Children and the Power of Ritual

Tim Briggs Devotional

“Our hearts are oriented primarily by desire, by what we love, and because those desires are shaped and molded by the habit-forming practices in which we participate, it is the rituals and practices…that shape our imaginations and how we orient ourselves to the world.”

Months after I read it, I continue to find myself still thinking about this quote from James K.A. Smith’s book, Desiring the Kingdom. In this book, Smith argues that human beings are not primarily thinkers but lovers. As he says, “to be human is to love, and it is what we love that defines who we are.” In other words, we love and worship in order to believe.

I’m still wrestling with the interplay of beliefs and desires and their role in how we are spiritually formed but what this book has done—at the very least—is elevate the role of desire and the importance of rituals.

“Rituals” or “liturgies” often bring to mind stiff, rigid, and religious connotations for some people and remind them of baggage from their past. Beyond the negative associations though, there is a real power to the ideas behind the terms. Over the past few years, I’ve had a growing appreciation for corporate worship. Early in my Christian walk, I didn’t particularly enjoy repetition, meditation, readings, etc. Now though, I see the importance behind them. I need to be reminded of the gospel. A worship service is a chance to rehearse the gospel not only to myself but also to proclaim it to my spiritual family through song, readings, meditation, confession, etc. These rituals not only mold me into the image of Christ but also prepare me to go and live a life of mission.

With this in mind, I often ask myself how I can harness the power of rituals in the formation of my children? How can rituals help to shape their imaginations?

We are still wrestling with those questions in our family. I’m thankful for my wife who has scoured the Internet and networked with other moms to find helpful ideas and activities. The quest continues, though, for our family.

I desperately long—by the work of the Spirit—to engage in rhythms in my life that point me to Christ. And I desperately long to help shape the imaginations and desires of my children as well. Rituals and routines are an important part of the journey.

Church at Charlotte has created a Family Summer Activity Guide to help parents utilize the power of rituals and activities. You can download it here.