“Why did you sleep in so long?” My angry words flooded the car as we drove to church. “You know I need extra help on Sabbath mornings!” Our three-year-old’s eyes grew big as he listened to my tirade. 

“I’m sorry honey,” my husband sighed. “I’ll try to be up earlier next week and help you more.” He had a right to be tired, and I knew it. He was working almost full-time and going to grad school at night. 

“Thanks,” I mumbled, finally letting myself relax. Why are Sabbath mornings so hard? I wondered. I want this to be the best day of the week for our family, and I always get stressed and ruin it for everyone. God, please show me how to make Sabbath a good day for our family!

God led me to pray about our Sabbaths a lot over the coming months. As I prayed, He changed my heart and showed us ways to make Sabbaths a blessing. We still don’t always get it right, but today Sabbath is our three children’s favorite day of the week. 

Practical Tips for Enjoying Sabbath as a Family

  1. Lead by Example: Our children will never see Sabbath as a joy if we don’t. A sunrise walk and quality time with Jesus make sure my heart and mind are refreshed in God so I can enjoy the Sabbath.
  2.  Prepare for the Sabbath: I try to plan for the Sabbath early in the week so I’m not scrambling on Friday afternoon. I don’t always succeed. When possible, I make food ahead of time and plan Sabbath activities. Most importantly, we pray for wisdom to make it the best day of the week. 
  3. Cherish the Time Together: The Sabbath is a perfect time to invest in our children. “God’s love has set a limit to the demands of toil. Over the Sabbath He places His merciful hand. In His own day He preserves for the family opportunity for communion with Him, with nature, and with one another.” Ellen White, Child Guidance, p. 536
  4. Make it Special: When our kids were small, we had a box of toys that only came out on Sabbath. These toys invited Biblical play and helped them to look forward to the Sabbath. These days, we make the day special with Sabbath traditions and quality time together. 
  5. Get Outside: Sabbath afternoons outdoors provide so many opportunities to learn about God in His second book. Our family enjoys Sabbath walks, canoeing, biking, and nature observation. No matter how your family chooses to get outside, remember these are times to seek God together, not compete or conquer. Ask God to guide your adventures with your children in nature. There are rich blessings here!
  6. Serve Others: About once a month we spend a Sabbath bringing joy to others. Sometimes we invite someone to our home for lunch. Other times we serve our church family or someone in the community together.
  7. Invest in Your Children’s Spiritual Growth: Most importantly, attend church together and help make it a place your children love to be. Other things we enjoy are mission stories, Bible charades, Bible board games, story-telling with felts, and faith-building audio stories (Your Story Hour, Bible in Living Sound, and Discovery Mountain are great options). 

Saying No

Sometimes we have to stop our children from doing certain things on the Sabbath. We’ve found it helps to explain the “why”. When our children see that the Sabbath is a gift from God because He loves them, they are more willing to keep it sacred. Rather than telling our kids “no” on the Sabbath, we aim to fill it with activities that honor God and allow us to be together as a family. “Do not be overcome with evil but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

A Delightful Sabbath

Differences of opinion on how to keep the Sabbath have sometimes caused tension among our extended family. So last Christmas I rose early Sabbath morning and spent time seeking God’s blessing on our day with family. God answered! It was one of the best Sabbaths we’ve had with our extended family. We enjoyed a multi-generational church service complete with a kid-friendly Bible study, fun conversation around mealtimes, and walks in the countryside around my grandmothers’ home. Not once was there a conflict. God truly answered prayer!

I know He’ll do the same for you and your family if you ask Him to bless and guide your Sabbaths.