Vineyard Stories: Raising Worshippers
In this article, Nathalie Whisnant, Children's Pastor at the Nashville Vineyard in Nashville, TN, shares her journey raising worshippers, both in her home and in her church.
Children’s Pastor, Nashville Vineyard
I’ll never forget that day. I was a new mom with a two year old and a newborn. It was a morning not unlike every other morning of the week. My son was running circles around the coffee table, and I was sitting on the couch nursing our new baby girl. I was quickly learning that ingenuity would be the key to my sanity as a sleep deprived new mother of two.
So as I fed the baby, I pulled out my phone and tapped on my Bible app. I had been reading through the Psalms during feedings and that day I found myself on chapter 8. Verse 2 took my breath away:
“Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies to silence the foe and the avenger.”
As I read those words, I felt the presence of God so tangibly. I was suddenly more keenly aware of my calling as a mother. The Lord was inviting me into more. He opened my eyes to see that children are capable of hearing and responding to the voice of God, the Love of God, the majesty of God.
Born To Worship
The Psalmist makes it clear that we were all born to be worshippers. If worship, at its core, is admiration, devotion, and submission, then I knew I needed to create a culture in our home where our children were being invited to daily encounter the One they were born to worship. Knowing about Him wasn’t going to be enough.They needed to actually know and experience Him for themselves.
Instead of simply reading Bible stories, I began asking them to notice what God wanted to teach them through the story.
- What can we learn about God’s character?
- What does this story say about who God is for us?
- How does this change the way live today: at school, in friendships, in our choices?
We decided we wouldn’t just memorize scripture. It became a tool for knowing God’s heart in every situation.
- When we prayed, we would repeat the scriptures back to God knowing we were declaring His very heart.
- We listened for God’s whispers as we read His Word, giving us wisdom and understanding for each day.
We began the practice of intentionally listening for His voice speaking to us.
- How does scripture teach us about how God speaks?
- We set aside time to be still and listen. (We do this for a few minutes before school. God has been doing incredible things in those moments.)
- We each keep a journal and write down what God says to us; whether through scripture, a dream, or a word of encouragement from a trusted friend. (We did this even when our kids were very little and could only draw a picture of what God was showing them.)
One Sunday morning at church, I took a look around our sanctuary and noticed that most of the children seemed disengaged and bored. It wasn’t because the music wasn’t great… it was beautiful. It wasn’t because the adults were not pouring their hearts out in worship… they were. I began to ask the Lord, why? Why were the kids, my kids included, uninterested?
God began to show me that I hadn’t invited them to participate. The next week on our way to church I encouraged them to think about Jesus during our time of worship. I challenged them to choose one song and sing it to Him like it was their gift to Him. I told them to pay attention to what they were feeling as they focused all their attention on God.
I invited them to respond to God as they experienced His presence. They may feel like raising their hands up high like they might do when cheering for their favorite team. They may feel like dancing the way they do when they hear their favorite song. I wanted them to know that God gave them feelings as a tool to connect to His heart.
I was amazed at how that simple invitation opened a huge door for my children. As we began singing I felt a tap on my arm. My 10 year old son whispered, “Mom, I really feel like raising my hands!” He raised his hands up high and sang his little heart out. Seeing her brother lead the way empowered my daughter to do the same. A few minutes later my son buried his head in my shoulder and sobbed. I bent down and asked him if he was ok. He said, “Yes they’re happy tears, mom.”
We stood there together totally overwhelmed by God’s presence with us. It was a powerful moment we will never forget.
Calling Them Higher & Deeper
If we want our kids to be lifelong worshippers of God, then we must be diligent in cultivating the spiritual soil of their hearts. Just like a gardener can’t neglect the seeds he plants, as parents and as ministers of the Gospel, we need to keep nurturing the spiritual seeds we plant in them. We need to provide an atmosphere where they can flourish and grow; one that welcomes the Holy Spirit to move and work and speak.
They will obey God if they know they are truly loved by Him. They will follow Jesus if they know they can trust Him. They will talk to God if they know He is listening and will also speak to them. They will worship God if they really know Him. As Psalm 8:2 says, it’s their worship that will silence the voice of the enemy in their lives.
Let’s keep calling our kids higher; to see the world from a heavenly perspective. Let’s keep calling them deeper; to mine for the treasure that is our inheritance in Jesus. When we open the door for them, we can be sure the Lord will draw them close.
And once they’re close to Him, they won’t be able to resist His unfailing love.
To learn more about the Nashville Vineyard in Nashville, TN, visit their website here.