Inviting Children to Experience Worship of God

Inviting Children to Experience Worship of God

Recently, I had the great joy and privilege of holding my 8-month-old grandson in my arms during a family gathering. His big eyes were busy observing everything around him…

  • Family, other well-known faces, and strangers were seated all around him.
  • People were bowing their heads, with eyes closed, being very quiet.
  • A man up front, with his eyes closed, was talking earnestly.
  • Grandma stood up with everyone else and started singing, and some people raised their hands.
  • The man up front opened a book and read from it while everyone else listened.
  • A basket was passed around, and people put something in it.

As you have probably guessed, the “family” I am referring to is the family of Christ, gathering to worship the Lord together. Little baby Nate was being exposed to the Sunday morning corporate worship service—a crucial element of family life for every believer. Even at 8 months old, he is seeing and hearing the normal rhythms of life in the body of Christ. What a privilege to expose him to this at such a young age!

Baby Nate, who is now almost 2 years old, is seeing and, by God’s grace, being influenced by the examples of worshipers around him. This is another important reason for inviting children into 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 benefit from the example of others, especially their parents.
In his seminar, “’Let the Children Come to Me’ in Worship,” Pastor David Michael talks about this last point:

We want our children to establish a habit of worship attendance, but more than that, we want them to delight in worshipping God. To that end, our example has a powerful influence on our children. For better or for worse, our children will take their cues from us.

Our children are more likely to cherish the worship of God if they witness that heart for worship in us. When they see their parents and other adults bow their heads in earnest prayer, or lift their hands in praise, the genuine worship they observe can stir their hearts to worship. Children can observe parents listening intently, taking notes, and processing the truth they are hearing. They observe this hunger for the Word of God, which can stir their own hearts to hunger God’s word.

How might the heart of a little girl be stirred when she looks up and sees her mother worshipping God with singing and tears flowing down her cheeks? How might the soul of a boy be influenced as he observes his father week after week bowing in prayer after a word of challenge or exhortation from the pastor? Can we measure the impact on a child who sees an elderly man put his gift in the offering plate week after week, or observes his pastor’s passion as he preaches the truths of the Word?

Jason Helopoulos reinforces this point with these words:

What a benefit there is when children witness their mother or father singing with conviction, praying in reverence, listening intently to the sermon, or receiving the Lord’s Supper in joy. In these moments a child witnesses the importance of faith and worship. There are few greater encouragements to a child’s faith than seeing their parents worship God with reverence and joy.

(Jason Helopoulos, “Children in Worship–Let’s Bring it Back,” posted by Kevin DeYoung on March 6, 2012,)

As does Pastor Bud Burk in emphasizing what children observe when they are in worship with their parents:

[They are] watching your silent attention to the heralding of the Word of God—watching you smile when the pastor says something that encourages your heart, watching you nod when you say, “Yes, that’s right,” or watching you shake your head with a countenance of sadness (“Why is mommy sad?”). Maybe it is conviction of the Holy Spirit. [A] child sees years of this, week after week, month after month—watching you read your Bible as the preacher preaches. [A child] sees you open up your Bible—watching you look up when the pastor’s voice gets really loud. [This has] an effect on a child’s spiritual growth even though the child may not be able to say what the pastor just said. Or [the child has] years of watching the pastor smile with joy or have an earnest look on his face, or years of watching you sing—watching you raise your hands. [It] means something to them because it means something to you—watching mom sit down when everyone else is singing, when everyone else is standing, and watching her put her head down, and watching dad put his hand on her shoulder…no words, just a moment that has an incredible effect on children.

Years watching you eat the Lord’s supper—years of watching you hold the cup and looking at it, years of watching you hold the bread (Jesus’ body being pierced)…watching your eyes close during most of the Lord’s supper devotional or song. [A] parent’s silence has an impact.

(Bud Burk, “The Generations in the Worship Service,” May 03, 2013,)

Read the Full Children in the Church Service Series Part 1: A Summer of Worshiping Together—Let the Children Come! Part 2: Including Our Children in the Central Activity of the Church Part 3: Inviting Children to Experience Worship of God Part 4: Inviting Children as a Means of Discipleship Part 5: "Let Them Come"—Help for Church and Parents
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