One unfortunate trend in churches is the increasing age segregation of worship. Children are placed in kids’ programs from an early age and can even grow into adulthood having never worshiped with people of different ages. Even if we could have the most exciting kids’ ministry possible during our service, we wouldn’t want to do that. Why? Because we believe letting our children worship with us is one of the best ways for them to learn to love God.
Here are five reasons why we like our children to worship with us:
We will all worship together in heaven.
Dividing up people by ages for worship stands in direct contrast to the picture of ideal worship we see in Revelation 7:9:
After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb.
The picture of heavenly worship is marked by both unity and diversity. While there is no reference to different age groups, the principle is clear: heavenly worship involves all God’s different people worshiping together in unity. We should ensure our worship reflects this ultimate worship service.
It helps children see the world is bigger than them.
When children worship with others, they learn that life is about more than just them. When a child grows up in an environment that caters to his or her needs, it can subtly teach that the world revolves around them. But Christian worship means taking our eyes off ourselves and focusing them upon God. When we exclude children from our worship, we miss out one one of the few places where our lives are put into perspective as we encounter a living God.
It gives your kids an opportunity to see your love for God.
Many of us desire to have some type of family devotionals, but it’s hard. Life is busy. Participating as a family in worship on Sunday mornings gives your children an opportunity to see your love for God. Your kids notice you singing and listening to God’s Word. When they see your eagerness and love of worship it rubs off on them. Remember how many bad habits our kids pick up from us! Kids are natural imitators. Why not let them learn some good habits from us? Why would we miss out on the opportunity for our kids to mimic our worship of God? If children never worship with parents, they miss seeing them practice what they preach.
It allows your children to see a community loving God.
When children participate in worship they get to see other members of God’s family express their love for God. A parent's faith isn’t just something that they’ve made up, or do in isolation. In other words, our faith is not just something our family does, but something a community participates in together.
God works through ordinary means
There isn’t a simple five-step plan to ensure children grow up to love God. One of the tenants reformed worship is that God works through ordinary means. Through God’s word, prayer, and the sacraments, God brings extraordinary change. These are simple things, things that will constantly be attacked as outdated or out of touch. Indeed if it were simply about how powerful these things were by themselves they would be outdated! But God promises to use our ordinary acts and combine them with his supernatural power to bring real change in people's life. It’s not about our skill (or lack of it) that brings genuine Christian growth. The public worship service is one of the places where God’s ordinary means of grace all show up. We trust those are good enough to bring real spiritual growth in adults. But they are also good enough to bring real spiritual growth in children. Why would be want to take our children out of a place where God promises to work?
We don’t want to be a church that is only welcoming to those who are committed to keeping their kids in Church. Many factors can make this difficult for families. For some, the idea of kids in church is new. Others are single parents or come to church without a spouse, and it’s hard to both manage children and participate in worship. Children have different temperaments, and some will struggle more than others. As church we want to be sensitive and welcoming to all families.
We think of children's ministry during the worship service as a series of steps to help our kids make the jump into worship with everyone else. The first step is nursery for children up to three years old. Here, children get used to coming to the church and start building relationships with other children and people here. From ages four to six they can participate in a program called Stepping Stones where they stay through the first half of the worship service. This gets them used to being in the service without having to sit through all of it. The third step is for children over six. They participate through the whole worship service, but we offer snacks and kids’ bulletins with worship related activities to help children stay engaged. These are all optional; in the end each family decides how they want their kids to participate in worship.
Every one of us makes a big difference too. Parents notice when we have a welcoming attitude toward kids in worship.. A loving smile or word of encouragement helps a parent who worries about the noise their child is making. In the end we want to be a church that reflects God’s kingdom when we worship. And that means people of all different backgrounds and ages coming together to show our love for the God who is making us new.