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Pastoral 2017

Children & Worship - II

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(Previously published on 9 March 2008)

With a view to a more careful adherence to the Biblical model, which I have showed you last week, I would suggest that children who are in primary 4 and above – though there need be no arbitrary distinction as some younger children might well be able to be present at an earlier age – should be present in the public meetings of the church (especially on the Lord’s Day). I would also suggest that parents consider bringing children to midweek prayer meetings, as much as possible.

The children should sit quietly and attentively, endeavouring – to the best of their ability – to participate reverently and intelligently in the various exercises of worship. To attain such a goal requires that parents be diligent and thorough in preparing their children for attendance at and participation in the public meetings. In order to help parents and the church accomplish their Biblical responsibility, please consider the following guidelines, which I hope will act as an aid to such preparation. (The ideas reflected in the following sections are not entirely mine. I have adapted some from various books and articles, with changes to suit our congregation.)

Practical Suggestions

  • Conduct family worship daily. This can be just a 15-minute spiritual discipline for the family, where everyone sits together to sing a song, read the Scriptures and pray. This spiritual exercise is a good avenue to teach your children the behaviour expected of them during the Sunday Worship.
  • Seek to order things in your home so that children have adequate rest on Saturday night. We ought to be at least as concerned that children get enough sleep as on a school night, and have adequate time on Sunday morning to prepare to leave the house, so that they are in every respect ready for church.
  • Aim to arrive in good time (perhaps 10-15 minutes before the service begins), and be in the appropriate place for worship as soon as reasonably possible. Remind your children in advance the behaviour that is expected of them in Sunday school, the worship service and/or the prayer meeting.
  • Accomplish necessary tasks (such as getting a drink or using the toilet) before the start of the service. Advise your child not to run in and out of the worship hall, because leaving the worship (even for legitimate reasons) is a distraction, at least to those nearby. Such a departure will also disrupt your child’s and your worship of God. It will impair your ability to follow, understand, and therefore benefit from the preaching of God’s Word. The logic and continuity of Biblical preaching is lost when there are interruptions in the hearing of it. Seriously consider the possibility of refusing your child’s desire to leave the meeting place.
  • Train your children to be good listeners. Instruct them to sit with good posture and focus their eyes on the one leading the service or preaching. When the Scriptures are read, have them turn to the text and follow in their own or your Bible. Likewise, help them turn to each hymn and follow from the hymnbook, helping them as required. With older children, consider such means of helping them to concentrate as taking notes.
  • Encourage children to continue behaving well (e.g. not making excessive noise and shouting), even immediately after a public meeting. Help children to behave politely to one another and to adults (holding open doors, helping with tasks, etc.), and to behave in a friendly fashion to visitors, particularly children who are visiting.
  • As much as possible, follow up on the preaching and teaching with your children (during the drive home, lunchtime, or family worship), by asking them appropriate questions.
  • Remember also the power of our parental example (good or bad) in preparing for and participating in the public meetings of the church. If we have not been the best example, we need to humbly correct ourselves. If necessary, explain to our children why correction is needed and how to make the correction. This is the only way you and I can guide our families to a better worship of God.

Nursery to Primary 3

  • In this category, most of the older ones (Primary 1-3), if properly guided, will be able to sit through the worship without causing disruptions. Right now, we have a special Junior Worship lesson conducted for this group during the sermon time, so that they may be taught the Word in a way they can comprehend.
  • While they are present during the first part of the worship service, they must be instructed to have proper attitude and behaviour. If the parents are unable to attend to them, let the Junior Worship teacher or another adult sit with the children to guide them.
  • It is important that we insist on good attitude during worship. If your child becomes restless or behaves inappropriately, remember to deal with him in a way that will not disrupt the focus of the other worshippers. There is no need to leave the worship at the first sign of disturbance from your child; the congregation should appreciate that a very young child does not always behave perfectly. If there is no alternative, take your child out of the service. Ensure that this is not seen as a ‘reward’ for disobedience. If possible, deal with the particular issue appropriately and immediately, and then return to the meeting room to continue participating in the public worship of God.
  • If it is predictable that you will need to take your child out of a service to train or discipline him, aim to take seats near the doors of the meeting room, where you can get in and out with least distraction to others. When leaving or entering, try to do so with a minimum of fuss and noise. Other members of the church – ushers, for example – might be able to render a helping hand to you. Return to your seats as soon as possible with minimal distraction.
  • Remember that the children are to participate intelligently in worship. Diversionary activities (drawing, writing, reading other children’s books, playing, etc.) are not part of the worship of God. Neither is eating nor drinking (except for the Lord’s Supper). All these can be distracting for the child, yourself and others. These things will undermine a child’s active and intelligent involvement in the worship of God.

Infants and toddlers

  • Toddlers are often restless and fidgety. They are also prone to cry aloud. Parents of infants and toddlers are invited to use the “cry-room” section. If you are in the main worship hall, please be seated near the door, so you can easily exit the worship hall to attend to your child who is crying. If your child is getting unusually restless, please consider using the “cry-room”. Or you may take your child out of the worship hall with as little disturbance as possible. Please seek help from the ushers, if you need assistance. Quietly return to your seat as soon as possible after attending to the child.
  • Parents who are in the “cry-room” must remember not to engage in conversation or activities that will distract others from concentrating on the worship. Let us endeavour to keep the solemnity of worship at all times. As much as possible, make sure that your movements and activities are least disturbing to others around you. Let all parents be mutually helpful and forbearing.

The Lord calls out to all our children, saying, “Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD” (Psalm 34:11). “Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts” (Isaiah 28:9). Parents, come with your children to worship the Lord! ■

 

 

Pastoral Exhortation