Children in the Assembly

How much do we love our children?

There is a problem in the assemblies of our congregations in the United States. The problem is seen through our children while they are in the assembly; but the root problem is not to be found in the children, it is located in the parents and grandparents of those children, and it has to be stopped. You see, children in this country are allowed to treat going to the services of God like they are going to the movies. They have snacks, drinks, toys, books, games, and even video games and portable dvd players. They come into the worship assembly without the slightest intent of worshiping God, but instead are focused on having fun and not being bored for the next hour. Americans have completely lost sight of the purpose for our children being in the assembly. Consider some things our children need when they come before God.

Children in the assembly need expectations. Over the years, my wife has probably grown tired of hearing me make the statement, “people live down to our expectations,” but it is true nonetheless. Nowhere is the truth of this statement more evident than with our children. Our children will seek to fulfill our expectations, but will rarely deliberately go beyond them. Unfortunately, in many cases, American Christians have already determined that our children will be unruly, inattentive, objectionable, and overall menaces to those who have come to worship. Some congregations have lowered these expectations even further by creating classes and entertainment for their children to “enjoy” during the assembly. One man once told me, “The parents will have to take them out anyway, why not just start with them there?” Therefore, instead of instilling expectations of honor, respect, attention, and participation; parents bring in food, toys, and games to distract them, or create divisions of the assembly, until the boring proceedings of the day are accomplished. Such actions are a shame and turn the worship services of the church into a travesty.

God gives us a sense of the expectations he has for children in the assembly when he presented us with the pattern of Israel’s assemblies before God. In Nehemiah 8, when the word of the Law was read, all of the people stood during the reading to show respect and be attentive (Vs. 5, 7). In 2 Chronicles 20, when the children of Israel were gathered to petition God for help, it is stated that “all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children” (Vs. 13). Though I am not advocating the necessity of changing our services so that people have to stand the whole time, it is necessary to emphasize that when the people came before the Lord ALL of the people were expected to participate and pay attention; not just the adults. It is high time we started expecting our kids to behave with the honor and respect both God and man knows they can: to sit still, pay attention, and show respect for what is taking place.

Children in the assembly need training. Contrary to the apparent popular opinion of parents, our children do not train themselves. Parents become upset because they have coddled their children in the assembly their entire lives without ever instilling in them respect for the purpose or process of worship, and then wonder why, as the child becomes a teenager, he or she has no interest in spiritual matters. By the time they are teenagers, our children have been entertained their entire lives while their parents worshiped God. Why should we then expect to flip the proverbial switch and have that attitude change?

Just as children must learn respect for others, they must learn respect for God as well. Respect is defined as, “to feel or show admiration and deference toward somebody or something; to show consideration or thoughtfulness in relation to somebody or something.” Respect goes far beyond saying please and thank-you. It is an attitude that presents itself in all that is said and done. Unfortunately, our children are not being taught to respect God in the assembly.

Parents have the responsibility to train their children (Pro. 22:6), and part of that training is to instill in their children the proper respect for God and participation in the assembly. From a very young age children are able to participate in prayer and singing in the assembly. They are also able to see, hear, and understand things from God’s word if they are trained to do so. Our children have an amazing ability to comprehend what is happening around them and to learn from what is being said, if it is expected of them.

Under the Old Law, God expected the Israelites to proclaim his Word to their children everywhere and in every way: that included the assembly (Deut. 6:3-25). When God commanded children to obey their parents and honor them, he also commanded fathers to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:1-4). As parents, our responsibility is to prepare our children to serve God. That begins with a willingness to put forth the time and effort to train our children to respect him, his assembly, and participate in his worship.

Friends, the time has come to change our assemblies. It is time to rescind our contentment with allowing our children to dictate their actions and participation in the services. It is time for parents to take seriously the responsibility of training their children to serve God and, instead of lowering our standards to meet an ungodly society, raise them up to meet the expectations of our holy God. It is time to stop crippling our children’s future by coddling them and instead give them the means to stand on their own two feet by preparing them.

Again I ask the question: how much do we love our children? Do we love them enough to follow the examples God has presented? Do we love them enough to make sure they know and understand what God wants them to do, how it is to be done, and why it is important? Our actions will answer these questions.

