As the pastor of a church where children begin worshiping with the adults at age three, I regularly receive an apology from the parent of a young child for some disruption their child made during the service. As a father of young children, I can empathize with the challenges of bringing young children into a worship service. Yet, I believe children are a part of the church family, and despite the challenges, the church makes an important statement by seeking to include them in the worship service. While not every Sunday will be a delightful experience, the childhood years offer a prime opportunity to teach our children what it means to be a part of a community at worship.
Robbie Castleman, author of the book Parenting in the Pew, writes, "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." When I first read her book years ago, Castleman’s approach to worship revolutionized my thinking about the importance of including children in the worship service. Like learning to ride a bicycle, learning to sit through a worship service or listen to a sermon may involve its share of “skinned knees.” But it is also worth the effort because the most important thing a Christian parent can pass along to their children is a passion for worshipping the God who created them and redeemed them through Jesus.
The truth is, as a pastor, I usually don’t notice the commotion of one of two children in a church service. Yes, sometimes kids will disrupt others. If you’re genuinely concerned about this, find a trusted person who can help you gauge your child’s behavior. But most of the time, I answer concerned parents by saying, “I’d rather have a little bit of disruption in our congregation than tell our children to stay away.”
Parents of young children, what you do matters. God’s children belong in worship. Their Savior said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them” (Matt. 19:14). Let’s have the courage to teach our kids to worship God—their God and ours.