Teaching Kids about Sabbath

Parenting Q&A

I've recently felt God leading me to practice Sabbath, but I want my family involved too. How do I teach my children to follow and appreciate Sabbath?

A Sabbath is a day unhurried, a day to rest. If there's anything we and our busy children need, it's simply to take a day to slow down.

That doesn't mean everyone must sit on the couch and stare at the walls. Rather, it's a day to set aside work to focus on God and on family and friends. It's a day of get-tos instead of have-tos. You can do things together on Sabbath: a leisurely meal, a bike ride, a board game. Or just let your kids chill out—preferably without electronic entertainment.

For our family, Sabbath always involves going to church, but also plenty of "downtime." My children know it's a day when I'm "interruptible." Because I don't work, run errands, do housework, or turn on the computer on the Sabbath, I'm not too busy to talk, listen, or just hang out with them. That's more of a gift to them than you may realize.

To get started, it's as easy as simply setting some boundaries. For example, if you decide not to shop on Sabbath, warn your kids that you won't be running to the store on Sunday to pick up, say, last minute supplies for a school project that's due Monday.

I've never made it a day of "you can't do ____" or "you have to do ____" but rather a day when we had little on the schedule. Play and rest aren't mutually exclusive—so often our Sabbath is a day of playfulness.

Model unhurriedness. Don't be hectic or frantic on the Sabbath. Peace like this is contagious.

Depending on your children's ages, share some Bible verses about Sabbath (but keep this short—long tedious devotions won't be helpful). Take a look at what Jesus taught about the Sabbath. Let the kids offer suggestions on what the day should look like.

Practicing Sabbath means you must prepare for it. You can't simply collapse on that day. In ancient times, the day before Sabbath was known as Preparation Day. Prepare by cooking enough the day before that you can eat leftovers. Clean your house, so that the environment is somewhat peaceful, and you aren't tempted to do chores on your day of rest.

Involve your children by having them help you clean—with the payoff being that they'll have time with you the next day. Encourage older kids to get their homework done on Preparation Day so they have the freedom to relax on Sabbath (an excellent life lesson in so many ways). Teach them that in order to have family time together, you all need to prepare together.

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Parenting; Relaxation; Sabbath
Today's Christian Woman, March/April , 2013
Posted March 20, 2013

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