Let the children come unto Me…

…and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of God! (Matthew 19:14)

As Steven and I have raised our children, we have had the privilege, blessing, and responsibility of bringing our children to the sanctuary for worship each Lord’s Day ever since their birth. In fact, last Sunday was the first time our children ever attended Sunday school! But it was in the education hour prior to the worship service. For worship, we believe in coming together as a family; but yes, that means that Gabriel was over 6 years old before attending a Sunday school class, and Asher nearly 3. I suppose that is backward from what a lot of modern evangelical families practice! 🙂 But it is such a joy and privilege to sit together as a family each week during worship: to sing, pray, learn, read, respond, confess, pass peace, and partake of the Lord’s Supper ~ together. Our children belong to the Lord just as much as we adults do! So this week I read a little book called “Parenting in the Pew” as a refresher and reminder to myself of why it is such a joy and responsibility and privilege not to send my kids off to their own little classes while the adults worship alone. Below, here are a few little highlight snippets that really hit-home for me. May the Lord continue to bless my children, and grant grace to our family, as we come together at His feet to worship Him, seek His grace and forgiveness, revel in His mercy, eat His meal, sing with His people, pray on behalf of His people, and live as equals before our Father in heaven. I love filling a pew together. And just recently, after many months of being at different churches, we are filling a pew with my parents again. The blessing of having three generations together filling a pew is glorious, and we praise God for this kindness! It reminds me of growing up in California, filling a super long pew with my mom’s side of the family: my great-great-grandma, my great-grandpa, my grandpa & grandma, my parents, my brother & me, and occasionally my uncle’s family. All of us together. What a beautiful expression of God’s generational faithfulness, and Deuteronomy 6 coming to life in a tangible way.

May God draw my husband and me, and our children, and our children’s children, even unto a thousand generations, joyfully into His presence because He is faithful, the Alpha and the Omega, worthy of all praise, the Lamb that was slain. Amen!

 

[As a child], all I was taught was to “be quiet and be good.” “Be still, and know that I am God” is more biblical (Psalm 46:10). This verse begins to define the difference between “going to church” and “going to worship.” Going to worship requires a life-transformation and happens out of a new heart, not an old habit.
~Robbie Castleman, Parenting in the Pew, p18

Simply telling children to “be quiet” is not the way to draw their attention to the worship that is taking place. The purpose of parenting in the pew is to train a child to worship, not to be quiet. Quietness at certain times may enhance their ability to worship, but quietness is a means to this effort, not an end.
~Robbie Castleman, Parenting in the Pew, p63

If our children’s lack of quietness preoccupies us rather than their worship experience, we are simply in the pew in the presence of our kids and are probably feeling far from the presence of God.
~Robbie Castleman, Parenting in the Pew, p63

Training children to worship does not always enhance our own experience of being before the Lord… The number of times children must be helped to concentrate, pay attention and enter into the worship service is almost beyond counting. The effort can be exhausting. And it can be pleasing to God.
~Robbie Castleman, Parenting in the Pew, p63

It can seem paradoxical that to help a child to develop concentration and a sense of quietness for worship, parents have to talk more. If you sit close to your children, however, you can give whispered instructions and reminders rather easily and with little or no distraction to others.
~Robbie Castleman, Parenting in the Pew, p63

It is not unusual for parents to express delight as their own sense of worship is enhanced through practicing parenting in the pew. The liturgy becomes less routine and more relevant. Not because the words have changed, but because we listen again to the familiar and find that God is still speaking.
~Robbie Castleman, Parenting in the Pew, p67

Music is one of the easier tools for parents to use in teaching their children to worship. … Scripture memorizing, too, is made easier if done through songs.
~Robbie Castleman, Parenting in the Pew, p73

Parents need help in getting the youngest of worshipers to sing praise to God through music written for adults. This can be a significant way that young children are connected to the heritage and history of the church. Worship music can also lay a foundation for understanding the truth of God that produces the theologians of the next century.
~Robbie Castleman, Parenting in the Pew, p73

Children love being set free to “make a joyful noise.” … During songs or hymns, encourage very young children to sing “la, la, la” with the tune if the words are totally unknown or unpronounceable to them. Children don’t mind doing this and will quickly begin to pick up the refrain or a repeated phrase.
~Robbie Castleman, Parenting in the Pew, p73

God is believable because He is real. His reality rings true with children because of His sovereignty. God’s purposes and will do not always match our expectations. It is very often in disappointment or difficulty in the lives of our children that God’s existence becomes objective and real, distinctive and powerful for them. We shouldn’t be afraid that prayer that is not answered according to our hopes will weaken or destroy or children’s faith. Children need to see that God can be trusted no matter what. This is the foundation for maturing faith.
~Robbie Castleman, Parenting in the Pew, p85

Learning to pray about real things, simple or profound, prepares children to participate in the church family. The church needs to hear the prayers of children, because they often reflect the best definition of faith given in the Scripture: “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).
~Robbie Castleman, Parenting in the Pew, p85

Sometimes [children] will whisper questions in the pew. Giving brief answers to some questions is appropriate; others need to be answered at a later time. Either way, be sure to respond respectfully to your children. If a question needs to be answered later, ask the child to remember the question and ask it again after church.
~Robbie Castleman, Parenting in the Pew, p101

Through worshiping together, my children and I have become friends before the throne of grace. As fellow sinners, we worship our Father who forgives. In worship we have learned to love God and accept His mercy. In worship we have learned to love each other and accept our failures. God must be real in our experience of faith. He must be known and encountered. We cannot be satisfied with worship that simply fulfills social and religious obligations. God must be heard. We need to teach our children what it means to touch the hem of His garment and be healed. Our children need to clamber into the loving lap of the Savior. He yearns for the companionship of children and longs to bless them.
~Robbie Castleman, Parenting in the Pew, p124

…I see my sons more clearly in the pew. Sitting beside me I see the handiwork of God. In the presence of our Father, my sons have become my brothers.
~Robbie Castleman, Parenting in the Pew, p125

The best kind of seeker service is one where unchurched people feel two things simultaneously: “I don’t belong here!” and “I want to belong here!” The mysterium tremendum, God’s fearful majesty, is off-putting and in-drawing at the same time. The “throne of Grace” is still a throne, not a rocking chair or floor pillow. The church is not another club to join. It is the body of Christ, the presence of the kingdom of God in the world.
~Robbie Castleman, Parenting in the Pew, p139

 

For further excellent encouragement on this subject, please read our friend Pastor Toby Sumpter’s exhortation here!

3 Replies to “Let the children come unto Me…”

  1. I’m very much a believer in the “whole family” being together during worship services and not sending children off to Sunday school! So glad to hear that your parents are back and you are all together again. How wonderful! 🙂

  2. I know! My parents left our old church last fall, and then we left in the winter, but it wasn’t until late this summer that the Lord reunited us on a weekly basis in worship. We are so thankful that God has provided a place where we can be fed with grace, humility, joy, and Gospel lived out in a contagious way ~ and to have my parents join us there is a mercy that ices the cake with so much beauty and richness. God is good.

  3. Oh, what a blessing!!! I’m so thankful that God has provided this for you and your family. God is indeed GOOD! Been thinking of you a lot lately….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.