With great admiration and sometimes great sympathy, I have watched families with young children participate together in the corporate worship service. Many parents and churches already know the incomparable value of having children present during the service. But there are parents who need some extra encouragement and practical help—especially those with younger children. Or maybe your church has not encouraged the presence of children and you want to revaluate that decision. In either case, here is both inspiration and practical help.
In his seminar, “Let The Children Come To Me in Worship,” David Michael articulated four benefits of having children experience the corporate worship service:
- There is spiritual benefit for children who participate.
- Attending the worship service involves children in the most central, most regular, most valuable, and most corporate activity of the church.
- It provides children with an intergenerational experience, and thus the opportunity to be influenced by and to benefit from the example of others, especially their parents.
- It facilitates the discipleship of our children.
Here is what Pastor David had to say about the first point:
Though some elements of the service may not be fully understood by children, the reality is that there are inescapable spiritual realities present in the corporate gathering of God’s people. Some of these include:
The Holy Spirit is present when the church is gathered.
Matthew 18:20—“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them."
Children have come to faith sitting through a worship service. They can experience the conviction of the Spirit and the presence of God in a church service, even though they cannot understand all the words of a song or sermon. God is not hindered by the maturity or cognitive development of a child. God can move in the hearts of the very young, even when something isn’t “age-appropriate.”
The Word of God is powerful, and it has influence over any “soul and spirit.”
There are intangible aspects in the service that children sense and learn from, even if they are not understanding all the words. Earnestness, bigness, seriousness, joy, and the intensity experienced in the worship service communicate that what is being talked about or sung about is really important.
Children learn more than we think they do.
John and Noel Piper write, “Children absorb a tremendous amount that is of value. And this is true even if they say they are bored….Music and words become familiar. The message of the music starts to sink in. The form of the service comes to feel natural. The choir makes a special impression with a kind of music the children may hear at no other time. Even if most of the sermon goes over their heads, experience shows that children hear and remember remarkable things.” (“The Family: Together in God’s Presence”).
I love the lasting legacy of immeasurable benefits that my own children have from experiencing the corporate worship service from a young age (four years old and up). Why would we ever want to withhold this wonderful means of God’s grace and blessing? Let the children come!
Yes, inspiration is necessary, but many parents also need some very practical how-to advice. Here are a few simple resources:
- “8 Tips for Helping Your Child Worship”—A free, printable PDF to share with families at your church.
- My Church Notebooks—A helpful tool for children to use during the worship service.
- Children and the Worship Service—A booklet by David and Sally Michael to equip parents and leaders to aid children in worshiping God as they participate in the worship service
- "Helping Children Benefit from the Sermon”—An article by Erik Raymond.