Success in Parenting (03) - Children in Worship
Success in Parenting (03): Managing Children in Worship
. . . cell phones and babies are great, just not here . . .
Parental Responsibilities for Children in Worship - Parents are covenantally obligated to be faithful in raising their children to “keep the way of the Lord” (Gen. 18:19), just as children are covenantally obligated to be faithful in obedience “in the Lord” (Col. 3:20). Since faithfulness to the Lord requires corporate worship, including the sacraments, then parents and children have responsibilities in public worship. Part of the means of grace for the salvation of your children includes their attendance and intention in the Lord’s Day service.
Children’s Capacity and Acceptance in Worship - In our day, we should ask/answer: Should little children even participate in the worship of God? One local church says, “Cellphones and babies are great, just not here [worship]...” However, children can worship. In Luke 1:44 John leaped in the womb for joy at the presence of Christ. Timothy learned the Scriptures from infancy (2 Timothy 3:15). Jesus rejoiced in such “babies” (Luke 10:21) who were praising Him “in the temple” since “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise” (Matt. 21:15-16; Psalm 8:2). There are many examples of children in public worship and assemblies in the Old Covenant era (“your little ones” Dt. 29:10ff, 2Chr. 20:13, Joel 2:15ff). We should rejoice that God calls our children to the font, to the Table and to the Assembly.
Children’s Preparation and Training for Worship - Children must not simply be present but be prepared and trained. Children should be taught not only to respond and sing as they are able, but to sit still and quiet, respecting parents and others. Parents have a duty not to allow their children to distract other worshipers. Parents must teach, discipline, and maintain control of their children in the worship.
Be clear and confident about the standards of behavior. Make the rules of behavior clear to your child (e.g., no talking, whining, crying, dancing, wiggling, crawling, rustling papers, drumming, hitting, boxing, welding, soldering, jogging, etc.). Disobedience should be punished and discipline should result even for “happy noises” which are nonetheless out of character or disobedient.
Be intentional about their participation. Train them to participate in ways appropriate for their level of maturity. “Practice” for public worship during your family worship—teaching them to be quiet when the Word taught and read; to say “Amen” or “Thanks be to God” etc. (at the right times), to sing and be happy in worship.
Be practical about your individual children. Parents should know their children’s individual needs. Do they need to burn off a little energy before worship or be still before hand (do they get wound up)? Do they need some solid food, rather than “sugar smacks” prior to worship? Do they need to go to the restroom and to get a drink just before the service?
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more