When we first came to Faith it was neat to see all of the young children that participated in worship services with their families. Without any kids of our own, we begin asking questions about how the children were trained to sit still for so long. I tucked some ideas away and believed I would have happy, quiet children in the worship service with me by the time they were a year or two old.
Now that I have a two-year-old and a one-year-old, I can assert that training your children to sit in the service is no easy task. As a greenhorn in reigning in my youngsters, you may be wondering what in the world my intentions are for writing an article about children sitting in the service. What could I possibly say of any value to you? I’m not writing to share my success story or personal how-to’s. Rather, my intentions are three-fold: share resources, ignite vision, and create dialogue.
For parents of infants to teenagers, I wanted to share two helpful resources I have found for dealing with the issue of training your children to sit in the service. The first is an excellent book by Noel Piper called, Treasuring God in our Traditions. In the back of this book is an appendix called, “The Family: Together in God’s Presence.” It is a very short read on the Pipers’ experience of training their own children in the worship service. It includes a biblical perspective on the issue as well as very practical ways to introduce young children to worship. [This can be downloaded for free from www.desiringGod.org.]
The second resource is much more thorough. Parenting in the Pew is a 132-page book by Robbie Castleman with the purpose of helping “parents train children in the only ‘proper behavior’ for church: worship!” Not only is this book a hilarious read with tons of anecdotes, but Castleman provides suggestions for every area of the worship service and covers everything from toddlers to teens.
The thing that impacted me the most about these two resources, however, were not the clever tips and creative ideas. What I valued the most was a recasting of my vision for my children to be in service with me. They helped me move beyond wanting my children not to be a distraction in worship, to wanting them to participate in worship. Castleman explains it by asking whether or not we are teaching our children to “count bricks or encounter God.” Now I am so excited to teach my children to engage in the worship, focus on the sermon, and learn as much as they can about God.
While I think we can all share in that goal, there is a degree of Christian liberty here: using the nursery till your child’s two, four, or never? Gradually introducing them to the service, or full-immersion? Sometimes our different perspectives in these side-issues can lead us to divert from discourse about the main goal. However, I strongly feel that this challenging, significant task deserves to be talked about. The more we can share our struggles, successes, ideas, and questions with each other on this issue, the more we can equip and encourage one another to lead our children into the presence of God.