The other morning I had an interesting conversation with my girls at the breakfast table. Emily was talking about a friend of hers that could speak Spanish but could not read it. This was very perplexing to the two younger girls until I pointed out that every baby in the world learns to speak a language well before they could read it.
The light dawned :-)
In the last couple of days I have read two excellent articles about children being in the Sunday morning worship service. My pastor, also my husband, wrote this one. I thought of the above conversation when I read this paragraph:
Yet another reason we find it easier to cast our children off during the worship service is connected to the other two: It is assumed that the kids won’t understand what’s going on. The message is boring to them because it is over their head, so they fidget. (Easy to see how children’s church is natural solution to all of this.) I answer this by saying, yes, there is probably a lot that goes right by our children in the worship service – just like there is a lot that goes over the heads of some adults. But they’re getting a lot more than most of us might think. In a liturgical service (as ours is) the children are learning the rhythm and patterns of worship. They are learning the prayers of the church. They are learning the songs of the church. They are learning at the youngest age to participate in the most important part of the life of the church – her worship of the Triune God.
We do not refrain from speaking to our infants because they cannot understand what we are saying. Indeed we talk to them so that they can learn the language. I would argue that we can view children being a part of our worship service in much the same way for the reasons that are quoted above.
I also read this article by Pastor Toby Sumpter, and found this to be quite encouraging for parents of young ones. He concludes:
All I mean is that God designed worship to include other people and especially other little people, children. Real worship includes those people next to us, in the row behind us, and in front of us. It’s certainly true that without discipline or teaching, they can become distractions, but the fact that they are there, needing attention, smiling, waving, drawing pictures, and doing their own best to worship is glorious and nothing to be regretted or despised. And you, parents, if you are holding their hands and lifting your hearts to the Lord, then your worship is accepted. You are received, loved, rejoiced over by your Father in Heaven. You are worshipping, really worshipping.
I encourage you to read both articles...neither is very long and the quotes do not do them full justice. I've been thinking through writing this particular post for a few weeks now and after reading those two blogs I figured it was time. Because it all sounds good but how do you do it?
If you ask ten parents how they train their children to be in the worship service with them you will probably get about twelve different answers. Next week I'll post some practical ideas that may be of help as you work to train your children to be in worship with you but there are a couple more things we should address before starting the how-tos.
As I prepared this post I asked a couple of mother's with young ones to read over it and share some feedback. One of them mentioned that the training takes place in the worship service. You can plan, talk, and prepare as best you are able for the Sunday service but the real work of it happens in the pew. Not that there aren't things you can do at home that will help the process but the rubber meets the road in the worship service...all the practice and planning comes to fruition right there in front of God and everybody. Literally. It's easy to be embarrassed because your child is the one squawking or squirming. My son is the one that loudly answered his father's rhetorical question during a sermon one day. I know about the embarrassment. But here's the thing. There is no room for pride as we bring our children before the LORD. This is what living in community looks like. This is when we must remember that we don't just want well behaved children who will not embarrass us in public. We want strong straight arrows that will be launched into the world to proclaim the Gospel of Christ. The shaping and forming of those arrows happens here in the worship service and any looks you may receive in the process are filled with understanding because we've all been there. And more than likely we will be again. And, according to my friend, there might also be a little relief that this week it is someone else's child.
Something amazing happens when a family learns to worship together. I am a better parent because I kneel beside my children on equal footing as their sister in Christ confessing our sins each week. Our bond is strengthened by our bold joint declaration of what we believe each week as we recite the Apostle's Creed. Each song that we sing, every prayer that we utter draws us closer to each other as we come before Him.
Recent studies are showing that kids are hitting their adult years and the exit of the church at the same time. Many of them have been raised in the church but they are walking away. I wonder if it's partly because many churches disconnect the family from the worship? Maybe they wouldn't find it so easy to walk away if it were more connected to their family...to who they are and not just something that they do once a week.