Children & Worship

Children & Worship

It is likely that you will hear on any given Sunday at our church, “We love the sound of children in worship.”

 This isn’t just some platitude that is espoused to help parents not feel guilty if their little ones are being a little rambunctious, rowdy, or any other behavior that is typical of children.

It’s also not simply stated as a reminder to others in the congregation to be patient and understanding as the family behind them struggles with keeping their infant quiet or their toddler from kicking their seat.

While it might serve as a reminder in both of those situations, we say it because we mean it. We love hearing the sound of children in worship. We love it for several reasons. It means that there are families in attendance. It means that there are families in attendance who understand the importance of worship. It means there is growth. Children in a congregation are signs of organic growth within a church.

So, if you’re reading this, and you’re a parent who brings your child to church and encourages them to sit with us as we worship together, let me say thank you! Thank you for taking the time to get your family ready for church on Sunday. There are battles from the time everyone wakes up until you settle into your seat and row (and sometimes even after that). It may not seem like it’s worth it. It may be tempting to stay home, to just watch the livestream until the kids learn to behave in public. I want to offer some encouragement, both to the parents of little ones in the service and to the rest of the church who has the blessing of worshiping alongside these families, while also offering up some explanation as to why we do things the way we do at our church.

 An encouragement to parents

It is a noble and godly task to train up our children in the Lord. We are commanded throughout Scripture to instruct our children in holiness. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Proverbs 22:6 tells us to “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” The apostle Paul gives this instruction in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

You may be familiar with these verses, and you understand your calling as a parent, but you may be wondering what this has to do with having our children in worship. Can’t they receive all of this instruction at home, or at least in a separate children’s service or Sunday School class? Does the Bible actually teach the expectation that our children are supposed to be with us in corporate worship. In the book of Deuteronomy, the people of Israel are called together for the reading of the Law and we read in chapter 31, “Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law,  and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess” (v. 12-13). When the prophet Joel called the people together for an assembly he said, “Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber.” It was expected that the children be with their families. So let me say again, we love having your children worship with us. We love it because the Lord loves it. In Psalm 148, the praise of the Lord goes up from “Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! Young men and maidens together, old men and children!” (Psalm 148:11-12).

When you bring your children with you to worship, you are honoring the Lord, as well as teaching valuable lessons to your children. Even if it doesn’t seem like they are paying attention, by being in worship they have seen that the gathering of the saints for corporate worship is a valued and expected occurrence. You are also exposing your children to the means of grace which God uses to bring salvation. As one author put it, the more often they are in worship, “the more opportunities they have for their souls to encounter the God of grace.” (Jason Helopoulos, “Let the Children Worship in Church).

Yes, it can be difficult to focus when you’re supposed to be singing, or when someone is praying, or when communion is being served, if you’re having to tend to an unruly child, but that doesn’t mean that you’re missing out on worship. Training up our children is worship. Instructing them on why we sing/pray/take communion is worship. Modeling worship is worship. It is worship because obedience to God is worship. So, take heart, young dad. Be encouraged, weary mom. What you are doing by having your children in worship is a blessing to them, to you, and to those of us observing.

An encouragement to the church

Having children in the worship service is a blessing to the whole church, not only for the same reasons that it can be a blessing to that particular family, but also because the rest of the congregation is learning some valuable lessons. Seeing that young family gives you hope for the future of the church. Every one of us in the church ought to be serving in some capacity, and in whatever role that may be, we should hope that someone will desire to take our place when we’re no longer able. The sounds of children in the church should bring a smile to our face as we hear future Sunday School teachers, worship leaders, elders and pastors.

In his book, Let the Little Children Come, Scott Aniol writes, “Are human beings easily distracted? You bet, especially in an increasingly entertainment-minded, fast-food society. So maybe forcing myself to engage carefully with the sermon while across the aisle a toddler fusses as her mother sorts through her purse looking for the fishy crackers is sanctifying me as well. And maybe my encouraging and reassuring smile to the frantic mother is the body of Christ at work” (p. 49-50).

The church is a family, and as a family we love and support one another. We ought to encourage and praise those families with little ones for their perseverance as they continue to show up for worship and strive to teach and model these principles for their children.

Why we do things the way we do them

It might be tempting to ask, “Why can’t the children have their own time of worship? Wouldn’t they get more out of singing songs at their level?”  It has been the practice of many churches for several years to offer “age appropriate” activities for children, and for the most part the motives have been pure. In fact, I think it’s wonderful for children to have opportunities to sing with their friends, be engaged with bible stories they can understand, and have visuals such as crafts and coloring pages that help reinforce those bible stories.

Does this have to replace the time of corporate worship with the church body? To completely remove our children from the assembly is to deny them the blessings of seeing adults delighted in worship. It also disregards the precedents that have been set throughout Scripture (some of which have been pointed out) of the people God gathering as a family to worship.

It is my desire to see families worshipping together. I want to see father’s teaching their children to sing boisterously praises to our holy God. I want see mothers modeling the posture of prayer for their children, teaching them why bow our heads. I want to see parents taking communion while explaining what the elements mean and the purpose of remembering Christ’s death. And most importantly I desire to see the gospel being heralded to each and every generation. When our children are in worship, they are learning gospel principle from mom and dad.

As a church, we should encourage families to be in worship together and together with the whole congregation. It ought to be our desire that children learn practices at an early age, and form habits that will last into adulthood, of what it means to worship. Let us remember the words of Christ in Matthew 19:14, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Soli Deo Gloria,

Pastor Brian

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