Have you been to a baptism lately? Last week, as I sat in worship I delighted to see that there would be a baptism. I love to see the proud families standing before God, each other and this faith community and making powerful promises on behalf of their children. It also reminds me of how meaningful that process was for me, when I stood in front of the congregation and made those promises on behalf of my children. As I was listening to this service, one of the promises struck me. The first promise made in a baptism is that parents would “faithfully bring that child to the services of God’s house”. I looked around me, and noticed very few children in the pews. Believe me it also didn’t go unnoticed, that two of the children not in worship were my own.
It had been one of those mornings when I thought that it would just be easier to attend worship while my son was Sunday School and my daughter was in the nursery. I thought to myself that bringing them with me was too much of a distraction to me, and to my experience in worship, so it was just easier to do it this way. That’s how it begins, isn’t it? When our children are small worshipping together can be a challenge. Believe me worship for me B.C. (before children) and A.D. (after diapers) are two entirely different experiences! So in the beginning we tell ourselves, it is just easier for us to worship while our children are in the nursery or Sunday School. We think to ourselves, when they get a little bit older we’ll take them into worship and when we do, we are shocked to find out that they behave inappropriately or tune out because they are bored. Should it be any surprise to us? Somehow, we have skipped one of the most important promises we made at their baptism – “to faithfully bring them to the services of God’s house”. If we don’t teach kids how to worship, or teach them what worship is, how can we ever expect them to engage? Should it be so surprising to us when as teenagers or young adults they fall away from the church?
Part of the problem is also how we define worship. When I fail to bring my children in to worship, because it takes away from my worship experience, I’ve missed the point. Worship is not about me. Worship is about giving honor and glory to God. At its very core, worship is our recognition of the greatness of God. In Psalm 50: 7-15 we learn about the true nature of worship. It tells us that God is not concerned with rituals and sacrifices. He most desires heartfelt thanksgiving and adoration toward Him. We are told time and time again that the most important commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind”. Worship is a reflection of that love. When I truly understand that, I also understand that our children, who love so freely, need to be in worship. They need to learn how to express their love for God. It’s important to God, and it should be important to us and to the future of the church as we know it.
Does that mean it will be easy? Absolutely not, because just like everything else, children will need to be taught. It means that I will endure goldfish in the pews, and the occasional loud comments with grace and the understanding that having them there is pleasing to God and is part of my responsibility in fulfilling the promises made at their baptism. If we don’t start now it only gets harder.