Our current letter series “Wise Practices” aims to share practical knowledge and wisdom to help us grow as doers of the word. Each letter will share applied methods and answer a ‘how.’ These practices are not perfect or comprehensive. They are personal testimonies; shared knowledge and wisdom gained through pursuit and service that helped facilitate growth in our lives. We pray they help you grow as well.
One of the most common questions I am asked as the Kids Pastor is, as a church, why do we want our children in the worship gathering? My answer is pretty simple: why would we not? We gather together weekly to celebrate the greatness and grace of God in Jesus Christ, to experience His unique presence in our midst, and to demonstrate that we belong to something bigger than ourselves: the Body of Christ. Why would we even consider that children should be excluded from something so glorious as God’s redeemed community coming together to worship Him in spirit and in truth?
In our worship gatherings, there are countless discipleship and teaching opportunities for families with children:
- We worship through the teaching of God’s Word.
- In baptism, we respond to the gospel and rejoice in Jesus’ victory over sin and death. Baptism is the public declaration of identifying as a Jesus follower.
- In the Lord’s Supper we remember Jesus’ sacrifice for us, rejoice in our deliverance from sin, and anticipate His second coming.
- We worship through singing songs that faithfully proclaim truth about God and the gospel.
- We worship in regular tithes and offerings by acknowledging God as our provider and sustainer.
We also have a biblical model set before us that speaks to children being included in the corporate gathering of God’s people. We see children present during the Passover celebration (Exodus 12:21-27), the Feast of Tabernacles (Deuteronomy 31:9-13), and for a corporate time of confession (Ezra 10:1). We also see children present when Jesus was teaching in the temple (Matthew 18:1-5). There are numerous other passages found throughout the whole counsel of Scripture that give us clear understanding that parents are the primary disciplers of their children, and the church family is to come alongside to encourage and equip them – to pursue community together.
So, how do you help children engage during the worship gathering? Here are a few initial steps to take before, during, and after each worship gathering your family attends together:
Preparation begins during the week. Talk about the Sunday gathering all week long as a family. Before coming to the gathering, talk with your children about the importance of worship.
If your children are not used to sitting still for very long, build in a time to practice this during the week. Visit the guide on tcbchurch.org/prepare to see a playlist of songs we will sing each week. Play these songs as a family so your children are familiar with them.
Invite your children to be active participants with you in the worship of our great God. Children learn by watching their parents worship. One of my favorite quotes about this comes from John Piper: “The greatest stumbling block for children in worship is that their parents do not treasure the hour. Children can feel the difference between duty and delight. Therefore, the first and most important job of a parent is to fall in love with the worship of God. You can’t impart what you don’t possess.”
The first times you bring your children into the gathering, they may struggle. It’s okay to step outside for a moment to calm down, have a conversation, discipline if necessary, and then come back into the gathering.
USE THE GUIDES
Kids Gathering Guides are provided as a weekly resource and are located at the auditorium entrances. The customized guides are designed to help your child engage during the worship time and follow along with the Sunday message.
TALK ABOUT IT
After the gathering, spend some time talking together as a family. Ask questions, review the message notes, and pray. Remind your child that because we exist for Him, Jesus followers gather with others for worship to celebrate the greatness and grace of God in Jesus Christ!
Finally, a note to those without children in the gathering: we are a family. Come alongside your other brothers and sisters to help them pursue family discipleship. Go sit with a family with children. Help children in the gathering listen and engage. Encourage dads, moms, grandparents, and caregivers in the gathering. Remember, we worship our great God together as families and welcome children so they may find their joy in Jesus!
Austin Whittington serves on staff as our Kids Pastor. He and his family moved to Tri-Cities from Collierville, TN in spring 2016. Originally from Jackson, MS, Austin graduated from Mississippi College and has a Master of Christian Education from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, TN. He and his wife, Amy, have been married since 2007 and have two very energetic boys: Tyler and Jackson.