The following extract is taken from Let the Children Worship by Jason Helopoulos, new at Christian Focus Publications. Jason encourages the church to embrace the important part children play in the life of the church and unfolds the enormous blessings to be found in having them present in the worship services of the congregation. He points out how the struggles are temporary – whereas the blessings can be eternal.
Wisdom for Parents
Let’s face it, bringing our children into corporate worship is not always easy. Squirming kids, rustling papers, the eyes of others, and a host of other problems often accompany children in worship. Unfortunately, some parents identify Sunday mornings with the most difficult part of their week. I understand. As a family, we have lived it. In no way do I want to dismiss the challenge and at times frustration, but I hope you will see the struggle is well worth it. As Christian parents, we desire above all else that our children would know, love, delight-in, serve, and honor Christ. The more they encounter Him through the means of grace, the more likely we will witness this blessed outcome. Corporate worship, as we detailed in chapter two, is above all else a meeting with God in the person of Christ by His Word and by the Spirit. Including our children in this weekly encounter can’t help but be a good thing for their souls.
Real challenges confront us as we bring our children into corporate worship, but they are not insurmountable. I want to offer some practical and “Mom-tested” tips as you attempt to do so.
Treasure the Lord’s Day
God knew our need for rest. In the very act of creation, He ordains one in seven days for rest and worship (Exod. 20:8-11). This day highlights our week. As Christians, we live from Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day. And the highpoint of the Lord’s Day is gathering together with His people to offer holy worship. Help your children by focusing on this moment throughout the week. Talk about Sunday morning worship all week long. Help your children to see that each week begins with this privilege (Acts 20:7; Heb. 10:24-25). And when the day arrives, model excitement about it. If Mom and Dad reluctantly go to church, then the children will reluctantly go as well. If Mom and Dad criticize the preacher, sermon, or others in the church, then the children will most likely criticize as well.
Cultivate a spirit of joy on Sunday mornings in your home. If this is the highlight of our week, then let’s act like it. Talk about how wonderful the day promises to be, wake the kids up with excitement, turn on good Christian music for the whole family to listen to, and put a smile on your face. It’s o.k. to smile on Sunday mornings!
Many of our problems on Sunday morning stem from issues before we even arrive at church. Tired children and tired parents create fertile ground for cranky worshippers. Be boring on Saturday nights. Send your entire family to bed early. Friday nights can be filled with late-night activity, but Saturday nights should routinely be safeguarded. Sleepy heads make for drowsy worshippers. Lay out Sunday morning clothes the night before, so there aren’t complications with finding an outfit that fits well, looks right, or is ironed. This is especially helpful with teenage daughters!
On Sunday mornings, wake your family up with plenty of time to spare. Try not to arrive late or even a few minutes before the service. Rushing out the door at home and rushing in the door at church has discombobulated many children and stymied many worshippers.
On the car-ride to church talk about the passage that you will hear preached, sing a hymn together, and converse about the things of God. This helps to prepare the way for worship. If a visiting missionary is scheduled to share or the Lord’s Table is going to be observed or any other unique moment is scheduled to occur in the service, take time in the car-ride to discuss it. This sets the mood and helps them understand and appreciate moments in the service. I practice this with my children, who love the personal interaction and it has the added benefit of not only helping them to prepare for worship, but also helps me.
Implement Family Worship at Home
A family that worships together at home finds it much easier to worship together in corporate worship. A child will find it natural to hear and read the Word of God, sing hymns, confess their sins, and pray. It also helps our children learn to sit still, understand the importance of worship, and focus during prayer. For too many children, worship at church seems foreign, because worship at home is absent.
Many churches preach expositional sermons. This means that you know what you will hear read and preached in the week’s service—the next passage. Other churches may preach topically but publish in advance the passages on which the preaching will focus. Some families find it helpful to read the upcoming sermon passage during the week. Read and converse about it around the dinner table and during family worship. The children will then possess a familiarity with the text the pastor plans on preaching. This knowledge will give them some things to listen for in the sermon. My son, when five and six years old, always delighted in expressing his “knowledge” about the Sunday sermon text. He would often lean over during the service with that kind of child “whisper-scream,” “I know that story! I know about that!” It delighted this Father’s heart, as if I didn’t know and hadn’t led him through it earlier in the week for that very reason.
Many believe it is more challenging to introduce a three-year-old to corporate worship then a twelve-year-old, but this is simply not true. A three-year-old is in the formative years of training. They are not yet “set in their ways” and remain quite teachable. They want to please Mom and Dad, though at times it does not seem like it! A twelve-year-old possesses his or her own thoughts on what should be expected and “endured.” This creates far more challenging issues than wrestling with a three-year-old to sit still. All this to say: it is far easier to begin with small children, so start early. Keep reminding yourself that a few months of struggling with a three or four-year-old teaching them how to sit still in corporate worship yields benefits for the rest of their lives.
Some of us came to this conviction late. Our children may have already reached their teenage years and we regret they weren’t in corporate worship with us earlier. If you find yourself in this place, keep reminding your heart and mind that God’s grace is sufficient. Do not be “hard” on yourself. You didn’t ruin your children and this doesn’t make you a “bad parent.” Yet, I would remind you, if your children still reside in your home, it is not too late to start. Don’t wait. Begin now and seize the years remaining … Buy a copy of Let the Children Worship, for more gems of wisdom for parents.
“In Let the Children Worship, Jason Helopoulos instills a sense of anticipation of what will happen as children are not only blessed by their presence among the body of Christ but also bless us with their presence.”
Nancy Guthrie, Bible teacher and author of Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament series
About the Author:
Jason Helopoulos is assistant pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, and a guest blogger at The Gospel Coalition. He and his wife, Leah, are parents of two young children, Gracen and Ethan. Jason is also author of A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home.
Where to Buy:
Let the Children Worship is available at any good Christian bookstore. If you don’t have a Christian bookstore near you, you may want to consider purchasing a copy from one of the online book retailers listed below: