Saturday, January 26, 2013

Keeping children in the service, why and how

A brief case for and help towards, keeping children in the church service...

I write this post not to formulate a new law in which to bind men, but I do write fully convinced that it is wise, good, and fruitful to forgo separating children, youth and adults by having separate 'church' services. However I'm not writing to present a case for a family-integrated model, for I'm not suggesting there should never be times where say in classroom settings (Sunday school) that children or youth are specifically targeted, but I do believe such should certainly not take place during the Lord's day service. I'm also not saying that if a church does this then they are unhealthy or apostate and should be abandoned (don't bother responding if you take it that way, for or against). With that said there are some who do what i think is quite unique, for some encourage the parents to engage the children on what they have learnt or 'picked up' from the sermon, while some churches like Paul Washer's church in Virginia, actually address the children with a separate short message and then preach to the whole congregation (with children present). I'm not so much addressing the 'nursery' either, though I still think it's unnecessary, although a 'crying room' lol (where one can briefly if able, can calm or change or feed their baby etc), might be helpful.

Here then is some food for thought (It would be nice to convince some, but more importantly, maybe more realistically, lol, I wish to support those who have decided likewise)

Preaching should be central on the Lord's Day, for God has given such 'gifts' (Pastors etc, Eph 4) to equip the saints, yes the 'preaching' of the gospel must be heard and is indeed a means of grace which the Holy Spirit uses to move men to trust, cherish and obey Christ.

*since preaching is so vital, necessary and powerful, we should not limit it's reach nor help in assisting others to miss out on it (which happens not only for the children, but for all the 'helpers', all the 'teachers' and even IF there's somewhat of a rotation there's always a few volunteers who rarely, if ever, get to sit under the preached word and receive this vital grace {and that quite contradicts what most believe about preaching}), unfortunately it's the most vital parts of worship (typically preaching and the ordinances) that are missed (or interrupted) because of the unnecessary extras we add to the Lord's day

*i contend that having children present would be in keeping with the scriptures (since children would have been present during the service) and with a grand majority of church history....and one would be hard-pressed to argue a case from scriptures that such should be done

*children hear more and understand more then we believe, and ESPECIALLY more then most presently believe (of course we can always do things to help them learn to listen better)

*parents are called to teach our children in the 'fear and admonition of the Lord', and it certainly makes sense to teach them (even IF they don't 'get much out of it') that there is something unique, something distinctly separate (holy) about the Lord's service, about the sacraments, preaching, and prayer etc, and that unfortunately has been lost for far too many in our day (as opposed to church simply being a fun, interesting, playtime)

*children love to imitate, and if they are challenged (i know it's considered 'old-fashioned') to grow in maturity, to be trained towards adulthood (another lost goal of our day) it would do them good

*it seems quite hypocritical to expect children to sit and listen to a teacher in say school (if u do that) but not to teach them to sit and listen to the word preached. Perhaps some would object saying 'But that's geared towards them, they can understand it', well then what if they can't understand? are they allowed to walk out? Better yet if an adult family member begins to talk to them (and u know some that don't do the gaga language, but speak a little 'over the head' of the child) would you be fine if you child walks away, since they don't 'get it'? I hope you would consider that rude, well then should not the Lord receive much more attention?

HELP!! Assistance in teaching children to sit quietly in church:
(this is NOT expert advice, but some things we have found to be helpful in teaching/training our 7 boys to sit quietly in church)

First things first, here then are some reasons why NOT to teach them to sit quietly in church:
*don't do it for self, to be seen or as a sign that you belong to an 'elite' class of super-parents
*don't do it because it shows your children are holy and others are not, for they are but restrained little heathens who desperately need the grace of Jesus Christ
*don't do it without a conviction concerning the importance of the Lord's Day, don't simply do it to make some statement

Now then, let me suggest a few things that should help:
*a good example: children NEED to see you yourself display a high regard for the uniqueness of the Lord's Day
*much prayer: plead with the Lord for help in doing this, and plead that the word might be effectual towards them
*train! Discipline disobedience, but first TRAIN them (at home) how to obey, regular family devotions where the children are required to sit and listen is of first importance, and perhaps additional times where say a parent sits the children down and are read a story (explain what's expected of them: paying attention, no side chat etc) and quickly and consistently discipline them when they disobey (a quick smack, a flick, etc)...yes children need free time and playtime but they should not be given the freedom to always chose when they decide to listen or show respect etc
*light discipline during service, (if needed..hahahaha), not saying if they fidget or something (age can come into an extent), but purposely being distracting, loud, rude etc (quick flicks are good), and maybe there's some times where u need to deal with them in a bathroom (BUT, if for some reason it seems quite unwise, lots of people,lack of opportunity etc......then assure them such WILL be dealt with at home or when you get in the car, but be sure to follow through so not to teach them that you are bluffing, one parent may be better at remembering then another...but don't let it go because a short time has passed) ...remember we are obeying the Lord in applying the rod, and we do so for the good of our children
*sometimes it might help to engage them during 'hey remember that story' 'did you hear that name' etc
*often it helps to remind them of the expectations BEFORE you get to church (knuckleheads need repetition)
*encourage and compliment good behavior, while being careful not to teach them that they have accomplished some 'good works' (giving children the gospel frequently will help fight that tendency) nor allowing them to compare themselves with other children ('well, son i don't know about them, but God has called YOU to obey ME and that's what we need to worry about .....thankfully I've not had to correct that kind of sinful question yet)
*a little ingenuity might help in calming and quieting babies and toddlers, trying to gauge feeding times better, trying to learn how to bounce them, and if all else fails 'o well' just carry them for a while or step out if they're acting possessed :)
*a LOT of patience and endurance as well, (hoping for the best, but expecting the worst), with some it might be quicker, and with others WHOA, it might take some months (but don't give up....cling to those convictions, keep the goal and proper motive before your eye....and by God's grace keep on keeping on)

Well that wasn't anything revolutionary, and certainly it wasn't exhaustive but I do hope it's helped someone out there........and i do hope nothing was misunderstood, grace and peace.


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Mardochee G.

Amen a million times brother!! Thanks for the tips (and yes, the flicks do work!) My wife and I keep getting questioned why we don't let our kids go to "kids church" and we have to explain almost weekly to our friends and others. Good to know we aren't alone.

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