The trend in the church in recent years has been toward Children’s Church or “Worship Training”. The argument is that it teaches children the truths of God’s Word at an age appropriate level. And, it is claimed, it allows adults to worship without interruption from restless, crying or playing children.
In ‘Let the Children Worship‘, Jason Helopoulos addresses both of these claims and effectively argues that children belong in corporate worship with adults. He begins by properly laying the foundation of what worship is, and why the Church does it. We were all created to worship, and we will worship something. In Christ, we have been recreated to worship, and ultimately we will be resurrected to worship. Therefore, when the church gathers, it does so to worship the True and Living God. The characteristics of sound, corporate worship are biblical, reverent, joyful, edifying and God-focused (doxological). (pgs. 13-30).
In the 3rd chapter, Helopoulos presents the argument that children should be included in corporate worship. He uses biblical examples to show that children were included in the congregation of Israel and should be included in the covenant community of believers. “One could rightfully suggest that consciously or unconsciously we make a statement about our children’s status in the covenant community by the very act of choosing to include them or exclude them from corporate worship.” (p.36).
There are many blessings and benefits of allowing children in corporate worship with adults. He lists several, but to name a few: they are present in the midst of the means of Grace where they hear the Word preached and participate in Prayer. They are present in the midst of the whole congregation, which means they are with their parents, and the weekly priority is demonstrated. It makes a statement to our children. It encourages them and sets an example.
If you think this is a difficult task and involves a lot of patience and time, you would be correct. But, Helopoulos has included a couple of chapters that give wisdom for parents, as well as wisdom for church leaders. Finally, he finishes the book with a look at a few of the not-so-effective replacements that have taken children out of corporate worship over the last few decades, and answers some of the objections that may arise at the thought of including them.
‘Let The Children Worship‘ includes an appendix of personal testimonies from people who have adopted this practice and began to include children into their corporate worship service. I’ve included my own testimonial here:
My family and I recently moved (3 yrs ago) from a church that offered children’s church during the corporate worship time. Our children attended, and not much thought was given to the idea. The church we moved to does not offer any kind of special programs for children during that time, so kids are expected to attend worship service with their parents.
At first, it was somewhat distracting. My kids were 9 and 5. It seemed we spent more time trying to get them to be still and quiet than we did listening to the sermon. Other kids were distracting as well. Some cried, some talked out loud, some rustled papers or toys, etc… As time passed, I began to see the change as these kids began to imitate their parents and the other adults. They eventually began to settle down, to sit still and be quiet.
I began to appreciate having my family all together when we gather with God’s people. I began to appreciate having other children in the service as well. I appreciate how our pastor includes them when he is preaching, how other adults accept and love them – even when they become fidgety or distracting. As these children grow and imitate the other godly men and women around them, it is a joy to watch them participate in the singing, bowing heads in prayer and working on their sermon bulletins. We truly have a family worship service, not an adult worship service with part of the family relegated to a different room. I would not want it any other way!
It is good when a family worships together!