We are sometimes selfish when we think of worshipping corporately. We often judge the sermon, music, prayer, etc. on how it makes us feel. We say things like, “I’m just not getting fed at this church” or “I just can’t worship to that type of music”. Worship slowly becomes more about us and less about the one we are gathering to praise.
Have you ever had a child talk, cry, or cause a commotion in the middle of service? What were your thoughts? Did you gossip about the “disruptive” child after service to others? Did you become angry because of the child’s childish ways? Sometimes we need reminding of what the Sunday morning gathering is. It is not a movie, a play, or a show we come to watch as uninterrupted onlookers. Sunday morning is the gathering of the church family to participate in worship together. Just as children are welcome at the table in our family gatherings so let us welcome them to the gathering of the church family.
There are several opinions regarding elementary school-age children in corporate worship. Many argue that children need teaching on their own level and that parents need un-interrupted worship on Sunday mornings, but I would like for us to reconsider the common decision that places children in a separate children’s church service. We all agree that children’s ministry is an important ministry in the local church (see 3 reasons to serve in Children’s ministry). We agree that children do need specific times of teaching that are specifically designed for them, but they need to be a part of the Sunday morning gathering for several reasons.
Children Need the Whole Body of Christ
Children need the whole body of Christ, and the whole body of Christ needs the children. Having children in the service reminds the whole congregation that it is their responsibility to raise up, disciple, and send out the next generation. Likewise, children need spiritual grandparents, parents, brothers, and sisters in the church family. Many children come from homes without love and without the example of godly adults. The Sunday morning service gives them the opportunity to see Holy Spirit filled people interacting and worshipping together. They need to feel at home in big church now so that they won’t be out of place later. Moreover, there are ways they can even be involved in the worship: praying, reading God’s word, greeting people, and helping with various acts of service. They are an essential part of the body of Christ.
Children Mirror What They See
Anyone who has a child or works with children recognizes that children repeat and mirror what they see. Children need to see their parents and mentors worship. This can have an impact on the child that will last into adolescence and adulthood. By seeing the display of authenticity as they worship alongside their parents, they become curious about the God their parents sing about. What a beautiful thing to be a part of! The Lord has brought them to us and has commanded us to teach them, so they, in turn, can teach his Word to the next generation. May children imitate us as we imitate Christ in our corporate gatherings!
Children Understand More Than We Think
How will children learn the importance of the church fellowship if we don’t allow them to until it’s too late? An average 5-year-old is in school for seven hours a day. In that seven-hour stretch, they have story time, class work, times of teaching, recess, lunch, etc. They are learning obedience, self-control, how to read, how to write, and how to think critically. Their whole world is one of learning, new experiences, and questions getting answered.
If you are a parent you know what it’s like to have your child, ask far too many questions. But, how might this be a good thing in big church? What might they learn during worship, baptism, communion, singing, and the preaching of God’s Word? Not only is this an amazing new experience, but it allows for questions to be asked. What questions might a child ask when they see someone baptized for the first time? What can they learn during the Lord’s Supper? How might the lyrics of the songs serve as a teaching tool for years to come? There may be words or phrases that they do not understand but those misunderstandings will only allow for further teaching opportunities. What an honor and a wonderful privilege to display God’s abounding love and his beautiful message to children.
One of the practices we developed early in our church plant was to provide children’s sermon note sheets and colored pencils on Sunday mornings. These interactive sheets help kids to listen and to respond to what they are hearing. We found that children were listening and grasping far more than we could have expected. Here are a couple examples.
Grace & Peace,
St. Rose Community Church