Note: This lesson is a part of a larger series being held by my congregation called Worship 24 x 7. I was privileged to be able to deliver this portion of the series, and I hope to have the opportunity to deliver another message about our online conduct soon. They’re not up yet, but you’ll soon be able to see others’ lessons in the series over on our congregational blog.
We’ve been studying about worship the last few weeks at our congregation, and we’ve emphasized time and again that worship is more than what we do when we gather together with our congregation. It’s more than singing songs, mouthing prayers, listening to lessons, and partaking of the Lord’s Supper – even when we do these things in complete truth and with a sincere heart. Worshipping God is something we do in how we conduct ourselves everywhere. Hebrews 13:15-16 and Romans 12:1-2 both call on us to be living sacrifices, reflecting God in our lives. In this lesson, we’re going to look at the school community and how we worship God in our conduct both as students and as parents.
The Power of Example
The most powerful tool of worship we have as students is that of our example. We’re familiar with I Timothy 4:12 that tells us to be an example in speech, in love, in conduct, in faith, and in purity. We also know Ecclesiastes 12:1, reminding us to serve our Creator in the days of our youth. What do others see in you at school? What kind of example are you setting in front of your peers, your teachers, the custodians, instructional assistants, and anyone else with whom you interact? Does your speech, your attitude, your online conduct, your choices, your work ethic cause them to despise or respect your youth?
I Thessalonians 4:1-2 is an admonition that we know how we should be living. The fact is we just have to do it, and this includes at school. Unfortunately, parents, this applies to us too. We adults have to ask ourselves what our child’s peers see in us. Do they see parents who conduct themselves in a Christlike way? Do they see a family that puts spiritual matters before physical? Would they guess your spiritual affiliation by the conduct they see when you are at a school game, picking up or dropping off your child, when they visit your home? What do the teachers of that school see in you? The example you set will greatly inform the example your child is able to set themselves.
The Power of Choice
Right up there with the power of our example is the power of the choices we make as students and parents. My wife, when she was young, had a sign posted to her bedroom door that read, “I am the most powerful person in my life.” It served as reminder to her that she had the final say in what she let herself get drawn into. It reminded her that no friend – casual or romantic – could control her. It reminded her that no one makes her do anything, nor could any troubling external factor take control of her life.
As students, we choose who we hang out with, and I Corinthians 15:33 simply states that bad companions will drag us down. Yes, we might believe we can change someone, that we can be the example they need, but we also have to realize when the burden is becoming too heavy to bear. II Corinthians 6:14 warns against being unequally yoked with unbelievers. If our companions are dragging us away from Christ, despite our best efforts, maybe it’s time to choose different friends. Still, We can’t always choose who we’re going to be around because our classes are set by others. The teams, clubs, and arts we choose will dictate who we are around a great deal of time, but that again comes down to choice.
Coming back to parents, we need to be involved enough with our kids’ lives that we can see when something is bringing them down or influencing them in a bad way. We need to have such a relationship with our children that we can talk about such things with them and be able to offer advice and guidance. At times, we have to be able to nudge them to reach the right conclusions themselves, and we need the wisdom to know when our kids need to handle something themselves before we exert our influence. We would all do well to remember I Corinthians 10:12-13 that assures us we can overcome any struggle or temptation or discouragement laid before us. It comes down to the choices we make.
Worship in Practical Conduct
- What is your work ethic at school? How do you act when in a class you don’t want to take? Do you, as Paul instructs Ephesians 6:5-7, work as if you are serving God?
- How do you treat those you don’t like? How do you treat teachers you don’t like? Do you participate in making fun of others when your friends get going?
- How do you respond to those who are mean to you, teacher or student? Matthew 5:38-48 teaches we should never return evil for evil.
- What activities and social events are you participating in? Parties where you know there will be drinking? Dances where you know you’ll feel pressured to conduct yourself in an improper way? Clubs that will perpetually take away time you should be devoting to God?
I’m not saying here that you can only have friends who are Christians. I’m not saying you are eternally lost for attending prom. I’m not saying you can’t be in band, orchestra, on the football team, in theater. What I’m saying is this, though: be careful that your choices do not make your spiritual walk unnecessarily difficult, and always remember that God comes first in your extracurriculars. There is always a way to do the right thing.
- How do we conduct ourselves around our kids’ teachers? Do they see us arguing with or undermining those teachers? How do you think that will affect their effort and behavior in class?
- Do our kids hear us badmouthing their school and their teachers at home? Again, how will this affect their attitude at school if they see a bad attitude from us?
- Do we accidentally send messages to our children that we don’t value an education by letting them miss school for reasons of convenience – maybe for vacations or other things we don’t want to schedule for personal time? If your kids see you don’t value their education, how much will they value it?
- On the other hand, do we send a message that we don’t value God because we let every practice, concert, school event, program, or big assignment take priority over worshipping God and studying from His word with our brothers and sisters?
- Are we familiar with the friends our children choose and the activities in which they participate? Do we take the time to discuss the challenges they face?
I think the biggest challenges we face as parents are those raised by our inherent protectiveness. I’ve had parents call me up, call me names, use foul language, and then end the conversation with, “Have a blessed day.” We also have to realize that we are only ever getting one side of those stories that trigger our protective instincts, and, whether they intend to do so or not, our children’s versions of events are biased for themselves. We have to be calm and Christlike in the face of school challenges, and we have to show we value their education as much as we want them to value it.
By the time you graduate from your senior year in high school, you will have spent at least 15,120 hours at school – that is, if you don’t start until first grade and never participate in any extracurricular events ever and your school day is only seven hours. We will come in contact with hundreds, if not thousands, of individual souls during that timespan, and every one of those souls we have a chance to bring closer to Christ. If we choose to walk in Christ’s footsteps, even if we would rather do things that would take us away from Him, and even when we are around people we don’t like, then we can worship God through our conduct in our school communities.