Children at Worship Services - Why Are They Present?
By Walter J. Chantry
There certainly is no Bible verse which tells us when children should
begin attending worship services. The customary age at which parents
begin to take their children into meetings varies from church to
church. It may properly vary among members of the same church, though
it tends to follow a pattern because of church decisions touching the
nursery, etc. The practice of local churches in this matter comes
under the statement made in our Confession of Faith: Chapter I,
section 6, paragraph 2:
"We acknowledge that there are some circumstances concerning the
worship of God and government of churches, common to human actions and
societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and
Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which
are always to be observed.."
our church, parents usually begin to bring their children into our
services at the age of two. Our nursery offers to keep children only
under two years of age. That policy is not without reasons; though
again, it must be emphasized that it is a matter of judgment on the
basis of general prudence and general rules of God's Word.
is our judgment that children who are two-years-old are usually mature
enough to understand when their parents tell them to be quiet and to
sit reasonably still for one hour. Furthermore, by the time a child is
two, his parents should have progressed far enough in their training
of children to be able to enforce such basic orders, which their child
can understand. Though teaching this behavior to children may not be
easy, it is not unreasonable. It has been done by parents of children
with many different character make-ups. Your child is not that unique!
do wish to provide a nursery for parents when it is really necessary.
But, the operation of a nursery takes a number of adults and young
people out of our worship service. To extend the age of the children
would demand that our women, who serve faithfully and cheerfully,
would be absent from worship still more frequently. It is important
for all Christians to benefit from the fellowship of the body of God's
people gathered for worship. We feel that regular attendance at
worship is so important that we should not be urging others to be
absent any more than is absolutely necessary. When it is not demanding
too much of parents, thus reasonably to control their children, we do
not feel that a nursery should be provided. Of course, exception
should be made for all visitors who are not part of the congregation
and used to our ways of doing things.
Furthermore, parents of young children are taking an important step by
training their sons and daughters to be still and quiet. They are
taking the steps necessary for a child to participate in the worship
of God. Two and three year olds recognize some of the hymns they have
heard in Sunday School and at home. They know a little about prayer.
It is interesting to observe that when rare times of special solemnity
come in worship, even the youngest children understand and sense
something of the presence of God; for even they are unusually still
and hushed. Admittedly, these times are few and the youngest children
perceive little of the spoken word. Yet it is vital to forge the
pattern of whole families coming before God regularly for worship. It
is an important part of Christian family life, and it is important for
young children to be part of the family.
parents seem to feel that when they have won the battles of stillness
and silence, their task is done. So long as Junior doesn't squirm too
much or speak out, all is well. But it will not be long before the
child can participate in some things. He is taught the doxology in two
and three-year-old Sunday School. The pastor may read Scriptures not
unfamiliar. He may mention Daniel, David, or Peter - favorite
characters already to young hearts. Surely a four-year-old can be
taught to pay some attention.
fathers should be sensitive to how Bible truths of the worship service
apply to their young children. The pastor cannot often bring the
application down to pre- school children. But, a father can recall the
points and apply them at home later.
The Church At
parents are expected to bring their young children into the assembly,
there are going to be some times of speaking out and squirming. At the
start, a wise parent will sit in the very back of the church where
there will be a minimum number of folks disturbed by the process of
training and necessary exits. For this reason, members of our church
who insist on sitting in the very back seats are inconsiderate to
young parents. When there is no need for you to sit in the last seats,
you add to the embarrassment and anxiety of parents seeking to train
their children and not wishing to have many eyes on them. You also
force parents to sit further front at a time when they need
to have the rear pews. Furthermore, you are placing yourself in a
position in which your own participation in worship will be less than
desirable for your personal edification and for the good of all.
Everyone in the congregation should be patient and understanding
toward the squawks and thumps of new arrivals in the church. You can
help by a kind welcome to the nervous parents, and by refusing to pay
attention to the antics of the energetic child.
and This Training
Certainly any child who has never had to be still and quiet for an
hour will make noise and movement when he first is brought into the
church. But it is proper to expect that the major problems with
speaking out, standing up and trying to get the attention of others
will be largely conquered in a couple of months. This is not to say
that the child will never wiggle and whisper. But, after a number of
weeks, there should be no noises frequently made to disturb the whole
congregation. You must expect your child to be still and
quiet. The pastor should not have to out- shout him nor people of God
be regularly asked to put up with his distractions. This simply is not
right on the part of any set of parents.
significant progress is not made with the silence and stillness of
your child in a few months, perhaps you should ask yourself if you are
going about this training in the right way. If you are applying the
same principles as you do when commands are given to your child at
home, you might ask if you need further instruction from God's Word on
the matter of child discipline. Any elder of the church will welcome a
request for discussing the training of children.
A Few Hints
the time a child is two, parents should have established the fact that
when Mom and Dad give a command, they mean what they say. The only way
to establish obedience in a child is to punish each and every willful
disobedience to a command. It begins when the parent says 'no'
to touching an expensive lamp. If the child touches it, the fingers
should be smacked hard enough that a few repeat punishments will bring
obedience. Each time the child asserts his will against a command he
must be made to obey. 'No' should not come to mean 'maybe
not'. In this matter, the rod cannot be spared or the child will
be spoiled and parents will not have their children under control.
this pattern of enforcing commands is established at home, then
bringing a child to church is merely a new series of orders given.
When the child has been told to be quiet, if he speaks out, a hasty
exit to another room for a spanking will make the point. If there is
consistency in doing this at the first few out-cries, these will not
continue. But if a child has never been taught that punishment
invariably follows broken commands, it will be hard for both parent
and child to begin the process when the two-year-old is brought into
church. This whole pattern of training is far more vital to the life
of the child than simply in the area of church attendance. It will
affect his entire life.
Gimmicks like trying to keep a child so distracted that he won't move
or make noise simply side-step the issue of discipline and guarantee
either a cry of delight with a toy or fussing with tiredness.
Two-year-olds are not old enough to understand why they must be still
and quiet, so long lectures are futile. They are not able to
appreciate their parents' social embarrassment, so that pleading will
not work. If you begin to sympathize with the child, thinking the
discipline is too harsh for him, half the battle is lost. You need to
keep the issues and priorities clear in your own mind.
is indispensable to the parents' good that they worship. It is
important that a pattern of family worship be established. But the
only issue with the child is that Mom and Dad have commanded
submission. This is done with young children only the by the rod (by
spanking). It is painful to a loving parent, but it is God's ordained
means of a child's learning discipline and obedience. It is even the
foundation of self-control in later life.
do want parents of young children with us in church. We do want to be
patient as they train their children. But one of the early lessons for
Christians, one of the most practical lessons, is that you have a
basic duty to labor to train your own child. Both the Pastors and the
other elders will be glad to help you in any way that they can. We
do pray for God's rich blessing on you and your children as you seek
to obey Proverbs 23:13, 14:
not correction from the child: if you punish him with the rod,
he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from
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