh of relief throughout our household. For 24 hours we are free to just be. It cuts down on a lot of Sabbath-morning irritability too, since everything is ready to pick up and go.
Because Sabbath is a time for nature. Outdoor activities, especially for those living in the city, make Sabbath extra special. Hiking, cycling, going on a nature walk—any of these are something to look forward to. As soon as kids are old enough to talk and are learning their Bible stories, they can participate in object lesson hikes. Everyone goes outside and looks for some object that reminds them of a Bible story or Scripture lesson. At sundown worship, each person gets a turn to share what they found.
Because Sabbath is all about Jesus. Sure, every day is about Jesus. But other days are also filled with everyday duties and frustrations. Sabbath is a time of freedom from worry and burdens. It’s a time to slow down and appreciate the blessings of faith.
And yes, Sabbath clothes make the day special too. But that’s not the heart of the matter. As our little ones grow bigger, I only hope they’ll love the Sabbath for the deeper reasons that I’ve come to treasure. Modeling this Jesus focus to our kids makes Sabbath truly the happiest day of the week.