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Thoughts on Family Worship #3

August 26, 2011

Biblically, life flows out of worship. The things we do – and the things that happen – when we worship God corporately on the Lord’s Day dictate what happens in our lives the rest of the week. In one sense this occurs because the things we do in corporate worship affects (changes, matures) us personally, which naturally affects what we do the rest of the week, but in another sense the ritual of our worship teaches us how to “behave” in the rest of our lives. Take, for instance, corporate confession. When we confess our sins as a body of believers every Lord’s Day something happens to us – we’re forgiven and reminded (assured) that we have peace with God through Jesus Christ. It’s important not to skim over this part – something happens to us – as a result of our doing something. Yet this is not all – the ritual of corporate confession teaches us, or rather ingrains in us, important truths and actions that affect the rest of our life: we learn to be quick to forgive others; we remember the importance of daily – even immediate – confession; we learn a proper posture for confession (we bow our knees at home, the same as we do corporately); perhaps most importantly, we learn to teach our children to do the same.

With this in mind, is it any wonder then that family worship rarely happens in our homes? Think about it – if what happens in corporate worship greatly impacts all areas of our life, then the fact that many of our churches do not accommodate, much less encourage, corporate worship as a whole family is going to have significant influence on what type of worship happens in the home. This is not to say that there is no worship in the home – just not family worship. Much like in corporate worship, the emphasis is placed on the individual and his personal spiritual growth, and so this teaches the individual to pursue their own personal worship at home. Quiet times rule the day. Of course, this is not a bad thing – quiet times are great – but they are only a small piece of the puzzle.

I once visited a church here in Nashville that actually had a sign that said “If you feel you must bring your children into worship, please sit on the last two rows, so as not to distract the rest of the congregation.” Seriously? So why does this type of thing happen? I’m sure there are many reasons, but I’m going to focus on one that I perceive to be the biggest: the idea that worship is too “mature” for children. I use quotation marks for the simple fact that this is a poor use of the word mature. Mature to these churches means grown-up or intelligent. In other words, there’s some serious stuff going on in this here worship service and you young’uns don’t have the gumption to handle it. Yet this is not how the Bible defines maturity – at least in regards to worship. Here, maturity means growing into something greater; reaching it’s full potential. When the people of God matured in the scriptures, it wasn’t about them gaining intelligence – it was about them growing and encompassing the whole earth. What started as a small band of Israelites has become a nation of Jews and Gentiles of all ages, all colors, all ethnic groups, and yes, all levels of intelligence. The added bonus comes when you realize that when the whole body of Christ is worshipping together, not only do the children learn how to worship from their parents (as well as the rest of the congregation), but we tend to learn a few things from them as well. Of course, Jesus pointed this out a long time before I did.

So now we know the problem; what’s the solution? Well, it can be as easy as bringing your children into worship this Sunday, but let’s face it, that’s easier said than done. So I submit a few measures that can be taken in order to make the transition a bit smoother:

1) Congregants, do not freak out, get annoyed, or otherwise act like an idiot when a baby cries or a young child talks. Deal with it. Even better, appreciate it! After all, Psalm 8 tells us that this is one of the ways God defeats His enemies. On another level, though, the church needs to be patient and understanding with children and their parents just out of pure love and sacrifice. It will take some time, certainly, but it will be well worth the effort.

2) Incorporate elements into the service that children can partake in. This may prove to be the hardest task, because most churches that are guilty of not including children in worship usually have a worship service that consists of a few pop/praise songs, a prayer or two, maybe a scripture reading, and a sermon specifically directed to adults. One particular item that works well for children is service music. A good example of this is the Doxology – it’s simple, beautiful, and short. The children will pick it up in no time at all – especially if it’s done every week. There’s quite a number of songs that fit this category; my church has about 4 or 5 that we do weekly and  I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to hear their little voices sing these songs at the top of their lungs each Sunday. Another good element to incorporate (and really, one that should be used regardless) is posture. As I mentioned earlier, bowing the knee for corporate confession; or standing at the reading of the Gospel; or lifting your hands when you sing the Doxology. Kids latch on to these physical responses – especially when the whole congregation is doing it together. Also, preachers, don’t forget about the children in your sermons. They might not understand 90% of what you’re saying, but you can still add an application or two that is specific to them, or maybe an illustration that they can relate to. There are quite a number of other items that can be incorporated into the service, but I would be remiss, here, if I didn’t mention what I believe is the most important element: weekly communion. Of course, there’s a lot that needs to be discussed when talking about children and communion, but ultimately, for this particular post, I want to emphasize that the weekly ritual of communion – where the body partakes of the bread and the wine together – is crucial to teaching the child what his identity is in Christ and teaching him how to properly discern the body of Christ.

3) Finally, churches, start emphasizing family worship (both home and at church)! Cancel your children’s churches (but not your nurseries – there still needs to be a place for guests who don’t feel comfortable, or the mother whose had all she can handle for the morning); get rid of your “youth sections” and encourage the older kids to sit with their families; teach, and frankly, insist that families – especially fathers – lead their families in devotions, instruction, prayer and singing on a daily basis; and finally, schedule events and ministries that bring families together and back off of the events that group specific ages together or specific interests (after all, the body is made up of children, teenagers, college students, married couples, divorcees, fitness freaks, people who like to knit, bikers… I think you get my drift).

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 29, 2011 3:22 pm

    Brian! Great post. Difficult dillema when our corporate worship services are often designed for adults rather than kids. I love what you said about helping to bring our children into greater spiritual maturity.

    Here’s a link to a great book that has some additional strategies that I think would resonate with you based on this article. I look forward to reading some of your other posts! Blessings.

    ~Josh Kellar

  2. August 29, 2011 7:44 pm

    Hey! Thanks for checking it out & thanks for the suggestion… I wasn’t familiar with it. I see you’re doing some writing as well – I’m looking forward to reading some it.

  3. Michelle permalink
    October 30, 2012 3:45 pm

    Being raised Catholic, we ALWAYS sat as a family. I still have a hard time getting used to splitting the family up in church. Feels weird.

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