I believe that years of segregating children from worship in the greater worshiping community has failed. I think it’s time we were more passionate about having children in church.
[This is in no way directed to parents with special needs or children with focus issues. This is meant to exhort parents of neurotypical children to do the hard work while they are young! No judgement intended.][Ideally, children can go to worship with their family plus a non-entertainment Bible class that is age appropriate.]
- Children need to feel like they are a part of the church community
- Children who don’t feel like a part of the church community will leave church when they’re older
- Children should not be removed from the main body for convenience sake
- Children are a part of the Body of Christ
- Children need godly examples of how to worship
Experiencing Worship is Much Greater Than a Sermon
Child or adult, young or older, the sermon is only one small part of the greater experience. Singing the songs. Praying corporately as a whole church. Hearing the words of God read and watching other’s interest in them. Serving. Giving of our tithes and offerings. Celebrating. Fellowshiping. Communing with God and with each other. Not understanding the sermon in no way negates the rest of the experience.
One mom shared with me that the reason her kids don’t often go to kids’ church is because more often she wants to them to experience the corporate worship time, to be a part of the worship music/hymns that replicates the services that she grew up in and that have been part of their family’s heritage.
For this mom, it’s not about her children understanding each word of the sermon. It about the total package; the experience of being in church, surrounded by the things that have been formational for generations and by the people who make up the body of Christ. (source)
It would be naive to think that this is a simple or easy task.
Kids are… well, kids, sometimes noisy or distracting. Parents should be prepared for the occasional acting out and their not tracking with the follow-up after the service to reinforce what was taught. And parents are often tired.
But I firmly believe these frustrations of the moment are far less painful than the alternative – a generation who is unknown, disengaged, and separated from the larger body of Christ.
The art of listening to a sermon is not something easily obtained because of our social media-driven culture. There’s virtually nowhere else kids will learn this skill. Someone introduced to a worship service as a teen will have a much more difficult time learning how to listen to sermons than one who’s been raised to slowly appreciate the intricacies of this unique (and biblical) form of communication. Sitting in the worship service teaches them how to worship by listening to God’s Word—an invaluable skill for any Christian. (source)
And much of what is included in that package is not comprehended through the mind, but through the heart. A sense of belonging, a place in community, being an important part of a body. All of that can be experienced, regardless of age.
If you love good satire, you will appreciate this, and it will drive the point home! 5 minutes.
If we believe that the message of the gospel and of Jesus Christ is worthwhile, then rejuvenating the life of the younger Christian community is highly important.
The Greatest Stumbling Block In Worship
These arguments for bringing children to worship, of course, will only carry weight with parents who really love to meet God in worship and really want their kids to get that and grow up breathing that air.
John Piper states, “The greatest stumbling block for children in worship is parents who don’t cherish doing that time of worship. They don’t love it. Children can feel the difference between duty and delight.”
“What would be the impact if, for twelve years, the children saw dad praying during the prelude to worship? Or if they saw mom beaming with joy in singing the praises of God? Just think of it. Millions and millions of children never see their parents sing, let alone sing songs with joy to a great God.”
Why wouldn’t parents be jealous to model for their children the tremendous value that they experience joyful fellowship in the presence of almighty God?
Even amid doodling, truth can be absorbed. And true even if they say they are bored.
At the core of Jesus’s Great Commission to his disciples (Matt. 28:18–20) is the call to make disciples of all nations. The “all” includes the very people within our own families, and the commission is not restricted to age. And making disciples is never an abbreviated event.
Even if our kids don’t understand everything at first in the readings, singing, and preaching – make no mistake about it, they won’t – they will at least understand the people who love them and stand beside them.
Living life this close gives us a prime opportunity to incorporate in our conversation what they don’t grasp. Children hear and process way more than we could ever realize. I was surprised at what our 4-year-olds asked when we’d assumed they were off somewhere else!
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matt 11:28-30