One of things that brings a smile to my face every Sunday morning is the presence of little children—even some 2-year–olds—sitting with their parents in the corporate worship service. They are not all perfectly behaved, and sometimes their parents look a little frazzled by the end of the service. A few children won’t make it all the way until the end and will be taken out by a parent. And, once in a while, a child who should be taken out is left in the service. But these are very minor inconveniences compared to the wonderful benefits of having children in the corporate worship service.
Here, John Piper gives some reasons why children should be in worship:
There are three reasons, at least, why I have urged that, at the latest, from first grade on the children join their parents in worship. First, we live in a day in which pressures from all sides are on the family to be fractured and atomized. Fathers are worked to a frazzle and so are too dogged to spend quality time with children; mothers are lured away from their little children to the work force; children have their own activities, and the one thing that pulls them all to the same room makes zombies out of them all: the television. Stir into this a general cultural mood of “me first,” and my rights and my self-realization, and you have got a powerful anti-family milieu. In this atmosphere, the church, as the preserver of biblical principles, must find ways to say “no” to these pressures and affirm the depth and beauty of familial bonds. But where and how? It seems to me that the high point of our corporate life together is the place to start. Let’s make worship a family affair as much as we can.
Second, five-, six-, seven- and eight-year-olds will gain tremendously from being in worship. Many six-year-olds have made professions of faith after sitting through a worship service. But even where most of the sermon goes over their heads, the children profit. They learn more theology and piety from the hymns than we realize, they come to be comfortable and at home with the form of the service, they experience from time-to-time the large and awesome moments of quietness or the blast of an organ prelude or fervor of an old man’s prayer. Week-after-week they see hundreds of adults bowed in worship, and unless we teach them otherwise, they will grow up thinking, “This is where I belong on Sunday morning, and this is the way one behaves in Sunday worship”…
Which leads me to my third reason for wanting the children in worship. I want us, as a church, to say, “No!” to the lackadaisical attitudes toward child training and the harmfully low expectations placed upon children in our day…The expectation that a six-year-old sit quietly to the honor of God one or two hours a week is not a high expectation, and we should demand it of our children.
Here are some additional resources for encouraging your church and providing practical tips for parents:
- Children in Worship: Let’s Bring it Back by Jason Helopoulos
- Children in Worship: Mom Tested Tips by Jason Helopoulos
- The Family Together in God’s Presence by John and Noel Piper
- The Generations in the Worship Service (audio seminar) by Bud Burk
- The Generations in the Worship Service (handout) by Bud Burk
(Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)