Wanted: Children in the Worship Service
The purpose of this article is to provide reasons for why young children and even infants should be encouraged to sit with their parents during the entire worship service. I firmly believe this was the common practice when God’s people gathered for worship during Bible times. Therefore, we should seek to continue this practice of being an age-integrated church.
Below I give several reasons why not only parents, but the entire congregation, should want to have children of all ages present during the primary service of the church.
· We should want the presence of children in our worship service because doing so best follows the pattern given to us in the Bible. The thought of separating children from their parents does not seem to even be an option. In fact, keeping a family together was expected. Consider Joel 2:12-17, but specifically verses 15-16: “Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants.” (See also, Deuteronomy 31:9-13; 2 Chr. 20:13; Ezra 10:1; Nehemiah 12:43)
· We should want children present during the worship service because Ephesians 6:1 and Colossians 3:20 indicate that children were expected to be present. When Paul’s letters to the churches in Ephesus and Colossae were read, the command to children, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right”, would be nonsensical if children were not present to hear it.
· We should want children present in our worship service because there is no biblical evidence where children, no matter how young, are separated from their parents during such a service. The burden to find evidence in the Bible of families being segregated during the worship service lies on the shoulders of those who desire to provide it.
· We should want children present during our worship service because it serves as an opportunity for parents to provide spiritual care and training (Deut. 4:9; Prov 22:6; Ephesians 6:4). This training is to happen outside of the church, but it should also happen within the church. This time of worship is a unique opportunity to teach children what kind of behavior is expected during a worship service. If necessary, a moment of discipline is also a way of training the child. Parent to child training cannot occur when the child is removed from the service and given into the care of another. When a child is disruptive and taken out of the service without parental intention of returning to the service, the child quickly learns how to manipulate the parent rather than being controlled by the parent. Wanting their children present in the service provides parents the opportunity to help their children understand who is in charge in this relationship.
· We should want children present because by being kept in the service, children learn that this time is significant in the life of the church and is not optional. Keeping children in the service helps teach children the importance of the service.
· We should want children present because by being in the service opportunities are created for children to later ask their parents questions about what we are doing (Exodus 12:26). Children are naturally curious and we should be eager to create opportunities for dialogue about spiritual truth. Their presence in the worship service at even very young ages creates these opportunities.
· We should want children present because we never know when God, in his grace, may impart a nugget of truth into the heart and mind of a child, no matter how unreceptive a child may seem to us. The worship service is a unique time in the life of the church when opportunities for this exposure occur (Ps 78:4-7).
· We should want children present because the devil is seeking to devour as many as he can and it seems that the influences of our culture are seeking to infiltrate the hearts and minds of children at younger and younger ages. Therefore, we should seek to counteract these attacks by seeking every opportunity to expose our young children to truth. The worship service serves as a weapon against the arrows of the evil one.
· We should want children present because when infants or toddlers die and go to heaven do we imagine that they are not part of the heavenly corporate gathering? Do we imagine that Jesus does not want them to be a part of it? (See Luke 18:15-16 – Note specifically that the word translated as “child” in some translations in verse 15 should actually be translated as “babies” or “infants”, according to the original language. But also, note the response of the disciples who viewed the children as nuisances and Jesus’ rebuke of them for their incorrect attitude.)
· We should want children present, even from infancy, in order to eliminate the potential for “shock” and “let down” when a determined age of transition to “big church” is reached. Furthermore, their presence creates an atmosphere of unity rather than a subtle but very real atmosphere of division. I am well aware that there are times when children become out of sorts and a distraction to those nearby. There are times when infants need to be nursed or have a diaper changed or an unruly child taught to behave and be quiet. During times such as these, the parent is responsible to remove the child from the service, care for the present need of that child, and if possible, return to the corporate gathering as soon as possible with their child. Parents with small children should not expect others to miss corporate worship and worshiping with their own families in order to care for the children of others.
In conclusion, (1) The presence or absence of young children in the worship service must not be decided by a fear that families with children of any age will not attend New Life Church. (2) The presence or absence of young children must not be decided by a child’s ability or inability to comprehend what is occurring during the worship service. (3) Their presence or absence must not be decided by whether or not they are bored or disruptive to others. As stated above, in such cases the parent is responsible to help their child overcome these issues. (4) Nor should their presence or absence be decided by what seems to be the norm for most churches. Rather, the primary basis for their presence or absence must be this: What aligns best with what is biblical? Based off of personal study of the Bible, I conclude that the pattern of families worshipping together is not only biblical but is also what is best as compared to being fragmented and apart. Therefore, we should do what is necessary, both as parents and a congregation, to not only want what is biblical and best, but to promote it.
To the parents of young children, for tried and proven resources and ideas to help your child be a part of the worship experience, please see Pastor Scott.