As parents, we make decisions for our children’s future, not merely for their present. This means we begin with the end in mind, asking the question: “Where do I want my children to worship when they are adolescents?” Then we think strategically about how to train them to that end. If we wait until they are adolescents to bring them to worship with us, we wait too long to model worship for them and we heighten the unfamiliarity they will feel entering that environment. Far better to ease them into their rightful place in corporate worship during their younger, more teachable years. This might mean that in the short term they sit in a room that does not always engage them at their level. And that’s really okay. Your child may not catch every sermon point, but attending with you is still a huge win because of the modeling they will see and the familiarity they will develop. And you might be surprised by how much they do take away.
For our family, the transition to Big Church began at age five. If having your child with you every week in worship feels overwhelming, start with once a month and work your way up to every week. A kindergartner is old enough to sit through a worship service in a respectful and participatory manner as long as a clear expectation has been set, which leads me to…
Before coming to Big Church together, explain its purpose to your child: it is a time for believers of all ages to enjoy worshipping God together. It is a place where both children and adults belong. Talk about how long the service will last. Talk about the order for worship: first we greet each other, then we sing, then we listen to the pastor, then we pray. Finally, set specific, age-appropriate expectations along three lines: Behave-Follow-Listen
Now that you’ve set an expectation for how you want your child to act in Big Church, take a few steps to help her meet that expectation.
After attending Big Church together, remember to talk to your child about how it went and what could go differently next week.
Be patient and don’t give up! It takes many offerings of leafy greens before a child learns to eat them, and many more before she learns to enjoy and value them. Big Church is also an acquired taste and a learned value. Allow your child time to develop his taste for the spiritual food of corporate worship. The act of worship takes self-control – believers of every age must learn to set aside distractions and devote our full attention to the adoration of God. Self-control takes time to develop for all of us, and especially for children. Give grace during that process. The One you are training them to worship is a patient Father to you. Persevere in training your child to take his rightful place among the community of believers. Before you know it, Big Church will be just the right size for everyone in the family.
Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. Psalm 78:1-4