Phrases like that didn’t exist until the last century, but today are common among many churches. What exactly is meant by the words “children’s ministry” can be very different depending on the church. But while these ministries can come in all different shapes and sizes, they’re all based on the same basic principle that children require specialized teaching and care separate from their parents. I’m not saying that’s wrong or that children’s ministry is bad – I love and serve in the children’s ministry in my church – I’m merely making the observation that while this ministry can and should serve the church, it will never replace it. Regardless of what curriculum or structure or teaching style your children’s ministry uses, here are some reasons why it’s healthy from time to time to take a break and encourage your parents to worship with their children.
As parents we cannot underestimate our calling to shepherd our children well by teaching them to know and love God (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). How can we press upon our children what God has done so that they might believe and worship Him (Psalm 78:1-8)? By modeling it for them both in the home and the church. By joining in word, in prayer and in song together with your children, they are able to see firsthand what worship is. It is one thing for our children to hear what we believe, it is just as important that they can see it too. Our goal here as parents is not merely for our children to mimic our actions (Hebrews 11:6), but that in seeing our sincere worship, their hearts might be turned to glorify God (Matthew 5:15-16).
Encouraging Love of the Church
Your children’s ministry is a ministry of the church – both to parents and children – but it is only a ministry. Children can grow up loving their ministry without ever loving the church. Allowing our children to join us in worship helps them to develop a love and connection with the church. This is important both because there is no substitute for the gathering of saints in a local body (Hebrews10:23-25) and because the church is God’s primary means of accomplishing his mission in the world (Ephesians 4:11-16).
To Make Much of Jesus and Give Him Glory
It is easy in our culture of consumerism and professionalism to believe that what our children need is specific programming from trained teachers. But with so many opinions and experts speaking into our families about what’s important, it is critical that we don’t lose focus on every child’s greatest need: Jesus. In Him, we have everything we need (2 Peter 1:3-4) and everything exists because of Him and for Him (Colossians 1:15-20). So what more could our children need? Or what more could they ever receive (John 1:12-20)?
Some will fear that children won’t understand the message, and so will be wasting their time in the worship service, but the burden of making truth simple and understandable is at the very heart of faithful preaching. Spurgeon says it like this:
“It is ours to make doctrine simple; this is to be a main part of our work… I am afraid our sermons often go over the heads of the younger folk – who, nevertheless, may be as true Christians as the older ones. Blessed is he who can so speak as to be understood by a child!”
A Word to Parents
Before you bring your children to worship with you, pray for them. Pray that the Holy Spirit would open their eyes to see, their ears to hear and their hearts to believe in the Gospel. Without the calling of God, this Gospel will look foolish and the sight of Jesus on a cross will seem freakish, so pray that He would call your children to believe and trust in His wisdom and strength (1 Corinthians 1:18-31). Anyone can be taught to sit quietly or to sing obediently, but only the prompting of the Holy Spirit can cause someone to worship God. The goal is not behavior modification, the goal is worship.
With that said keeping your children in service with you, especially if they’re not used to it, can certainly be a challenge. Remember that a child’s obedience to his parents is an act of worship and is pleasing to God (Ephesians 6:1-3, Colossians 3:20). But try not to focus on things like threatening them with what will happen if they get out of line or telling them to be quiet because others are looking, instead see this as an opportunity to teach them about who God is and why He is more than worthy of our worship. We should be very careful to unintentionally teach our children to fear the church instead of God. It may be that you need to discipline your child if they talk throughout the sermon, but with the discipline should come correction. The point is not to be silent while the pastor speaks, the point is to listen while God’s Word is preached. Being silent is a burden, listening to God’s Word is a joy. Remember that only the Holy Spirit can make your child truly see the difference.