Call me a rebel or maybe I’m a little crazy, but I love the idea of children being in the adult worship service. Now before you start pelting me with i-bibles, yes, I have been seated with multiple small children through many worship services. And yes, I know it can be distracting for the adults caring for them and the adults around them. In the rush to make sure the adults aren’t distracted though, I think we are depriving our children of something very special.
In the Old Testament, God spends quite a bit of time encouraging the Israelites to make sure their children know the Law and their history as God’s people. When the Law was read to the people, the children were to be present. Parents were to discuss the Laws of God constantly with their children.
Have you ever wondered why God didn’t establish a formal class, whose teacher had the entire responsibility for making sure the children of Israel knew about God? Yes, the schools did teach (mostly the boys) about the Law as part of their education, but God wanted the children to primarily learn it from their parents. Why?
Despite what popular culture would have us believe, children adore their parents. Sure they might never admit it and will often appear to be mortally embarrassed by our very existence. In reality, they are watching us carefully and imitating much of our behavior. They pick up many of our beliefs, preferences and words as well. What better experience than for our children to observe us actively praising and worshipping God in church worship services?
If children are shuttled away until their teen or adult years for all or part of the service, they are missing many of the emotional and spiritual moments in the lives of our church families. They don’t begin picking up on sermon topics and can’t discuss them with their parents later that day. They don’t see people leave their seats to comfort a hurting member or watch as brothers and sisters weep for each other. They don’t see people hold hands and hug in prayer and often miss the outpouring of joy as someone comes to be baptized. They even miss watching how Christians handle conflict and disappointment in a public place. (If you don’t believe me, keep the nursery for a week or two and find out how much you missed by not being in the auditorium. Even if you hear about it later, it lacks the impact of having personally experienced it.)
The argument our children get nothing from the service and take away something from the adults trying to worship is only valid because I don’t think we help prepare our parents or our children to worship together as a family. We just throw them all in the auditorium with no help other than an occasional coloring sheet.
In my next post, I will give some tips on helping your children and the parents and children in your church learn to worship together in a way that is beneficial for everyone. Let’s give our children the chance to learn about everything in worship by experiencing it with their families. And let’s give our families the precious memory of being together, worshipping God and hearing His Words just like the families in Israel did.