Comments 17

  1. I respectfully disagree with your analysis. We recently started a children’s bible hour for children ages 4-baptism. Our children leave the auditorium following the Lords supper and contribution and stay in class until the end of services. They are not entertained they are taught the bible. Our Bible hour has grown from 2-3 to 12. It is easy to expect children of parents that grew up in the church to sit quietly but new Christians. The parents were not able to worship because of the children going to the bathroom, playing, fighting and many would just leave out of embaressment. I relate it to signing up for a prealgebra class and having to listen to differential equations lectures. You would have no idea what is going on and never would get it no matter how long you sit there. By providing age appropriate lessons, they are learning the gospel and not learning to hate coming to church. It is going great or church has had a growth spirt directly because of the Childrens Bible hour and many families that were not faithful have come back because they can worship God and not referee.

    1. Post
      Author

      Thank-you for your comment. In reading your statement I find three problem areas in what you have said. 1) I find no Bible authority for dividing the assembly during a time designated for worship. Every Bible passage that records people assembling to worship God has the entire assembly in one place.
      2) By establishing such a program you have now instituted a process by which adult Christians are unable to fulfill their worship responsibilities by being removed from the assembly. Unless you are sending the children to this class alone, which I know is not true, you have now impeded another Christian’s ability to worship God as commanded.
      3) You are not fixing the problem of children with bad attitudes and disrespectful tendencies, you are instead validating the belief that bad behavior reaps rewards. You are also taking away from the parents the necessity of training them as God has commanded by removing them. Maybe instead of removing the children during services, you should establish some classes to teach parents to effectively train their children to respect God and his worship.
      Thanks again for your comment. Please understand there is no animosity here, just the desire to do what is right and to have the proper expectations for God’s people.

      Adam

      1. Just to answer some of the questions or concerns. Half of the “class” do not have parents that attend. The children are taught proper behavior, the different parts of worship and what they are and why we do them, then they taught a bible lesson. This is not a VBS class. They are taught. The children are growing in knowledge is have a positive impact on the children, parents and those that bring them. We implimented this on a trial basis and it is having positive results. It is strickly voluntary no one is required to attend and some do not which is fine.
        Wayne

    2. @ lincolnstudents: I love your enthusiasm towards the growth of the young people. I believe more should have a desire like yours towards our youth. However, I do not agree with your view towards children’s church. I have some points I want you to consider and to see if they will help. These are just some points that helped me to reason through this and make a decision as I too have wondered about this very thing. Some of these points deal directly with things you said earlier. I hope you take these comments with love as i do love you as a brother or sister in Christ (can’t tell if you are male or female from your wordpress name). (1) Why are the children not taken out of the worship immediately? Does one aspect of worship require more of our attention than another (Preaching requires more attention than Lord’s Supper)? If the parents are expected to handle the children through the Lord’s Supper, which requires our full attention (1 Cor. 11:23-29), then why are they not required to handle the children during the preaching? (2) Do children before the age of 4 not cause distractions for the parents? (3) The illustration of signing up for one class and getting another does not make sense with the previous argument (not trying to be harsh, but it just doesn’t relate). The first argument was that they are a distraction to the parents and then the illustration switches to “they just can’t understand.” (4) If we start having a separate worship for those of lesser understanding, then we need to split off the new converts as well. Then the age for the children’s church would need to change from 4-baptized to (4-whenever it is determined one has enough knowledge to set in on a message in worship). (5) The church has programs that focus on growing the Bible knowledge of young people that do not remove them from the worship assembly (Sunday morning Bible study, Wednesday night Bible study, youth devotionals, etc.). Also, the children are to receive the main part of their Bible education from the parents at home (if anything needs to be improved in the church, then it is this) and not by the Sunday School teacher. If the children do not understand the message delivered in worship, then they will do what all kids do when they don’t understand something, ask the parents a thousand questions. (6) Just because something sounds good and seems right doesn’t mean it is right. There are a million things that could bring many families back to the worship assembly, but if it goes beyond the Word of God, then it is not right. If we are not worshiping in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), then it does not matter that we have larger worship assemblies. It is not hard to pack a church building whenever you are willing to do whatever it takes to get the people in.

      Hope these points are helpful to go along with what Adam said earlier. Not trying to bombard you and make you feel overwhelmed. Hope your studies go well and let me know if these were helpful. Again, love you as my brother or sister in Christ.

  2. I am glad that you wrote this. My husband and I are working hard to teach our daughter how to behave in the assembly, as well as everywhere else. She is only 8 months right now, but we have decided that she is to sit with us during worship. We have found that many times when children sit with someone other than their parents, it turns into play time and it is a distraction to the one they are sitting with but also to the parents of the children, as they are wondering how their children are behaving. Also, if they are not sitting with us, it is not us as the parents that are training our children. We have caught some grief over this policy from others, even in the Lord’s church. We have been told we need to relax and that it isn’t a big deal. I believe it is however, as it is our responsibility to train her.

