Assisting Parents in Discipling their Children
We love kids at Gospel Church. We see them as an expression of life and blessing from God (Psalm 127). We love single people and families, and delight to provide help to parents in the discipleship of their children. The help we provide can only ever be supplemental to the beautiful and weighty responsibility of discipling children which God gives directly to parents under the leadership of fathers (Ephesians 6:4). So a primary way we minister to children is by ministering to fathers and mothers.
One way we come alongside parents to reinforce their discipleship of their children is through our Sunday School. We offer this during spring and fall semesters at 9:30 on Sunday mornings. There is a younger class for kids 5 and under, and another one for older kids up to around 12 years old. In these classes children will receive rich teaching and formation in knowing and loving God. For kids older than that, we welcome them into the adult Sunday School where they can begin reaching towards maturity.
Encouraging Families to Worship Together
During worship we long to see families together as much as possible, so we don’t offer anything like a “children’s church.” We see the Bible addressing little children in the congregation, assuming they will be present to hear. Notice that Ephesians 6 and 1 John 2 are sections of letters written to churches to be read in their worship gathering as the teaching of the apostles of Christ. Both letters directly address children, assuming that they will be there hearing the apostles teaching.
Further, the church is a glorious unity in Christ and we believe it strikes at this unity to separate generations into separate gatherings. When we do so we unwittingly communicate to the children through our actions that they are not part of what we are doing, that real worship is for adults. Jesus saw it differently, rebuking his disciples for sending the children away, and charging them to let the little children come to him.
We are deeply concerned by a growing division along generational lines in the culture around us and also within the church. One generation is set against the previous such as in the popular rift between Boomers and Millennials. The church sadly follows suit. Kids go to “children’s church,” graduate to youth group, then college ministry, and when they finally leave college they have never been integrated into the worship and life of the church. All their lives they have had Christianity and worship catered to their specific generational interests which has trained them to resist the unity of the body across generations. Many churches have responded to this by giving youth culture its own “contemporary” service on Sunday mornings, furthering the division of the church, often along music lines. Others respond to this generational division by planting whole new churches aimed exclusively at younger people. This generational division in the church weakens us all and grieves us. We are committed to the beautiful and challenging task of working for unity by encouraging and equipping all of God’s people to approach him together as one body.
Recognizing Challenges and Understanding Worship
Bringing your kids to worship with you can be challenging, and it requires a Biblical vision of what worship is. While worship can and often will be exhilarating and emotionally profound, the biblical definition of worship is much broader than an emotional uplift or a shot of spiritual caffeine. Worship is adoration of God, service to him, and presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice in imitation of Christ. Worshiping alongside a 2 or 3 year old may not be an emotional uplift. It may feel like the opposite. But it is truly an act of spiritual worship as you present your body before God as a living sacrifice for that specific little person sitting next to you. Imitating Jesus in the abstract sounds great; giving up your life for a sometimes ungrateful little person is not so romantic. But it is good and it is formative. It represents the way Jesus has loved you. Bringing your children to worship and teaching them to sit quietly with the community under the word of God teaches them the greatest commandments in profound ways that they may not even fully grasp intellectually. To be made to sit quietly for the sake of the family and the church teaches them that they as individuals are to put God ahead of themselves, and the interests of others before their own. This is exactly how Jesus teaches us to love others. Kids today are inundated with messages of individualism and kid-centered approaches to parenting and people are surprised that narcissism is a major problem in our society! Being required to sit quietly for an hour in the interest of others is medicine for their souls. Even more importantly, sitting quietly in worship teaches kids that the word of God is more important than their self-expression. Children are born with folly in their hearts (Proverbs 22:15) and a fool takes no pleasure in understanding but only in expressing his opinion (Proverbs 18:2). To teach children to sit quietly and listen to the word of God trains them to see that God’s word is more important than theirs, and that their only hope is to be quiet and listen to God. You may think they don’t understand this, but we learn things by what we are told as well as by what expectations are made for us. You may think this sounds harsh, and we apply this with all kinds of grace and patience, but these are incredible gifts of grace to give to our children by sacrificially loving them and teaching them to begin loving God and others.
Thriving In Family-Integrated Worship
We offer many ways to assist families in worshiping together.
- We have activity bags with snacks for hungry bellies and activities for restless hands.
- We have people happy to sit with families to assist with children (inquire at the welcome desk).
- We have a cry room with a window and a speaker so you can take a struggling child out while still participating in worship.
- We staff a nursery during the sermon to help train kids if the parents are in a season where they need help in this challenging task.
- We offer classes from time to time on parenting, child discipline, family worship, etc. If you would benefit from one of these classes, please let one of our leaders know.
- We also offer additional resources to equip parents on our website.
Delighting in the Fruit of our Labors
Finally, we have seen amazing fruit from this family integration in worship. We have young kids sitting in worship and joining us in various aspects. Very little kids especially love to sing songs and lift their hands. They often shout out “hallelujahs” before the rest of us. In worship you will often hear young children offering faith filled prayers of praise to God along with the older members, what a joy! With surprising regularity we have young children coming to the preacher and their parents commenting and asking questions about the sermon, even when it seemed like they were not listening. We have seen many young people eager to give their lives to Jesus with remarkable fruit of regeneration. We baptize them and they come to the Lord’s table with glorious faith and joy in their eyes. We have young children participating in our gospel community discussions, discussing the application of God’s word to their lives, asking questions, asking for prayer and seeing God answer, praying for adults in their struggles, and modeling for the adults what childlike faith looks like and how we have to enter the kingdom like little children. The need is great, the effort is challenging, the church is eager to help, and God is giving beautiful fruit. What a glorious way to teach your kids to worship God!