Thursday, March 15, 2012

Kids in Corporate Worship

Parenting is hard work. 
If you're already a parent, you're probably thinking No kidding.

My concern is that we often hand off that hard work to other people - i.e. grandparents, teachers, the church.  When we do, we miss opportunities to share God's Word with our children ourselves, one of the greatest joys to be had in parenting. 

As far as it goes with church, I'm not saying that children don't benefit greatly from having other adults serve as their teachers during Sunday School, missions education programs, or Vacation Bible School.  My focus is on the Sunday morning corporate worship hour.  Here are my arguments for children worshiping with the rest of the church body and not off in "children's church" or something similar.  And before you read them, it might be helpful to know I'm talking about children three years of age and older.

Children need to hear their pastor's preaching.  Most of my life, I've been part of churches which are small enough they've only supported one full time staff, the pastor, but I've also been a member of the largest Southern Baptist Church in the state of Kentucky with a very large staff, and also part of a church plant that met in a trailer, and it eventually supported a bi-vocational pastor.  In every circumstance, I believe children need to hear their senior pastor preach.

The senior pastor's preaching is the uniting, teaching voice to the church.  Lead by the Holy Spirit, the pastor studies and prepares to deliver sermons each week that will be edifying to the church body.  The senior pastor is the shepherd of the local church body.  He knows the needs of his congregation.  He knows in which direction the church needs to be lead.  Every member and future member of the church should be familiar with what the pastor teaches.  A child can't truly say "this is what our church believes" if he's never heard his pastor preach.

The pastor also can't be more than a preacher if he doesn't regularly see his church body, even the littles.  Most pastors stand at the door to greet the congregation at the end of each service and often at the beginning.  Even the big 'ol church I was part of, the senior pastor did this.  This is a time for handshakes and hugs, words of love.  Kids need to be a part of this.

It encourages intergenerational bonding within the body of Christ.  If our children don't get to know the adults of the church, how then are they to find Titus 2 men and women?  On the other hand, most older adults are encouraged by seeing the coming generations learning to love God. 

At this point, if you haven't already, you may be thinking about some snooty adults that don't want to be bothered by children in the worship service.  They may say they're distracted.  Your pastor may address this, but we do know that not everyone who attends church is saved.  And even among Christians, we are all growing at different paces and to different levels in our Christian faith.  Distraction can be a real issue when parents don't make attempts at dealing with minor behavior issues before they become big ones, but most of the time, distraction is a heart issue for the one being distracted.

It is a form of discipline for the parent.  Yes, I mean that as a positive argument.  Kids might make it hard to focus on the sermon for a season.  They may test your patience.  You may have to learn to say what you mean and mean what you say.  Are you one that makes threats?  It won't work without follow-through.  Parents will undoubtedly have to take their children out of the service, lovingly correct them, and return to worship.  Sometimes more than once.  Bathroom breaks may occur.  I am convinced all of the momentary issues parents have to work through makes them better parents and better children of God.  "No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it." - Hebrews 12:11

Sitting in worship is a spiritual discipline children should acquire earlier rather than later in life.  Spiritual disciplines aren't easy.  Fasted lately, anyone?  Teaching a child how to participate in corporate worship may not be pretty at first, but notice that last scripture applies here too.  The first several times a child is in worship, it may not be enjoyable.  Give it some time, and it may not only be enjoyable for you, the parent, but also for the child and those other church members surrounding him. 

How pleasant it is to hear my three, five, and six year-olds sing along with the Chris Tomlin and Laura Story songs our choir sings, the Doxology we sing each week, and other hymns.  My three-year-old walks around the house singing, "He will save you, He will save you, He will save you now."  How awesome it is for my children to participate through passing the offering plate!  How satisfying it is to help my daughter's find the scripture for the sermon, and guide my five-year-old's finger along as she learns to read God's word!  This is the fruit of peace.

What do we get when children are delayed in coming to corporate worship?  Tweens that haven't learned to potty before church (yes, I know there are emergencies even for adults), teenagers that haven't learned the sanctuary is a place consecrated for the purpose of worshipping God and need to learn to care for it, and young adults that still desire to be entertained rather than know how to be still before the Lord.

Still, you may be wondering, how do I do it?  How can I possibly take my children into worship?  In the next few days, I'll share the tips that have made it possible for me to sit alone in worship with three of my four children so far.


Jennie said...

Lauren, I wholeheartedly agree with the concept of children in worship, especially age 3 and above. You make good points about interacting with the church membership and building relationships with those Titus 2 men and women who have so much wisdom and love to share. I feel my own children benefitted greatly from early training in how to conduct themselves in worship.
Good job - parents, please be encouraged to take on this hard work. The benefits are out of this world!

Leah F said...

Thanks for a great post, Lauren! I am in complete agreement. G started sitting with us just after her 3rd birthday. B isn't in with us yet, but we are training him at home some to prepare for that in the next couple of months. I love your reasons for worshipping together as a family. Thanks for sharing your heart.