I don’t have small children, but every Sunday I see the struggle of those who do. The kiddos are squirming, getting up in mom’s lap, then down, then up, then down. Boredom sets in, the whiny rebellion starts and the parents, red-faced from embarrassment, take them out while they kick and scream. A mother of a toddler recently told me, “Brian, I haven’t heard one of your sermons in months.” She was there, but she was so distracted by her child she couldn’t listen.
If you can relate, maybe you’ve wondered, “What’s the point?” Why even bring the kiddos? Why not wait until they’re older?” There is tremendous value in bringing your kids to worship. When you bring them, you’re preparing a legacy of light in the world (Matt. 5:14).
1) It teaches kids that mom and dad obey too. Kids are always taking orders from their parents, and they may wonder, “How come I always have to obey, yet my parents don’t?” When they come to worship, they see their parents obeying a higher master. Worship is a great time for parents to show their children God is the ultimate authority for the whole family (Eph. 3:14-15).
2) Children are like sponges, even at an early age. They may not seem like they’re getting anything out of it, but they’re learning advanced vocabulary words and concepts in class and from the pulpit. They’re watching the righteous, friendly, joyful interactions between brothers and sisters in Christ, they’re learning the importance of spiritual family. They’re watching how the older kids behave in their pews. They’re soaking in stories about Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel, and Jesus that’ll stick with them forever and give them wisdom that leads to salvation (2 Tim. 3:15).
3) They learn to sit still and listen. They may fight you on it, but eventually they’ll learn how to “be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10). That verse isn’t about sitting still in a pew, but having a still mind and heart that submits to and waits for the Lord. If you can train your child to sit still in God’s presence, they’ll have a tremendous spiritual advantage. It takes stillness to pray, read the Word, and wait on the Lord.
4) They learn God comes first. When they see mom and dad rounding up the whole family every Sunday without fail, they learn that serving God is the most important thing in the world. On the other hand, when mom and dad sleep in or decide to stay home and watch TV instead, children learn real quick where God fits in their life. What’s more, if you decide, “I’ll only bring my kids to worship when they’re well-behaved,” they’ll learn convenience comes before God in your life. They’ll realize, “If we just throw a fit and act up on the way to church, mom and dad’ll turn around and come back home.”
5) It teaches kids that life isn’t always about fun. Let’s face it, sometimes your children won’t want to come to worship because it’s not entertaining and it’s hard for them to sit still and be silent. Bringing them anyway teaches them that sometimes we have to do what we don’t want to do, simply because it’s good and right. They need to learn early that faith trumps our feelings.
6) It prepares the next generation of Christians. When children come to worship, they’re learning how to properly approach God in worship so that one day when they grow up they’ll continue to serve Him and be lights in the world, as will their children after we’re gone. Coming to worship doesn’t replace the need to teach them at home (Deut. 6:7), but it’s vital to leaving behind a legacy of light.
Again, I’m not a parent so I won’t pretend to know how hard it is to bring small children to worship. But I do know it’s worth it, it won’t be this way forever, and the Lord is pleased with you. In the meantime, to help you keep your sanity, next time your children are acting up in worship, feel free to pray the prayer of Nehemiah: “Remember me, O my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.” (Neh. 5:19).