For many children, Sabbath is a day of don’ts: don’t ride your bicycle, don’t watch TV, don’t go swimming, etc. These rules are often misinterpreted as “don’t have fun.” And for so many children, that sounds like a really boring Sabbath!
We should know better. Do we really think God intends for His special day to be boring?
In Isaiah 58:13 the Sabbath is called “a delight.” Is the Sabbath really a delight for you and your children? It may be that keeping the Sabbath holy means simply going to church faithfully and abstaining from work and personal pleasures. But what about looking at the Sabbath day as a day to delight in the Lord?
Jesus said: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). The Sabbath is God’s gift to us, giving us rest from our rigorous labor, and the opportunity to renew our physical, emotional, and spiritual health. God gave us this day, not for our own amusement, but rather as a day to enjoy His creation as we rest from our daily duties, not just to sleep in or be dog-tired.
We can involve all the members of our families in celebrating God’s special Sabbath by helping our children to view this sacred day as a real delight. Let’s make it fun and memorable, a day our children look forward to. Ellen White reminds us, “The Sabbath—oh!—make it the sweetest, the most blessed day of the whole week.”1 “Parents, above everything take care of your children upon the Sabbath.”2
Here are some ways to do exactly that.
Each family can have fun welcoming the Sabbath on Friday evening. Have the children make a special banner that says “Our Special Day With God” and hang it up. Use a special Sabbath tablecloth and light a family candle to create a cozy atmosphere. Join hands in singing and welcoming the holy Sabbath. Cook a traditional meal that is served only for welcoming the Sabbath. Children can choose to sing a particular song for the occasion as well. In my family our Sabbath song was “Day Is Dying in the West.”
Get children involved in Bible games, quizzes, and puzzles to learn more about God. Use table games, such as Bible Trivia, Bible Monopoly, and others. But it’s even better if your children and teens create their own games. Play together with them, and you’ll be amazed how adults and children can turn the day into a delight.
“The heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps. 19:1). Children can learn a lot from nature. Knowing God through nature is fun, satisfying, and exciting. Go on Sabbath hikes and walks to experiencethe colors and variety of shapes and sizes of trees and flower. Listento the music of the wind in the rustle of leaves, and the songs of birds. Smell the odor of pine, the smell of new-cut grass, the fragrance of roses and jasmine. Feel the texture of tree bark, the softness of leaves on plants moist with dew. At the end, see how many types of flowers, plants, and birds they have identified, smelled, touched, or heard. Look in the Bible to find these nature nuggets.
You can also organize more active activities, such as a Bible treasure hunt, or have the children build dioramas of Bible stories using materials they find in the woods. Kids love adventure and lots of movement.
Children love to serve and help others. Involve them in visiting those who are elderly, singing songs to cheer them up. They can gift-wrap toys and other items to give to children in need. Make and decorate cards to send to children whose parents are in prison. Use the resources available to you to help your children connect with real service opportunities.
Sabbath is the best time to dig into the Scriptures. Get children to underline key texts in the Bible. Then make a printable page where they can answer questions such as who, what, when, where, and why on the key texts they are studying. Discuss how they can apply that to their lives. Older children can learn to write their thoughts and feelings in journals. Journaling is a great way to meditate on God’s Word and express our thoughts.
There’s really no secret to making Sabbath a delight. But it does require intentionality. Ellen White strongly urges us, “Parents, make the Sabbath a delight, that your children may look forward to it and have a welcome in their hearts for it.”3 We can train our children to not merely endurethe Sabbath, but to really enjoy it!
Linda Mei Lin Koh is director of Children’s Ministries for the General Conference.