When we first joined Living Hope, family worship Sundays were not on my radar. It wasn’t that I didn’t like them; I just didn’t consider them. Whether or not the kids were in the service felt pretty irrelevant to me, since I wasn’t a parent. Seven years later, those Sundays are absolutely on my radar and God has used them to grow my love for worshiping him in ways I never saw coming.
As our family has grown, I’m grateful to go to a church that values worship highly and doesn’t sequester children away. I love that part of our local church worship includes family worship Sunday, when everybody stays together on the fifth Sunday of the month.
Anybody who has seen me during family worship might be surprised I say that. I normally show up to church on those Sundays (quite frankly, most Sundays) looking a bit frazzled; the odds are good that at least one of us hasn’t brushed our teeth; coffee, crayons, and a post-service nap are not optional. If you happen to be right behind us, you’ll probably have faces made at you by our newborn (she’s pretty cute, so nobody seems to mind).
I say all this because despite the obstacles of getting to and sitting through the service with our small children, I’m glad every week when we do it. Here are some reasons why my gratitude for these Sundays has grown.
Worship is meant to be corporate. God saves individuals, but he always calls them to a body. When we read about worship in Scripture, it’s done in a large group; community is not optional. Why would this exclude some of our smaller members?
We work hard for what we value. I have a great love for baking bread. There are few things that can propel me out of bed in the morning like dough that’s been fermenting overnight, or a freshly baked loaf toasted and slathered with butter for breakfast. Despite the work involved, my labor makes the end result sweeter. Family worship is like this, because it is hard work. It is hard work to prepare children to sit through a worship service when they are not naturally good at many of its components (sitting still, listening, going more than five minutes without snacks). But it is good work. It is worthwhile to help these people God stitched together, who Jesus himself loves and welcomes, and who will one day grow to be big worshippers see what it is to worship this great God. Doing this with the family of God is a valuable blessing, something worth working hard for.
It strengthens the bond between church members. When families worship with other families, it’s easier to recognize we are in the trenches together. We seek to know and love the Lord more, and our children take part in it. There are a lot of things we teach by telling, but worship is learned in a more tactile way when kids get to sit through a service.
And lest we imagine that only families with children enjoy this benefit, it is available to all church attendees. The next time someone gives a testimony at church, take note: who are the other people mentioned? The Holy Spirit loves to use people in all stages of life to encourage each other, young and old alike.
Preparation must be intentional. All throughout the Bible, we read about varying kinds of preparation: Moses preparing to lead Israel out of Egypt, Israel preparing to go into Canaan, God himself preparing the way for the Messiah to be born. Most significantly, we read about God preparing a plan to save humanity, and setting it in motion; we read about Jesus going to prepare a place for his family in Heaven before his return. The logical response to these past, ongoing, and future preparations is to make our hearts ready. The rhythms we adopt to prepare ourselves for corporate worship is not diminished when we involve our children; quite the opposite. It deeply honors God when we seek to show them how significant it is. And so, for every fifth Sunday or every Sunday we have children amongst us as we worship, let’s welcome old and young, and prepare our hearts together for worship in our future heavenly home.