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The Importance of Worship in Child Faith Formation

The Importance of Worship in Child Faith Formation

Jessica Wolstenholm
Children Worshipping God

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Colossians 3:16 NIV

Although children begin to treat people and things with an attitude of worship at a very early age, the spiritual concept of worship may be hard for kids to understand. Simply put, worship is our response to who God is and what He’s done. Whether by words or songs or actions, we worship God when we show Him reverence and awe.

What Does Worship Look Like?

In the act of worship, we enter into God’s presence and focus our attention on Him, and Him alone. We give thanks, we praise, we sing, we dance, and we bring our whole selves (mind, body, and spirit) to spend time with God.

On second thought, maybe worship isn’t so hard for kids to understand. After all, the practice of worship sounds a lot like a common practice of children.

Unreserved, whole-hearted play!

God created children with the instinctive need to worship something. And He created them with a natural need to play. Music and movement as forms of worship beautifully bring together these two needs into an outward expression of growing faith.

What’s Music Got To Do With It?

Music is not the only method of worship but it plays a large role in the connection between God and His people. For kids, music is a powerful tool, inviting them to move closer to God through a kind of expression they innately understand. Research shows that children as young as infants have the capacity to perceive, take interest in, and respond to music, which has incredible benefits on their development (Rundman, 2018).

Through her research in partnership with Carnegie Hall, Dr. Dennie Wolf makes the connection between music and multiple domains of child development including brain growth, attachment, imagination, emotional intelligence, connection, and community (Wolf, 2020). She says,

“Young brains are “plastic” and music can stimulate their growth.”

How Music and Worship Contribute To Child Faith Formation

What does neuroplasticity have to do with faith formation?

A whole lot, actually. During the first three to five years of a child’s life, their brains are the most malleable, able to form new neural pathways in response to new experiences (Rundman, 2018). When a child’s experiences include tools like music that already stimulate the brain, the effects are even more powerful.

For example, why does a toddler automatically sway to music or dance to a rhythm? Because early experiences with music, combined with their innate need to respond, form neural connections that influence ongoing behaviors. Faith experiences that include music and worship are more likely to captivate a child’s attention and lead to a deeper connection with God.

A Biblical Example of Worship

If we want to teach kids what it means to worship God, we can introduce them to the one called “a man after God’s own heart,” the musician and writer of songs, David. Many kids know David as the boy who fought the giant and won, and who eventually became the King of Israel. But do they know this mighty man was first and foremost a worshiper? As David grew up and developed the strength, courage, and wisdom it would take to lead God’s people, I imagine he grew through worshiping God—by communing closely with Him through music and dancing and prayer.

Forming a Life-Long Faith

Kids are going to learn to worship something from the influences they encounter. But if we expose them to fun, engaging, life-giving worship experiences early on, we open their hearts to focus on the One who truly deserves their praise. When kids engage with God through worship in the early years, they develop spiritual connections—both mentally and socially—that form their life-long faith.

Citations

Rundman, D. (2018). Little steps, big faith: How the science of early childhood development can help you grow your child’s faith. Beaming Books.

Wolf, D. (2019, December 19). Why Music Matters. Carnegiehall.org.

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