Children are an important part of the body of Christ. We believe children are not the church of the future, they are the church of today. A child’s place in the church should be acknowledged and his or her presence valued. We must lead the children, but we can also learn from them.
In Matthew 18:2-5 we read, “He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me’.”
Jesus said in Mark 10:14, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them for the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.”
God designed all of his creation to worship him, Psalm 8:2, “Out of the mouths of infants and children, you have ordained praise.”
God instructed Israel, as a whole community in Deuteronomy 6:5-9 to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”
Simply acknowledging God’s presence in our daily life and modeling a life of worship is a greater example to our children of our faith in Christ than our words could ever be alone. But how do we do “church” together”? We invite kids in. We let them sing, sit, observe, respectfully ask questions, and we talk them through what they see, hear, and feel. We help them feel included by teaching them the songs we sing, letting them put the tithe in the offering basket, participate in communion or receiving a blessing. No one says this will be easy. Kids are noisy, they stir and move and rustle, they speak too loudly during quiet parts of worship, they need to go the bathroom or get a drink of water at the most inconvenient moment. They cry as if on cue during silence or hide under the chair of the person next to them, complain of worship being too loud or not knowing the words.
“Part of your duty as a parent is to spend a few years sacrificing your own quality of worship so that you can teach your little ones to worship”- Elizabeth Sandell
Tips for parents as you prepare for worship:
- Make the “decisions” Saturday night: the decision to attend worship, the decision to get up at a certain time; decisions of what to wear and have for breakfast, what you need to bring with you. This will help Sunday mornings run a little more smoothly.
- Talk to your child about what to expect at church the night before, let them know where you will be and what you will be doing.
- Arrive just a few minutes early so your child can be a part of the beginning of the service.
- Find a seat in the sanctuary where your child can see, but is also comfortable and will not be too disruptive (for your sake) when the move around (they will move around!).
- Give your child an opportunity to use the restroom, get a drink of water before service begins.
- Help your child understand. It is okay to whisper quietly to your child about what is going on or what is coming next.
- Model prayer, singing, closing your eyes and clapping with and for your child. It is good for your child to notice the different ways people express themselves in worship at church.
- Do not assume that your child is not gaining anything from the service if they appear to be bored or not paying attention. We do not always know what the Holy Spirit is doing in a child’s heart.
- Sometimes a move to the back of the sanctuary or a trip to the drinking fountain helps a child re-focus by stretching their legs and moving their body their mind and body can be ready to participate again.
- Talk with your child after service about the things they saw, what they observed or thought about the service. Ask you child what was their favorite part, or what was most difficult for them. You can even ask them what God spoke to them during the service or how did they see/feel God’s presence.
- Pray for you child and their friends; that God will speak to them during the service. Encourage your children to listen for God’s voice.
- Allow your child to participate in communion (see our “how to prepare for communion” ideas!) either by taking communion with you or receiving a prayer of blessing from a pastor. Remind your child what communion is and why we do it.