Our youngest is three and will be transitioning out the of nursery/children’s church in a few months. He will join his siblings sitting in church. We keep him with us during the songs and communion, and gathering from his behavior then, and the behavior of his siblings who have gone before him, I anticipate church to be a little harder for me in the next few months.
Over eight years ago we welcomed our first child into our lives. She changed everything for us. She changed church for us. Our little Kansas church didn’t have enough people to run a nursery. The moms introduced me to the idea of family integrated church. I watched as they kept their little ones on their laps, or in the chairs next to them. As our daughter grew, she was never checked in to a nursery; she sat on my lap or she sat in a chair. She looked at books. Sometimes she threw massive temper tantrums. The only bathroom was right in front of the church just to the right of the pulpit. There was no sneaking off to the bathroom for a little chat. It was in this very basic church building that I learned to parent at church. Our second daughter had sensory integration issues, and we were in Kentucky by then with proper bathrooms and a well-run nursery. However, we kept her with us and by eighteen months old, she too could sit through the service. Our son was a screamer, and he and I paced outside the doors of our church so I could listen to the sermon, but he would not disrupt the service. When our fourth came, my husband was called to a church in Arizona, and while in theory keeping them all in church was what we wanted, I felt ill equipped to do this with him preaching and me in the pew. So our youngest spent most of his Sunday mornings in the nursery or children’s church. But our children are older now, and we both agree it’s time to bring him in with us.
Why do I do this? My son will not like to sit still for an hour. He will not like to keep his voice quiet. He will undoubtedly resist. He and I will make many trips outside the church. I’m certainly not doing it because it’s easy. I am convinced it is best for him, and it is best for us. I want him to learn to worship. I want him to see what we do as a family. I want him to learn self-discipline. I want him to see that life, church, and Christianity are not about entertainment but coming before a holy God as unworthy sinners and getting the incredible opportunity to worship God in song and in listening to His word exposited. Will he get that his first week? No. He probably won’t get it in his first year, or first five years. First, he will learn to sit still for a long period of time. He will watch us worship, and he will have questions every now and then, especially on communion week. Having him sit with us won’t give him salvation. That is a work of the Holy Spirit. We will model to him, and we will pray his heart will be stirred, as his brother’s was the night of the baptisms.
His brother, the child I paced outside of church with all those years ago, is five. Yesterday in church he sat with his superheroes during the sermon. They fly around. I remind him to quiet his sound effects. His dad is preaching on our union with Christ from Ephesians 2. His superhero pauses midflight and he looks at me with the biggest eyes and in a not so quiet whisper he asks. “Mom, I’m with Christ?” I give him my full attention but before I can answer he continues, “I’m a Chrisitan now, remember, so does that mean I’m with Christ right now?” I nod my head and he smiles so big and nods his own head, “Wow! Well that’s something new. I never knew that before.” The superhero continues his flight. My son became a Christian a few months ago after a baptism and prayer service. That night as he watched several believers get baptized his heart burned within him. In the bathroom later he asked me question after question about God and salvation. Then he found his dad, practically pacing in circles until his dad was finished with a conversation. He asked him questions and then he asked his dad to help him pray. A prayer that called on Christ and repented of his sins. Our son hasn’t forgotten that night. He talks of it constantly.
If normal church can be difficult with children, imagine a prayer service. But I take my kids. Not because I want some trophy, not because I have perfect children who make me look like supermom, and certainly not because it’s easy. I take them because I want them to see corporate prayer. I want them to see how important it is. I want them to be a part of that. We gather in our circle and my kids pray with me. Their prayers aren’t as long as the adult prayers. But hearing them pray for their church teachers for AWANA and Sunday School, and praying for the children of the neighborhood – that makes it all worth it.
I’m not against child directed teaching. My kids go to a Sunday School class. They attend AWANA. Those lessons are on their level, and I’m happy for them to have that. But there is something about the body of Christ coming together – baby to oldest member – that is crucial for our children to witness.
Deuteronomy 11:19, talks of teaching our children about God. God instructs us to teach them when we sit at home, when we walk along the road, when we lie down, and when we get up. Worshiping God is the most important thing I do. Public worship is a freedom I have from the sacrifice and death of those that went before me. It is a freedom I have that some brothers and sisters in the world do not have right now. It is easy for me to go to church in America. It is easy for me to read my Bible to my children. What better privilege do I have as a mother than to teach my children what worshipping God as a church looks like? What other skill could I give them than the discipline through training to sit long and listen to God’s word exposited, or to have the discipline to come to a prayer meeting and pray with our church family?
Our oldest is eight. She sits through church easily most Sundays. After church last week she had several questions for me about John the Baptist. We went through them. She is listening. She is questioning. She is learning. Our prayer for all our children is that they learn what it is to worship God, and that worship has a predominant place in their life. Starting in a few weeks, we will begin with our youngest. It will not be easy, but the best things in life rarely are.
This article was written by Randi Brunansky.