Children in Worship–Let’s Bring it Back
I remember sitting as a small child in church sucking on wintergreen mints and drawing battle scenes on the offering envelopes (my mother would always give me a tap of correction when the explosions were a little too loud with my scribbling pencil). And though I might have been preoccupied with my wintergreen mints and airplanes dropping bombs on tanks, I was picking things up. Was it easy for my single mother to corral a feisty little boy and his sister in the pew? No, it is a testimony to her patience and grace! But it was good for my soul.
As the church, let’s be open to the idea of inviting our children into worship again. Let’s be patient, deliberate, and wise, but let’s encourage families to have their children in worship as soon as they are able. Not all families or children will be ready to do this as each family functions under different circumstances. So having said this, let’s not go overboard. I think every church should have a well-equipped nursery at least for children under the age of five years old and even beyond if they deem it appropriate. In addition, we must be sensitive to visiting families and those that just aren’t convinced that children belong in corporate worship. So we must be patient and understanding, but it is something we should be aimed at before our children are driving cars! Even if our children cannot understand all that is happening, struggle to sit still, and even are bored at times during the service they are still benefiting from being in the midst of this divine meeting between God and His people (Mark 10:13-16). And at the very least they will come to appreciate the power of wintergreen mints.
Today, I want to offer a few reasons on why we should encourage the children of the church to attend our corporate worship services. Tomorrow, I will pass along some helpful hints for parenting in the pew.
Why should children attend the worship service?
- Our children are members of the covenant community (the church): Corporate Worship on Sunday morning is the primary activity the covenant community engages in together (Acts 2:42; Ephesians 10:24-25). Therefore, our children as members of this community should be included in this crucial aspect of covenantal life.
- Our children will be present in the midst of the means of grace: Our children benefit by being where the Word is preached (Romans 10:14), the sacraments are administered (Matthew 28:19-20), and corporate prayer is practiced (Acts 2:42-47). These are the chief means by which God pours out grace upon His people. Why knowingly rob our children of this blessing?!
- Our children will be present in the midst of the entire congregation: Our children benefit greatly by being in the presence of Christians of various ages. They are able to see that the faith of their parents is not a faith that they own alone, but is a faith that is important to all of these people who are gathered around them on Sunday morning. This only reinforces what Mom and Dad are modeling and teaching when they see this incredible gathering of people reading the Word together, praying together, confessing together, and singing together (Deuteronomy 31:9-13). They need to see the body in action.
- Our children will be present with their parents: Worshipping together as a family helps to counter the current trend in our society of fragmenting our families. If our children join us in worship from four years of age until they are eighteen they will worship with their parents in 780 Sunday morning worship services! Think about the cumulative effect of a family worshipping together, in the midst of the means of grace, meeting with God for 780 Sundays in a row.
- Our children will witness their parents worshipping: It is the Biblical role of parents to disciple their children in the faith (Deut. 6; Psalm 78; Eph. 6). What a benefit there is when children witnesses their mother or father singing with conviction, praying in reverence, listening intently to the sermon, or receiving the Lord’s Supper in joy. In these moments a child witnesses the importance of faith and worship. There are few greater encouragements to a child’s faith then seeing their parents worship God with reverence and joy. (Exodus 12:1-28; Deut. 4:9-11; Deut. 6; Psalm 78; Ezra 10:1; Nehemiah 12:43; Joel 2:12-17; Acts 16:33).
- Our children will learn the rhythms of church life: Teenagers in our culture often balk at attending corporate worship. But how many of our teenagers have we setup for this reaction, because we did not consistently include them in worship until they were a teenager? If attending church for years has always meant coloring Bible pictures, singing songs to a cd, playing games, and doing crafts—then we should not be surprised that our young people find worship to be odd, uncomfortable, and even boring. I love good children’s songs—they ring through my house. I love good children’s Christian crafts—they decorate my study. But if this alone is the rhythm of church life we have set up for our children week in and week out, we have done them a great disservice. They must see, know, and learn that the singing of the great hymns of the faith, the preaching of the Word, reading of confessions, corporate prayers, etc. is anything but boring. It is the gathered life of the community of faith. It is our weekly rhythm—appointed by God, designed by Him, established for the ages—this is what we want them to know, because we want them to know and worship Him.