Let the Children Come to Me
A few weeks ago I noted that in Ephesians 6:1 the apostle Paul directly addresses children. As the custom was to read the entire letter in one sitting in a gathered assembly of the church, it is evident that he expected them to be with their families in the context of corporate worship. The Old Testament teaches that children are a blessing from the Lord and thus it should come as no surprise that families were together. Lifetime habits and attitudes are often shaped early in life.
It is important at this point to be mindful of the interpretive principle that “description” is not the same as “prescription.” There is no commandment to always have children and their families united in all gatherings and activities of the local church. Nevertheless, in our highly segregated social context we do well to encourage Christian families to begin training their children to understand the concept of corporate worship by having them sit with them in the worship service.
I listed several benefits derived from this:
- Children pick-up more than you think.
- Children benefit from observing their parents worship.
- Children benefit from seeing believers other than their parents worship.
- Children can benefit spiritually by sitting under the preaching of the gospel.
- Children will gradually learn to sit still and listen and this is better than a sudden culture shock if parents wait too long before bringing them in.
I understand different families are at different stages of spiritual and social development and face some unique challenges. Single moms that just came to the faith have different needs than 2nd generation home-schooling Christian families. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. This is why we maintain childcare and children’s education classes during both worship services. We want to provide opportunities that will be supportive of the most situations possible.
That said, I want to mention a few more practical hints for families and provide a resource.
- Consider introducing involvement a little at a time. You don’t need to do it all at once. When children are too young to understand the things being spoken have them sit with you up to the preaching section of the service then take them to class. Begin by bringing them with you into the service once, then twice a month and so forth. We encourage parents with children younger than 4 years old to utilize the nursery and only bring the children in on occasion for a portion of the service.
- Sit where you can easily exit with a minimum distraction to others. I did mention this but it’s worth repeating. Parents whose little ones become distracting should sit near the exit doors not near the front row. This will help minimize distractions. If you need to exit make use of the video screens in the foyer and do not return with the child until the behavior can be corrected.
- Utilize the children’s outline. We provide outlines for older children to follow or have crossword puzzles related to the topic. Bring crayons for younger children to color on the backside of the outline. Ask them to draw something related to the topic. What’s the topic? You can easily identify it with the adult outline. Ask them to listen for key words.
- Talk about the service afterwards. Young children find it difficult to make abstract connections between sermon topics and everyday life. What’s the point? Why do we go there? What were people talking about? Discuss simple concepts afterwards.
- Learn the worship songs at home. The sermon is going to be new but all the music doesn’t need to be. Families can help ease the transition into the new experience of the worship service by not making everything new! Praising and praying are activities that should take place in both the home and the assembly.
- Use the same bible in the worship service that you do at home. Is Sunday the only time your children see your bible open? Open it at home and read from it many times. Read the text for the Sunday sermon on Saturday night. Maybe its time to give up the convenience of using the bible on your cell phone, which your young children won’t be able to share, and start carrying a printed bible again. Perhaps give them a small children’s bible of their own to bring.
Here is a PDF of our handout Children in the worship Service brochure
Parents are ultimately responsible for the training of their children. Our church ministries are designed to provide support for parents and families. Training children involves forethought and effort. If there is any way you could use further help please let us know.
Training children to participate in worship will require sensitivity and patience from all of us. We should seek to respond to occasional disturbances and inconveniences with patience and community love. Our irritation should quickly turn into prayer for the children and their parents who are faithfully raising them to fear the Lord and delight in His adoration.