Children & Worship
"Daddy, I'd Like You to Meet My Children"
Have you ever thought seriously as to why we attend church? Do we go because it is the right thing to do, a good way to start the week, because it is a good time to see our friends and we like the music? Going to church is the right thing to do. However, worship is the right reason.

Worship does not come naturally to us. Just as God had to train the people of Israel, He continues to instruct us as to how we should worship and how we should teach our children to worship. The Bible says, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it."

Each day parents teach their children to make their beds, pick up their toys, swing a bat, throw a ball, ride a bicycle, figure out fractions, and so on. All of these mentioned areas are important in growth, however, isn't worshipping God to be at the top of the list? Dr. James Dobson has written in Dr. Dobson Answers Your Questions, that spiritual training is important and gives his readers a twenty-eight point checklist of questions for parents.

The two checklist questions concerning church/worship are as follows:
  • Is your child learning to behave properly in church - in God's house?
  • Is your child learning to keep the Sabbath day holy?
Parents need guidance and help (instructional materials) to teach their children about church. These instrutional materials must give information on how to teach your child how to worship and why it is necessary to learn how to worship. The information should not just lessen the stress of an hour in the pew.

Parenting in the Pew, by Robbie Castleman is an excellent source for couples who were in the B.C. stage of their lives and have now entered the A.D. stage of life. In case you are confused ... B.C. stands for "before children" and A.D. stands for "after diapers." Mrs. Castleman's book is quick reading and relates to all parents in the A.D. stage of life.

Mrs. Castlemand states, "Parenting in the pew can be a hot battle or a holy triumph of grace. It can consist of whispered commands: 'be quiet,' 'shhhh,' or it can contain the most intimate moments of life with God's family together in his presence. Sunday morning with children in the pew can be the longest hour of the week, or it can provide the very best preparation for eternal joy."

Teaching your children to worship, parenting in the pew, is entering the house of your heavenly Father and saying, "Daddy, I would like you to meet my children." Worship is seeing your Father's smile.

Start teaching your children to worship each Sunday. Show them the bulletin and help them work their way through it as they learn when to stand and sit and how to say the Lord's Prayer. Help them follow the words of the hymns and responses. Teach them that worship on Sunday is when we give back to God, and show Him that we are proud to be called His children.

Carlien Parlett
Director of Christian Education

"Worship B.C. and A.D."
By now, I'm sure it is evident to most of us who have children that worship B.C. is quite different from worship A.D. Worship before children dealt only with ourselves and God. Worship after diapers now deals with active children who want to know everything at once and want to be active while they are learning about this God who loves them. Have you ever said, "I used to get more out of church before I had kids."

We need to reconsider this statement and realize that the bigger issue is, What does God get from our worship? We read in the Psalms, "Bless the Lord, O my soul!" But how often do we really mean "Bless my soul, O Lord!" When we are intent on blessing God, the expectations of worship are met. Encountering the Lord, meeting Jesus, hearing God's voice, and knowing God all fall into place.

If we do not grow with our children from B.C. to A.D., we may feel that our children are infringing on our worship experience. However, children do not have to interfere with God's experience of worship. We neeed to remember that worship is first and foremost a blessing to God, and He values the praise and the presence of children.

Since we have looked at what worship is... maybe we should look at what worship is not. In Robbie Castleman's book Parenting in the Pew she states:
  • Worship is not a refueling to get us through another week.
  • Worship is not a system of traditions built up over many years of congregational life until everyone feels comfortable.
  • Worship is not a time to unwind, relax, tune out or take a mental vacation.
  • Worship is not an hour of Christian entertainment.
  • Worship is not what makes us good people, faithful Christians or successful parents. Worship is surrender of our souls to a God who is jealous for our attention, time and love.
Worship should be a challenge demanding all that we have, being given to our Maker. However we need to be aware that worship with children may be even more challenging.

Remember, God has never given up on us...so, He expects us to persevere with our children right beside us in the pew, praising God with all of their might, as we set the example for them.

Encourage your children to participate in all the areas of worship. Standing, singing, praying, reciting, receiving blessings or communion and going in peace to serve the Lord, should be our utmost challenge each Sunday.

Carlien Parlett
Director of Christian Education

"Stop and Smell the Roses When You Worship"
Have you ever watched a child smell a flower? The flower is not just placed near the nose ... the nose and cheeks are totally pressed into the flower. This experience is done with such intensity that we as adults find it amusing. As adults we sometimes tend to take that same flower for granted ... or look at it as everyday or mundane. The child needs to experience it totally through touch, smell, taste and sight with an inquisitive enthusiasm that makes God's heart leap for joy. This is what He had hoped for in the Garden of Eden. God wanted someone who would be enthusiastic about spending time with Him without it being mandated.

When we worship God, He wishes for each of us to have "owned-for-myself" faith ... not "borrowed faith." Children want to encounter God. They want to hear God speak back to them when they pray. They want to know about the faith of those around them. Children have such a delightful faith and a fervent love for God because they don't take time to analyze and dissect God's love for them. The are able to accept His love and grace at face value.