  3. We once had a young couple who was trying to train their first son to sit still and quietly for services. The very nice, very well meaning ladies at our congregation thought they were doing a service to the mother by offering to take the boy out during services. Our advice, which the couple accepted, was to graciously decline the offer and keep him in services with her. This family now has three young sons that are perfectly well behaved in services and are one of the finest young families I know.

  4. Really glad you wrote this, I will be passing this on to our elders and preacher to put in our bulletin. My husband and I have done this ourselves. We have a 4 and 1 year old. Neither of them has never been to the nursery except for diaper changes by us. Of course everyone looks forward to the new baby at church and wants to hold them during services, but that is a negative with our family as Lydenfamily said it’s our job as parents to train. Now our children are the most well behaved children in services and we get the question of how do you do that, well it’s all in the way of training up your child in the way they should go so as they get older they will not turn from it. My 1 year old hears another child cry or acting up she turns and look at them and shake her head (too grown, lol)

  5. As the mother of a 20month old, 4yr old and 7yr old (with High Functioning Autism) I fully relate to all aspects of this story and many of the FB comments I’ve read about it. We came from a congregation that had a children’s worship, separate from adults. I LOVED the concept. However, when we moved to North Alabama, most of the congregations did not have this option. Our then 3yr old daughter had a difficult time adjusting to the new ‘sit quietly in worship’ rules. It was a NIGHTMARE at first. One of us took her out every.single.service, often while she had screaming fits. We rarely got to worship together as a family. Add in a nursing newborn to the family and I wound up feeling isolated and alone at every church we visited, as I was stuck in the training/cry room or nursery. We longed for a congregation that offered a solution. THEN, we attended our current church home. They didn’t have a children’s worship. They didn’t have a cry room. BUT, they DID have loving, supportive, compassionate, members who not only refrained from giving us the sideways evil eye when our, often unruly, special needs child or crying baby became a ‘disruption’, but went out of their way to lend a hand or a hug on the extra difficult days. A simple, ‘Honey, you’re doing a GREAT job with those girls! And don’t you even worry about that crayon she pelted me in the back of the head with. I know how you feel. We’ve all been there. It WILL get better. I promise. Hang in there. Don’t give up!’…made ALL THE DIFFERENCE TO US! Before this, we were ready to give up and quit church until they were older. Now, with three girls, we attend every time the doors are open. It’s difficult, and sometimes we still have to take our oldest out in a crying fit. But with time and experience it IS better. I never could have handled it without encouragement from the fellow been-there-done-that’s in our congregation. My eldest never could have ‘learned’ how to act in church without practice and experience. We still bring ‘distractions’ for the baby and we allow the older girls to color quietly during the sermon. But, now, they sing when we sing, stand when we stand, give offering when we give offering, and pray when we pray (ok, so maybe we’re still working on the eyes closed praying;). My comment is not intended to sound self righteous, especially since we feel our girls are still a work in progress. And, I’m not saying I think it’s wrong to have a children’s worship, separate from the adults, because I don’t. I’m simply saying, if your church has children in the assembly, or you’re considering visiting one like that, it IS possible to train and RE-train children to sit in service. It takes work, yes. It will be difficult at first, yes. You’ll have to do alot of redirection at first, yes. But HANG IN THERE. It WILL get better. They WILL learn from your example, first hand. And, it WILL be worth it. I promise.

    1. What an excellent post! This is so true and something I think everyone needs to work on-not just parents. As Christina has said, it is very encouraging to young moms (and dads) when others give encouragement as we are trying to train our children how to conduct themselves during worship. We have been to Jamaica on mission campaigns several times, and it has always impressed me how well behaved most of the children are during services. Their services are not the standard “one hour” services that we have in our area. The sermon itself lasts well over an hour-then throw in the singing, Lord’s supper, contribution, etc. and you are there quite awhile (without padded pews & air conditioning too!)!! For two years in a row, there were two little girls (ages 6 & 7) who sat with me during the two week campaign and copied off of the notes I took during the sermon! I can think of one or two children in the church in the U.S. that I know who are expected to do anything similar. It’s our job as parents to teach our children how to conduct themselves during worship. It is difficult at times, but it is worth the extra work.
      I definitely needed to read this after our almost 13 month old “talked” loudly, fussed, etc. during the whole sermon Sunday night! It also helps when you have people sitting nearby who say that your child really isn’t as loud as you think she is. 🙂

