When I was preaching through Ephesians 5:22-6:4 on the family a few months ago, something really jumped out at me when I got to 6:1. I noticed that Paul addressed children specifically and directly in this section. Since these letters were originally intended to be read to the whole church gathered together for worship on a Sunday morning, he obviously expected the children to be sitting there with their parents as it is being read. He doesn’t say, “Parents, be sure to tell your children when you see them later that they are to obey you in the Lord.” No, he points the finger right at the children. He is hoping that their ears will perk up as they are listening to the letter being read. That they would have been listening to all of the letter up to this point. They would have been in the assembly with their families.
Today in several churches many people are quick to desire to drop their children off in some room and then come to worship without having to worry with them. They want the children to be “out of sight” and “out of mind” in the worship service. That’s sad really. We shouldn’t want to deprive children of the blessing of being a part of the worship service where they are exposed to the rich truths of the hymns that we sing. Where they can witness the adults worshiping. Where they can hear what God is saying to them from His Word during the sermon.
Now don’t get me wrong. The nursery and Jr. Church are good things and both have a place. For the littlest ones among us, sometimes they get fussy and need to be carried out into the nursery. That’s part of what it is there for. But the reason why we decided at Mt. Joy to only have Jr. Church twice a month is so that the children can benefit from being a part of the full worship service. I absolutely love what Al Mohler has said about the importance of having children in the worship service. “We should, in church, welcome the wiggling and the squirming. And we should hope that what is happening is that the Word of God is reaching those hearts in ways those children do not even recognize. They are speaking as children. They are thinking as children. They are reasoning as children. But the Word of God can reach where we cannot go.”
Yes, I know that when they are really little, they are not going to be able to understand it all. But that is not a reason to not bring them to be a part of the worship service. An infant doesn’t make sense of everything you say to them either. But you still speak real words to them because you know that they will grow to understand what you are saying. If God be merciful, they will grow eventually to not only understand the gospel truths that we sing and that are being proclaimed from the pulpit each week but to treasure them as well. And parents, if you are doing your job at home to teach them the Word and to model for your children what it looks like to follow Jesus, what they come to experience at worship on a Sunday morning will only reinforce that.
One thing I have learned and am still learning is not to underestimate children. Many of you can attest to the fact that they can often appear as if they are not paying attention at all, their mind is elsewhere, maybe drawing a picture or looking at a book or something. But then later that day, they ask you a question about something that was said or they repeat words from the preacher. The Word very well may be getting to them. We should be happy to have those sitting among us whose feet do not touch the floor and pray that the Spirit impacts them through the Word of God which they may not be aware of until much later.
One thing parents can do today to encourage their kids in worship is to communicate to them in both words and actions how important such a time is. If you tell your kids that they will not understand the preacher and that the worship service will be boring for them, it will turn out to be a self-defeating prophecy. They will more likely not come to see this time as special and significant for them. If all a child ever hears is that Chuck-E-Cheeses is the last place you would want to be and is no fun whatsoever, they are not going to want to go to Chuck-E-Cheeses. Likewise, if you tell them something similar about the worship service, don’t be surprised when they don’t want to go. (Of course, there will not be a natural desire for them to hear God’s Word and be a part of the service as that results from the new birth. You can’t change their heart but you can instill in them the significance of corporate worship.) Do they see an excitement and enjoyment in you to be with God’s people and to worship Him through the singing of songs, prayers, and attentiveness to the Word? Never forget moms and dads that your children are always watching. And they can tell whether you are being genuine or not. Let’s be sure not to neglect having them in worship each Sunday morning to help develop in them an understanding of the gospel and the transformative power of the Lord Jesus Christ in hopes that the Spirit might use that, along with your faithful instruction at home, to bring them to faith in Him.
Love in Christ,