We need children in the pews in our worship services. They remind us visually and audibly of what it means to be great believers. Participation in every syllable of the service is of major importance in training children to worship. Children are often leaders in boldly approaching the throne of grace. Their knowledge of God's presence among us can often surprise those of us who are most skeptical.

There is no magical age as to when we begin to encounter our Creator. Children experience God's love the moment their parents see them for the first time. We love them because God loved us first. The cycle continues without hesitation. We bring our children into God's house as soon as we can and they begin to experience His love from those of us who become their church family. We need to remember that when we participate in each child's baptism we take a vow to help this child experience God's love for them every time they enter the doors of Christ Lutheran Church.

In their book Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony, Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon affirm the wisdom of including children in the worship and work of he kingdom. They state: "In many of our modern, sophisticated congregations, children are often viewed as distractions. We tolerate chidlren to the extent they promise to become "adults" like us. Adult members sometimes complain that they cannot pay attention to the sermon, they cannot listen to the beautiful music, when fidgety children are beside them in the pews. Isn't it interesting that Jesus took a child and put him in the midst of his disciples in order to help them pay attention? If you remember, the disciples tried to send the children away and Jesus told them not to."

We need to remember that children help us pay attention to what God is really saying, and parents you are the best people to teach our children here at Christ Church what it means to worship God. Our children are a symbol of God's kingdom, and we need to remember this each time we enter through the church doors.

Carlien Parlett
Director of Christian Education

"We Are Called to Worship!"
What is preventing our children from being practitioners of active worship? One of the biggest challenges as parents is training children to concentrate while we are worshipping God and making them part of it. When something in worship is different or unusual, it tends to hold a child's attention - this could be instrumental music, a special choir anthem, or an illustration that is done in a children's sermon.

In the society in which we live, entertaintment has become a standard part of what Americans expect for education. The one thing that we must not lose track of is that worship in the form of entertainment will not accelerate the spiritual growth of our children. We need to keep worship as the one realm where culture does not influence how we learn.

God is specific as to how we worship. First and foremost we need to teach our children that when they come into God's presence, that it is to be done with respect and reverence. God said..."Be still and know that I am God."

Our children are acutely aware of spiritual needs. They realize when they need to be forgiven and when they need to forgive. They are aware of feeling uncomfortable when they break a promise. They have experienced the "I'll never do that again" variety of repentance. Children need to know for themselves whether Jesus Loves Me is for real, or just a song.

Entertainment is no match for worship. We need to teach our children that entertainment fills up our time...but, worship fits us for eternity. Sometimes we need to assign responsibility in order to teach our children to be responsible. Let your child bring their favorite stuffed animal to church with the stipulation that they must teach their stuffed animal to pay attention in church and learn how to worship God in a respectful and a reverent manner.

Carlien Parlett
Director of Christian Education

"Make a Joyful Noise"
One day, many years ago I was listening to my first born who was about 18 month old sing "Jesus Love Me." Her version went like this ... Jesus loves me this I know for Brenda and the Bible tell me so. Her Sunday School teacher from birth to that very moment had been the Pastor's wife. If I had not realized it before, I knew at that moment, that we begin teaching our children about their faith and God's love the first moment we bring them into God's house. When we start our children into a routine of coming to God's house from the moment that they are born, we give them a gift that was purchased for them 2,000 years ago by a loving God who was willing to sacrifice His Son in order for our children and ourselves to live with him eternally.

Children laugh, cry, call out, wiggle, squirm, turn around in the pew to see who is behind them, show us what they are doing, and basically want to see if we are noticing that they are made in the image of God. Jesus was very explicit when He said that we are to become as children in order to enter the Father's kingdom. We need their faith and their joy. We need their enthusiasm and giddiness. We need their eyes that sparkle and dance. We need their smiles that light up the world. Unless we teach them otherwise...these are all the things that children experience when we tell them about a loving God.

Worshiping God is not just and adult experience. The truth of the matter is that we, as adults, become so set in our ways in worship that we are apt to become very annoyed when our worship is disturbed. Do we remember what it was like for us as a child when we first tried to sing a hymn out of the hymnal and the music and the words went by so fast that we couldn't begin to keep up? Parents, encourage your children to sing la, la, la until they can keep up with the adults. God is pleased by their enthusiasm to praise Him. Children will pick up the refrain because it is repeated over and over. God is waiting to hear that joyful noise each Sunday as we enter His courts with praise and thanksgiving.

When children are baptized into the Christ Lutheran Church family we make a promise to each of them and their parents and God to help these children learn about the God who made them and loves them and to teach them how to worship Him. Now is the time to reach down into our hearts and find our inner child and start to begin to relate to the children around us in the pews. A smile or a nod of the head when they do something in worship that is giving God His praise will go a long way in helping our children enter into God's house with joy and thanksgiving, and will encourage them to make a joyful noise and come before His presence with singing.

Carlien Parlett
Director of Christian Education

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