Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Children In Worship

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.


  1. I love these thoughts, Shawna. As you know, I have no children, but I often talk to married siblings and friends who are members of my greater congregation about bringing children to church. In our faith, we don't have any other meetings during our main meeting, which is called sacrament meeting, so either you bring your children to that or they don't come. Sunday School and nursery are after sacrament meeting. Friends and siblings have often commented that it is hard to feel spiritually fed sometimes when they are trying to make sure their kids are okay during the meeting, calming them down, keeping them from fighting with each other, etc., and yet, you are exactly right in that this is where and how children develop that strength and desire to worship. I have heard that introducing children to the language of the scriptures and to spiritual things before the age of 3 is the way to really instill it into their hearts and help them to create that good habit and discipline of worship and communion. It is hard when they are young, but it pays off.

    Another thought I have about this is that like any workout, you can't expect to do a long run on Saturday if you haven't done your normal training runs during the week. It is hard for children (and adults!) to sit reverently in our meetings if we have not been feeding ourselves spiritually during the week. I was just thinking the other day of my parents' family with all 6 of their kids still strong in their faith. And I think that what made the impact is that no matter how hard it was, no matter what fighting took place, no matter what mood people were in, my parents consistently led our family in prayers and scripture reading day after day after day. It sometimes seems ineffectual and I remember reading as a child. My siblings and I would read in super fast or super slow voices or we would fall asleep when it wasn't our turn to read. You often wonder what impact it is having...but it works out in the end. And God recognizes your sacrifices and blesses you and your family and nits your hearts together.

    So keep up the good work with your little ones and I will keep trying to do my best as an adult to truly worship on the Sabbath and make sure I am worshiping and being spiritually fed through scripture study and prayer throughout the week.

    Love to you, SHB. :)

  2. You are so right Danielle - and so you know, one of my favorite things about coming to your house as a kid was joining your family in prayers and scripture readings - I always thought it was so cool that your family did that together each day. Your family was an awesome example.

  3. Amen Shawna! I made the choice to take Emily and Madelyn to the early worship service- (which consists of church workers who are serving in the church during the main service)- because the girls are in sunday school during the main worship service. Sunday School has it's own worship{that I've been graced to lead}but obviously not quiet the same:) It would be easier to run out of the house at 8am without having to get them ready and run them out the door too-haha but it's too important for them to learn how to worship and to worship- God is so wondeful- I love your blog!! I will be more patient with Madelyn on Sunday when she won't stop moving around next to me while I'm trying to listen to the WORD!:)