We pulled into the driveway exhausted. Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest, but that morning felt like anything but. It was tiring not because of an early start with a meeting before church, the dressing of children, rushing out the door, conversations after the service, or even the disheartening news about a church member’s diagnosis. Exhaustion reigned because our two children couldn’t sit still or quiet in the worship service. Rather than worship, it felt like we experienced a tour of combat duty without any medals awarded! The hour-and-a-half service could have been four with all the negotiations, warnings, and discipline that were required. The sermon consisted of three points, and maybe between the two of us, my wife and I could recall one of them. Unfortunately, that week was not unique. Hadn’t we just performed this “tour of duty” last Sunday? Hadn’t we worked with our children every day since, so the next week’s worship would be better than last week’s catastrophe? Was it all for naught?
Many parents feel this way in the early days of bringing young children into worship. It feels like self-inflicted torture with no end in sight! But as much as it may prove a struggle and even discouraging at times, the effort is well worth it. The struggles are limited to the morning; the blessings can be eternal. Below are some of the key blessings of having our children in corporate, Lord’s Day worship.
1. They’re in the Midst of the Means of Grace
The most important part of a local church’s life is corporate worship. It is the summit of the church’s life on earth because, in this weekly worship, the Lord meets with His people by Word and Spirit. He ministers to us by the ordinary means of grace (Word, sacraments, and prayer). Churches and parents can chase after the next creative means by which to impact their children, but nothing holds the promise of that which God Himself clearly ordained. These ordinary means of grace prove effectual. When our children attend corporate worship, they dwell in the midst of these effectual means of grace. And the more we place them in the way of the means of grace, the better the opportunity for their souls to encounter the God of grace.
2. They Hear the Word Preached
God attaches His promises to His Word. As much as we are able, we want to place our children in the way of this ordinary means of grace. The Word does not return void (Isa. 55:11). It is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). We want that mighty weapon bearing upon the souls of our children. It alone works faith (Rom. 10:17) and we want our children to hear it proclaimed with power.
3. They See the Sacraments
The sacraments represent before our eyes the spiritual truths of the covenant. They serve as a kind of picture in which we can see, taste, smell, and feel the realities of God’s grace. This is not lost on our children as they see these sacraments practiced and participated in. The children of Israel asked their parents, “What does this mean?” (cf. Exod. 13:14; Deut. 6:20). And in a similar way, our own children will have questions about what they see and hear. We answer by pointing them to a Savior who willingly died for His own.
4. They Participate in Prayer
Prayer effectually shapes our hearts and aligns them with the very will of God. As our children bow their heads in prayer and listen to the congregational prayer or prayer of confession, they can’t help but hear some of the words, inflections, truths, and graces present in these prayers. And how beautiful it is when they begin to join in praying these prayers.
5. They’re Present with the Congregation
Corporate worship is corporate. The entire body gathers together. As the congregation sings, all the voices of the church unite. When God’s people read the confession of faith, they confess the same truth united. When God’s people hear the public prayers, they voice a loud “Amen” united. How unfortunate it is when the entire congregation witnesses and voices this unity and receives encouragement from this fellowship, but our children remain absent.
6. They’re Present with Their Parents
Children constantly watch their parents. They learn by observing, judging what their parents deem important, and what gives them delight. Bringing our children into worship affords them the opportunity to observe the importance and delight of corporate worship in the life of their parents. If they aren’t in worship, they won’t ever see it. Nothing is more significant and nothing is more impactful upon our children’s spiritual lives.
7. They Witness Our Weekly Priority
The constant routines of our life possess a formative power. This is not lost on children who attend worship. In fact, it proves formative as the Spirit works and God pours out His grace upon them. Attending weekly worship underscores the importance of worship and the centrality of God week-in and week-out.
8. They Benefit from Intergenerational Faith
The Scriptures clearly articulate the duty of parents to instruct their children in the things of the Lord. Psalm 78 provides one of the most beautiful statements of this calling. In the psalm, Asaph reminds his generation that they cannot hide this story. They must pass on this glorious truth to their children and grandchildren. We tell this story every Lord’s Day morning as we gather in worship as the people of God. As our children participate in the service, they hear this story. They can’t miss it. At least fifty-two times a year this story fills their ears, and we pray moves their hearts.
9. They Participate in the Redemptive Story
Nothing engages our children more with the redemptive story than their participation in the worship of God. As our children participate in worship, they take part in the practices of the covenant community, which picture the mighty acts of God as He lives in relationship with His covenant people. They enter the great academy of the Christian faith. We teach, instruct, and even form our children into worshippers. Of course, only God can call people to Himself and make hearts of stone into hearts of flesh (Ezek. 36:26), only the Spirit can regenerate an individual (John 3), yet, participating in the worship of God provides a shaping effect. They not only hear about this God, but encounter Him.
10. They Learn about a Faith for Them
Finally, when we include children in worship, we relay the truth that they can worship the one true God. Christianity is not an “adult-only-religion,” and worship is not something only adults are able to do. God calls all people to worship Him. Whether we include or exclude our children from worship, we offer a loud and undeniable commentary to them. But the benefits that flow from including our children in corporate worship can impact their lives for not just twenty, forty, sixty, or even eighty years, but for all eternity. May we impart to our children the glorious faith once delivered unto the saints—for God’s glory and our children’s delight in Him.