Included in this article are 5 reasons why children should attend/participate in corporate worship services and 5 tips for parents.
There are varying opinions among church leaders on whether children should have their own program during the corporate worship service or should attend service with their parents. This article is not meant to say that any church providing a Children’s Church during worship services is a bad church. There are many KidMins who I look up to and learn from who have children’s programs during the “adult” worship service. They do so for various reasons. But it is my conviction, when I think and pray about ecclesiology, family units, and the spiritual formation of children, that children should be in the corporate worship service with their parents and faith family.
5 Reasons Why
- Kids are part of both their families and the church family. Parents, you wouldn’t set out a family dinner on the table, and when you’re ready to eat, look at your children and say, “Ok, go to your rooms and eat by yourselves.” This is unheard of in a loving home. So why do we treat worship services like this? Short answer: convenience under the disguise of the kids being “fed” on their level. Parents are the primary spiritual leaders of their children. Every day, parents have opportunities to teach their children the Bible on their levels. Not only that, but most Children’s Ministries provide opportunities for kids to learn with their peers during times that do not hinder them and their leaders from attending corporate worship services, such as Sunday morning during a Sunday School hour, Sunday nights, and/or Wednesday nights.
- Children’s Church is a fairly new concept. When the church was formed, everyone met together. When he writes to the church in Ephesus and addresses children, Paul assumes that kids would be present to hear it (Ephesians 6:1-4). While Jesus is teaching, children are present, and He refers to them (Matthew 18:1-5 and 19:13-15). Separating children from their parents during the worship service has only been occurring in churches for about 70-80 years. In the church where I am Children’s Minister, the concept of Children’s Church is only 16 years old. I have a problem with basing how we do church on ideals that are nowhere close to the age of the early church and have no support in Scripture.
- Kids need to see both their parents and their fellow congregants worship the Lord through song, the preaching of the Word, and the giving of tithes and offerings. Family units worshipping together counters the cultural trend of fragmenting families and the church’s trend of taking the spiritual leadership of children from their parents. It also helps families worship the Lord in their homes. When kids see their parents worship on Sunday mornings, they are more liking to respect family worship times during the week. Worshipping with the congregation on Sunday mornings shows children that their faith and the faith of their parents is not something practiced alone but in community. Kids need to see the body in action.
- Kids should witness baptisms and Communion. While it is true that only believers are baptized and take Communion, children learn a lot by seeing the sacraments take place. Children who are believers and who are present during worship services are given the opportunity to take the Lord’s Supper with the rest of the faith family. I know a 7 year old who takes the bread and the cup right across the worship center from me. It blesses me to see him do so, because I know he’s a professing follower of Jesus. My 5 year old nephew sits right beside me during Communion and asks me a million questions about it. In fact, it was during the Lord’s Supper that I first explicitly explained the gospel to him. If he was in a separate program, I wouldn’t have had that opportunity and neither would his mom and dad who were sitting with him. Similarly, most of the children I meet with in my office to talk about being baptized do so because they saw a baptism and want to know all about it.
- Kids should participate in the church’s liturgy. By this I do not mean displaying children on the stage to do something cute so that the congregates Ooo and ahhh over them. Children should have meaningful parts of the service that help facilitate worship of the Lord. As part of the covenant community, children should be given opportunities to take up the offering, read or recite Scripture, sing, give testimony, and pray. When churches are considering and assigning laypersons to lead in various parts of the service, children should be considered as well, because they are laypersons too.
5 Tips. I’m not going to express my convictions and leave ya hanging. All of these things require intentionality and effort, but Jesus is worth it. Helping your children know and love Him is worth it.
“The greatest stumbling block for children in worship is that their parents do not cherish the hour. Children can feel the difference between duty and delight. Therefore, the first and most important job of a parent is to fall in love with the worship of God. You can’t impart what you don’t possess.” -John Piper
- Bring your Bible (a physical copy) with you to church, and expect your children to as well. Bible apps are great for on-the-go reading, but worship services should be a time to put away distractions, including devices, and focus on the Lord and His Word. A child sitting near you may not know that you are looking at the Bible on your phone. Kids know what phones are usually used for, so they will assume it is being used in that manner rather than for worship. To help yourself and your children focus during the service and to teach them respect for the preaching of the Word, use a physical copy of the Bible.
- Pack and bring a worship service bag. Prepare this bag on Saturday evenings much like you prepare daycare and preschool and school backpacks during the week, and have your children (if able) help you pack the bag. Include in it a notebook, pencil, crayons, snacks, and an age appropriate Bible.
- Prepare for worship by giving your children clear expectations. Talk about why the church gathers on Sunday mornings, what is expected of each person present (including them), how to whisper, and the liturgy or order of the service (what is going to happen when). The night before, prepare your worship service bags, review the things you’ve discussed, and pray for yourselves, the worship team, and the pastor. Upon arrival to the worship service, visit the restroom before entering the worship center (sanctuary).
- Require obedience. This one is tough, especially during a service when you’re trying not to disturb those around you. Some days your child just isn’t having it. Maybe they didn’t sleep well, or maybe they’re just having a day-of-defiance. Have consequences, not threats, for disobedience and follow through. You are the boss, and you are bigger than they are. John Piper on requiring obedience, “I am moved to write this by watching young children pay no attention to their parents’ requests, with no consequences. Parents tell a child two or three times to sit or stop and come or go, and after the third disobedience, they laughingly bribe the child. This may or may not get the behavior desired…Parents who do not teach their children to obey prepare them for a life out of step with God’s Word.” Link to the article here: Parents, Require Obedience of Your Children.
- Don’t beat yourself up. You’re not perfect. You’re not as distracting as you think you are, and it’s not the end of the world if you have to leave the service. If there’s a particularly hard Sunday, there’s always next week and the next. As your children grow, they’ll learn more and more. If someone in the church turns their nose up at your restless child, it’s them who has a problem, not you. Children are a blessing from the Lord. A church would do well to come alongside parents and encourage them as they raise their children to know and worship the Lord.
Children are part of the faith family. Dad, Mom, Grandparent, Aunt, Uncle, Church Member, our children are watching us all the time, often without us even realizing it. Let us show them our heart of worship of the Lord. Let us show them that He alone is worthy of our whole selves, undivided heart, mind and attention. And let us have patience as the youngest of us learn and grow in their knowledge and love for Jesus, His Word, and His Bride, the Church.
Stone Ridge Statement:
We Worship the Lord as a Faith Family
We believe that all covenant community members, including our youngest persons, should worship the Lord together as a unified faith family during corporate worship services on Sunday mornings.
We believe that parents are the primary spiritual leaders of their children and should teach their children the meaning, value, and form of worship by their example.
We believe that healthy family units are vital to a healthy, growing church. Families worshiping together counters the family fragmentation that happens so often both inside and outside the local church.
Because of these convictions, we do not have Children’s Church during our Sunday morning worship service.
Nursery for infants through 4 years old is available for those who wish to use it.
We believe that it is vital for children to grow in their knowledge and love for the Lord with their peers.
We believe that children need adults outside of their parents to pour into their lives and help them follow Jesus.
Because of these convictions, we have Sunday night and Wednesday night Bible studies and groups for our children.