why we worship with kids
This week is Family Worship week at ACF. Julie Washington shared this blog by Kyleb with me, from ParentingThoughts.com. It's why we worship with kids.
I was about to give up and take her back downstairs. Our church has recently made a significant shift to inviting families to worship together. I had no other options for my elementary child, but the Pre-K still had childcare downstairs and the constant movement, bouncing, distractions…were about to push me over the edge. If she puts that Moses finger puppet in my face one more time…
One parent shares it like this:
“Attending worship with small children in tow can feel like trying to sleep with a helicopter hovering over your bed. What you want is refreshment and inspiration; what you get is low-level tension, discomfort, and distraction as you brace yourself for what might happen next.”
You may be able to relate. However, I’ve become more and more convinced, that I’d much rather have my squirmy, noisy kids in worship with us than anywhere else. It is worth it. They may not be picking up everything (or anything) from the sermon or having a significant spiritual moment each week or any week for that matter…
But that may not be the point.
The point may be something closer to learning by immersion. It might be closer to the power of being together over time. It might have benefits that I never fully see until much later in life. Despite all the distractions and hassle, it might just be worth it.
“My husband and I sometimes joke that we attend the 9:10 service (our church’s first Sunday service begins at 9am.) It doesn’t seem to matter how early we begin to get everyone ready; by the time Bibles are found, shoes and coats are donned (and hats, mittens, and boots during Minnesota winters), and the bathroom has been visited by all, we will be ten minutes late to church.
While sometimes discouraged about our seemingly perpetual tardiness, for years we overlooked an important evidence of grace: our family was in church, together. We were late, but we were there. All of us. That fact alone declares something about God. He is worth a great deal to our family. He is worth the hassle, the effort, and the work it takes to get there. He is worth the embarrassment of showing up late. He is so worthy of all of it, and of so much more. That is what worship is: declaring God to be worthy, with our words and our actions.
The hassle, tension, and effort are all worth it. God is worth it. Community is worth it. Our family together, moses finger puppet and all, is worth it. Honestly, once I really believe this – the hassle, tension, and effort start to fade out a bit.
“But our continued presence in worship as a family is not the only declaration of God’s worth that occurs when we attend service together. In the pews, as I interact with my children, my actions declare something about God, too. They may declare that he is patient and kind, and wants to draw them into his presence; or, they may declare that God is annoyed, impatient, and eager to discipline. While there is a place for setting and enforcing boundaries for the good of our family and others, how we go about it declares something about God to those around us — especially to our children.
Most preliterate children will remember little, if any, of the sermon they hear on Sunday. The preacher’s advanced vocabulary and abstract ideas are difficult for young children to follow. They may not be able to read all the words to the songs.
But they will remember questions patiently answered, instructions given in kindness, and boundaries explained through the lens of God’s great worth. They will recall Mom’s arm around their shoulder or Dad’s lifting them up so they can see during the singing. They will remember joyful faces singing and worn Bibles opened during the sermon. These are the legacy of parental worship, regardless of how many times it was interrupted.
There is often more going on than we notice and this is a great reminder of how much they are taking in.
They absorb more than they can express. They learn more than they show. They are forming more ideas about mystery, community, and God than they let on. One Sunday isn’t magical on it’s own, but the repetition over time makes a significant impact.
If you’re ready to throw in the towel as I was last week, I hope this encourages you to see it all as worth it, because it is.
“So, when someone asks me whether or not we were able to worship while sitting with our littles, I hope I can say (regardless of how much of the sermon we caught, or how many songs we were able to sing beginning to end), “Yes! God was there, and he met us.”
The boys in the picture are known as "knuckleheads" by their famous Camp Fun teacher Dave Yanke. If you want to see the original blog: