Every 5th Sunday at College Avenue Baptist, we cancel all of our childrens programming during the morning worship hour so that families can worship together all in the same place. Our services are intergenerational in the sense that our youth and adults worship together, but normally our children (K through 5th grade) have a “children’s church” which they can attend if they choose to do so. Some children remain with their parents in “big church” but not all of them. To prepare parents for last Sundays inclusive service, Pastor Carlton Harris sent out the following email to our congregation, providing his excellent suggestions and insights on how to take your kids to “big church.”
At CABC we want to make more and better disciples from among the nations who honor God by worshiping Him! This Sunday, our worship service is a 5th Sunday Family Service. We will welcome our kindergarteners through 5th graders. The worship service has been planned with them in mind. We will be singing songs that they regularly sing during their group worship time on Sunday mornings. May I encourage all of you to sit as close to the front as possible (especially if your children will be worshiping with you)?
As some of you know, I began my journey as a father in 1983. God kindly gifted us with two daughters and a son within a time span of five years and four months. From the time our children were school-aged they joined us in our worship services. Wasn’t that a stressful decision? How did we do it? A better question is how did my wife do it without my help? I was preaching and leading in most of the worship services my children participated in between the start of kindergarten and the conclusion of high school. Here is some of what I remember from that season of our life together as a family:
- We would read the sermon text for the coming Sunday during the week. Our children would perk up when they heard familiar words during the sermon.
- We gave our children their own age-appropriate Bibles. They would bring them to the worship service each Sunday. They would also bring pens/pencils and paper to draw the sermon, the environment, or take sermon notes as they grew. They also watched their mother take sermon notes.
- Preparation for worship was done on Saturday night in order to reduce chaos and distractions on Sunday morning. We would select and prepare the clothes and shoes that we would be wearing to worship. We would get our Bibles and offering money ready. When our children were infants and toddlers, we would pack the diaper bag on Saturday night as well.
- Before we entered the worship service, they would use the rest room if needed so that they would not have to unnecessarily leave the worship service.
- We desired and expected our children to be respectful toward God and other worshipers around us.
- Our children would take a worship folder. Before the worship service began, my wife might point to the different elements in the order of worship, such as songs that they knew and liked. If there was something for which they needed to be prepared such as a responsive reading, she would point it out to our children who were old enough to participate.
- We would all participate as worshipers by sitting, standing, singing, closing our eyes, turning in the Bible, etc. with the rest of our church family. My wife and I wanted our children to see us sing praise to God with joy on our faces, or tears trickling down our cheeks, or hands clapping. We wanted our children to see her listen hungrily to God’s Word and watch me preach it passionately. In short, we wanted our children to feel our hearts meeting the living God during worship. We sought to model looking at the worship leader(s). So, we sat as close to the front as possible – usually on the first or second row – to reduce distractions like people-watching or clock watching. We wanted our children to see the front as well as possible. My wife would share worship folders, hymnals, and Bibles with our young children because those things are important tools for worship. We did not bring other books to the worship service for our children to read because we wanted their focus to be on worship. They could look at the pictures in their Bibles.
- When younger, our children would draw pictures of what they heard in the sermon. Individual words or names triggered individual pictures. As our children grew, their notes would involve concepts. Always remember that not everything in a worship service or sermon goes over the heads of our children!
- We would process the sermon together and the implications on how we live life in response to the Word of God.
- We would talk about unique aspects of the worship service such as a missionary speaker from a country we had been praying for.
There were times when one of our children was restless or noisy, despite our best efforts. In those times all you can do is pray for the understanding of the people around you, and try to deal with the problem discreetly. If the child is “having one of those days” and will not sit still or be quiet, you may have to take him or her out of the service. Use it as a teaching opportunity for parental training. Then decide whether you’ll reenter the worship service or not. At CABC, we have an infant cry room (with video feed) for mothers and their babies. During our worship services, we attempt to keep the foyer as a place for parents with young children who need to leave the worship service. We have video feed in the foyer during our worship services. You can help protect the foyer space for parents by not loitering or talking in the foyer during the worship service.
One of my great desires as a father has been to see my children fall in love with the worship of God both individually in private as well as corporately in public together with the body of Christ. I feel that my most important job as a parent was and is to fall in love with the worship of God and model that for my children. Why? Because worshiping God is the most valuable thing I can do in life.