  6. Great article that puts light on the difficulties of training young children. I have often wondered why parents have brought food, candy & games into a worship service, when the same children are required to sit in school for longer periods, without these items.
    Several of our church families with older children (8 and up) have suffered through the same challenges. But now their children have been trained! Our congregation has a handful of young men (12,13 yrs old) who are now able to lead singing, serve on the table and pray before the congregation, because of proper training of their children.
    Parents there is hope, be consistent! Training up a child properly with respect for the Lord is the greatest undetaking you will ever encounter, but the rewards are eternal.

  7. I have a 6 & 8 year old that sing, take notes, pray and WANT to be in worship. This was not always the case. For our daughter, it took years of consistant torture (ours), for her to get to the point that the screaming and defiance stopped. It took determination on our part for sure! It was worth it a thousand times over. Our children love to attend worship, look forward to mid week Bible study and fight for opportunities to answer bible trivia in our hone bible study. How sad it makes us as parents when we see kids reading comics or playing with the pile of toys. One parent even said her teen did “sexting” during pulic worship…and acted powerless to stop it. We certainly haven’t done right in every circumstance, but our goal was always to have Godly children…and knew it wouldn’t happen by magic!

  8. Thanks for posting this wonderful article!! I work with the youth in our congregation and I can tell the difference between the children who were kept in services and trained and those who weren’t. Our nursey has gone from a place to bring unruly children to social hour for the women who go in there every single service. The speaker that was installed in there for the ladies to listen to the sermon is usually turned off. It’s such a disgrace that they treat worship as a time to socialize.

  9. My family of 9 children were taught exactly as I, an only child, was taught. When my children were babies, and I nursed them all, I took them to the nursery, and as there were more a bit older, I took the also, but as they got older, and were able to handle their siblings, they helped when I would be out nursing my little one. But, as they grew, I used a ‘keen’ little ‘switch’ (rod?), and their dad, a preacher, had only to ‘look’ in their direction! Consistency is the ‘key’ – say what you mean, and mean what you say! ‘Teaching’ is made up of words and actions, which amounts in the long run – to ‘training’ – and that is done with wisdom and in stages. Naturally, ‘infants’ cry! They are to be taken out and gotten quiet, and BROUGHT BACK IN! Some times ‘spankings’ are in order, so that the little ones understand that they must obey the words ‘BE QUIET’ – which must not be just ‘words’ but must be spoken with authority, and ‘followed up’ with consistent action! Too many times parents want to ‘stay’ out because it is easier to just let them ‘play’ – but in the long run, it is easier to ‘train’ our children in what God wants them trained in! Good behavior that will follow them all of their lives, even to the training of their own children, IN WORSHIP! I also disagree with those who talk about ‘not’ having ‘books’ etc. in ‘worship’ – a child cannot ‘worship’ – a child doesn’t know right from wrong! The ‘worship’ is being done by ‘adults’ – the children must see that worship, be around it, and know that SOMETHING is taking place that they are not involved in whatsoever! But THEY MUST BE THERE IN THE MIDST OF WHAT IS GOING ON! Books are simply to keep them quiet while the prayers, singing and preaching, plus the Lord’s supper being partaken of, knowing that even though those books are being looked at – what is going on will ALSO be noticed!
    Remember when Jesus ‘blessed’ the little children, but the disciples didn’t want the parents to bring them to ‘bother’ Jesus? Did He allow the disciples to send them away? Did He say, ‘Take those children to a different location, and put an adult over them, so that you can hear what I am going to say to you adults!” ?????
    NO!! We know exactly what He said to His disciples, in front of the parents! “….for of such is the kingdom of heaven’ —!!!!! In other words, children are to be where God’s Word is being taught and obeyed, TO BE ABLE TO ‘SEE’ FOR THEMSELVES, IN STAGES, WHAT GOD WANTS OF THEM, WHEN THEY ARE OLD ENOUGH! ‘Train up a child in the way he should go….’ is the scripture, if I remember correctly! You don’t take anybody away from a ‘training’ place to train them!
    If this is NOT done, we will have a generation of grown ups who want to have a ‘special’ kind of service for adults, and a ‘special king of service for children, and so on down through the years, to the point of wanting what THEY want instead of what THEIR LORD wants! We now see that in many colleges; ