At Heritage we urge parents to bring their children with them to the worship service. We recognize worshipping together counters the contemporary fragmentation of families. It seems that our culture, and often the church, feels the need to cater to and focus on each and every member of a family in a separate and unique way. We recognize that children and adults can certainly benefit from age-specific teaching and fellowship opportunities and those opportunities are regularly a part of our weekly schedule during the Sunday school hour and Wednesday night programming. Having said that, it’s also incredibly important to do things as a family, to defer to one another, to share experiences of faith together.
Hectic American life leaves little time for significant togetherness. It’s hard to overestimate the power of families doing valuable things together week in and week out, year in and year out. We believe a weekly corporate worship gathering can be an extremely valuable time for families, especially in regards to the faith development of children. The cumulative effect of over 650 worship services with Mom and Dad between the ages of 4 and 17 is incalculable.
Parents have the responsibility to teach their children by their own example the meaning and value of worship. Therefore, parents should want their children with them in the worship service so the children can see their parents worship the Lord. From an early age children should see Mom and Dad bow their heads in earnest prayer. They should see how Mom and Dad sing praise to God with joy in their faces and how they eagerly listen to His Word being preached.
We recognize it may be easier and more convenient for parents to send their children to “children’s church” so they can be free from the responsibility of shepherding them during the service but this responsibility is God given and should be counted as a privilege. Like most of our attempts to shepherd and discipline our children; easy is rarely best. We are compelled to encourage parents to take full advantage of the precious opportunity to worship as a family.
With this conviction in mind, Heritage offers childcare options during the service for children birth thru 4-years-of-age. We encourage parents to bring their children into the service as early as possible. To sit still and be quiet for an hour or an hour-and-a-half on Sunday is not an excessive expectation for a 5-year-old who has been taught to obey his parents. It requires a measure of discipline, but that is precisely what we want to encourage parents to impart to their children in the first five years. Special arrangements can certainly be made for families with special circumstances.
It’s important to note that children absorb a tremendous amount that is of value, even if they say they are bored. Music becomes familiar. The message of the songs will begin to sink in. Even if most of the sermon goes over their heads, experience shows that children hear and remember far more than we give them credit. These shared experiences provide for natural follow-up conversations about things like: baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the children’s message or what sanctification means. Oh, how precious these conversations are between and parent and child.
It is to be expected that bringing children into the service at an early age will likely mean there will be momentary disruptions and at times Mom or Dad will need to exit the service occasionally to continue training. We do not expect children to obey perfectly and remain in constant silence throughout the service. We recognize there will be an occasional crackle of a candy wrapper or dropped Bible or an unusually loud whisper. Instead of being overly uptight and distracted by these minor interruptions, it is our desire that these moments would cause us all to worship the Lord. Let it be a reminder of how precious these dear children are. May we be filled with gratitude that they are with us in these moments. May we be reminded in the “interruption” that we have a great responsibility to point them to Christ. There is no greater calling.
For some practical suggestions on how to bring your children in to the service I would encourage you to read “Some Practical Suggestions from Noel Piper.” Let me reiterate, it is our desire to support parents as they strive to bring their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. If we can help serve or equip you or if you should have any questions please contact Shawn McGill or Chad “Kicker” Kositzky.