Sunday, June 30, 2013

Worship With Kids

"Mum, take a picture of us. We're angels!" said Tank, just before communion today.

Today I did just that, to remind me that the perspective of children is SO very different to that of adults. They were not naughty children, unable to sit still. They were in God's house, the best place to be, so chill out! 

Jesus says: "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."(Matthew 18:3) So what does that look like?

I think I need to start by taking church services a little less seriously. If God is truly our Father, then like my earthly Dad, He must prefer seeing me enjoy myself. The first answer in the Westminster Shorter Catechism is: "The chief purpose of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." Enjoy being in your Father's house! It's as close as you are getting to Home whilst you are here on earth!

I think it also means that we need to work out ways that our children can be a part of worship. And allow them to be children too. 

Most of the time, I am the parent with the youngest children in the Church, I say "I" because hubby is too busy to share. Regularly, but hopefully this will change, mine are the only children in Church. I don't agree with the philosophy of taking my children out of the service to the "cry room" because they need food, or are frustrating me with their wriggles. I don't even like to send my kids to Sunday School if it takes place during the service time! 

This is because my philosophy is that children are a part of the Church, and should be included in the life and worship of the church, not segregated. Also, I believe we can learn a lot from children in worship (and we should since Jesus commands us to have faith like them). And finally, children learn a lot from being actively involved in worship...they are listening!

So how do I try to do this?

* We have snacks and water in church. Church time is about the time of their normal morning tea time at home and I don't think it's sensible to make them wait it out. Besides, the first church services held were centred around a meal! 

* I have a "Church Bag". This bag holds a number of toys and tricks that keep our children's hands occupied. Currently it contains: fuzzy wire, beads, threading toys, some magnetic animals that can have their heads and tails changed, and some mini pegs. In the past a favourite has been paper clips. I have thought about rubber bands, but can just see them flying up into the sanctuary area and causing no end of disruption :) In the past I have also included musical instruments for playing during songs (making their joyful noise) but it can be difficult to rescue these before the prayers start.

* We sit at the front. Even during holidays, we sit up the front. This means the children can see what's going on and therefore they seem focused. It means there are no other children around to help in distracting my children (they need no help). And it means I can sit on the floor and focus on my children during the sermon. They feel that Mama is playing with them and seem more willing to play the whispering game.

* And we try to play Church aerobics. We try to stand when everyone else stands, etc. This way they are not sitting the entire time. And occasionally, like today, I make fun with my older children by singing in an operatic voice.

What is the point of me doing all this? To show my children the Church, the Bride of Christ, and allow them to be a part of it, since they too love Jesus and are therefore part of the body of Christ.

But seriously, it goes against the grain that so many people, some parents included, think that children shouldn't be in Church because then the parents and others don't hear the sermon. But even on the super difficult days (yes they do happen), I'm still hearing even when I don't feel like I am. Besides this, if hearing the sermon is so important, which it is, then get a copy for later listening and enjoy it whilst you drive around town or do the dishes! If you can't get your pastor's sermon recorded then ask him for a recommended sermon podcast. I listen to podcasts whilst hanging out the washing.

Here in the Divine Service God gives us forgiveness, His Word and His body and blood. This is life giving stuff! Why deny our children? They can teach us a fair bit about worship!

Jesus LOVES children. He loves their enthusiasm, He loves their joy, He loves their creativity, He loves the way they think outside the box, and He loves their trust and faith in Him. In Matthew 19:14 Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven."  

Enjoy your children during Church. Pray for them. Let distractions be for God's work, not the devil's. Pray for the parents you hear with grumpy children, instead of giving dark looks or making comments. Even better, offer support! 

When Tank was a wee bit older than 18 months we attended the Queensland Synod Sunday service at Buderim. It was a fantastic service, brilliant children's address and President Mike Semmler preached. He was getting rather energetic with his preaching as he preached about the mustard seed being like our sin, needing to die. And like a good preacher/politician he then went on to give the same point in a number of ways. Tank started to call out at the top of his voice: " Die! Die! Die!!" Hubby wanted to crawl under his seat, yep we were at the front. Pastor Mike then went on to outline how we are to grow to be more like Jesus. This time Tank called out: "Gwow! Gwow! Gwow!"

Children are listening at church, even when we think they are too small. And every time we have them in Church with us they are learning more about the Church and about Jesus. I pray that they are learning that the Church loves them, as well as the fact that Jesus loves them. 

Matthew 11:25 Jesus declared, " I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children."

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