Children in Church.
On the 14th September, we will be starting our Friday School. I am looking forward to this extra time of teaching and learning around the Word of God on our ‘Friday’ Sabbath.
Some may be asking why? Why the change, why the need? The elders have given a lot of thought and prayer around these questions. Our burden as elders is to equip every single member with a well-rounded, scripturally derived, steadily increasing knowledge of God and his ways. Our desire is that every person in New Life Church (including children) grow in their knowledge of Scripture, to develop a biblical worldview, and to be increasingly able to apply the gospel to every area of their lives, and as a result glorify God and enjoy Him more!
We believe these Friday School classes will help facilitate this ultimate objective. All Christians are called to grow in the knowledge of God as a means of growth in godliness. In Hebrews 5:12 the author writes to his readers, saying, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of God’s word. You need milk, not solid food.” He expected these believers to be consistently growing in knowledge.
Again in 1 Corinthians 14:20 Paul writes, “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” Paul here shows us that it is the responsibility of every Christian to grow in their thinking about God. Our Friday School is designed for everyone (children, youth and adults) to grow in their knowledge, understanding and love for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
With the addition of our Friday School, it has become necessary for us to make a few changes to our Friday format. One of the changes is the timings. We hope this 30 minute change will not be too much of an obstacle for some people to overcome. Our Friday School will start at 9.30am, and our corporate worship service will start at 10.30am.
One other change will be that children 9 years and above will now be part of the corporate worship service. There will still be childcare and a class for those below 9 years while the service is going on, but those above 9, will be part of the corporate worship service.
Again, the elders have prayed about this decision and we feel that it is important for the health of the church for children to be included in the corporate worship service. Research shows, whether for good or bad, children follow the spiritual lead set by their parents and surrounding adult community. John Piper says that "Parents have the responsibility to teach their children by their own example the meaning and value of worship. Therefore, parents should want their children with them in worship so the children can catch the spirit and form of their parents’ worship. Children should see how Mom and Dad bow their heads in earnest prayer during the prelude and other non-directed times. They should see how Mom and Dad sing praise to God with joy in their faces, and how they listen hungrily to His word. They should catch the spirit of their parents meeting the living God." Read the rest of the article from John Piper, that helps explain the need to integrate children, youth and adults in the corporate worship service.
The results of less than wholehearted devotion from parents, community members and, to be fair, children are highlighted in the Old Testament book of Judges.
Judges 2:10-11a records: “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil…”
At a very fundamental level, the negative example of Judges 2 reminds us of the need to be intentionally influencing our children to ‘know the Lord’. And what better way to model love, fear, service and worship before our children, than in the church service? The Bible is literally full of examples of the whole congregation being present, both in the Old and New Testaments. Christ’s life and ministry model the same for us.
In February this year, Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, posted a video from a chapel service where he addressed the topic of children in the worship service. He said “..when you look at a church and you look at a congregation you should see the congregation. You should see young people. You should see young couples. You should see older couples and older people. You should see those coming into the final season of their life and you should see those in the beginning season of their life. You should see people sitting in pews who’s feet cannot touch the floor. And we should, in church, welcome the wiggling and the squirming, and we should hope that what is happening is that the Word of God is reaching those hearts in ways those children do not even recognize. They are speaking as children, they are thinking as children, they are reasoning as children but the Word of God can reach where we cannot go. It is one of the ordinary means of grace that our children, in church with us, will hear the Word of God, and sing the songs, sing the hymns, hear the music before they can sing it. In order that they, at the right time might find their voice.”
God-centred worship is supremely important in family life and in the life of our church. So even though there may be a few adjustments to make, our prayer is that your children will follow your good example and leadership by bringing them to the Friday School as well as the church service. I like what John Piper says in his article: “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 [parents] can’t impart what you don’t possess.And this is what you want your children to catch. You want them to catch authentic worship.”
New Life Church let us welcome the wiggling and the squirming and pray that the adults example will help them fall in love with the worship of God, and that the Word of God reaches their hearts in ways that will produce eternal fruit for our Saviours glory.