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 families, and want to provide help to parents in the discipleship of their children. The help we provide is a supplement to the 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 assist 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. We welcome older kids into the adult Sunday School where they can begin reaching towards maturity.
Encouraging Families to Worship Together
During worship we want to see families together as much as possible, so we don’t offer anything like a “children’s church.” The New Testament contains epistles, which are letters written to churches to be read out loud. We see these epistles addressing little children in the congregation, which assumes they will be present to hear. Notice that Ephesians 6, and 1 John 2, directly address children, assuming that they will be there hearing the apostles teaching.
Further, the church enjoys 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 along music-style 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 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 little person sitting next to you. Giving up yourself for a sometimes ungrateful little person is not romantic, but it is good and 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. Making your kids sit quietly for the sake of the family and the church teaches them that they are to put God ahead of themselves and the interests of others before their own.
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, as we give the gift of gathered worship to our children.
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 (at the welcome desk)
- We have people happy to sit with families to assist with children (inquire at the welcome desk).
- We have a cry room so you can take a struggling child out while still participating in worship.
- We staff a nursery during the sermon to help train little kids if the parents are in a season where they need help.
- 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.
Delighting in the Fruit of our Labors
We have seen significant fruit from this family integration in worship. We have young kids sitting in worship and actively joining in. Very little kids especially love to sing songs and lift their hands, they know the rhythms of our liturgy well. In worship you will often hear young children offering faith-filled prayers as they model childlike faith for the rest of us. We have young children commenting and asking questions about the sermon, even when it seemed like they were not listening. We have seen many young people 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, applying God’s word to their lives, asking questions, seeking prayer and watching God answer specific prayers.
The need is great, the effort is challenging, the church is eager to help, and God is giving beautiful fruit. What a way to teach your kids to worship God!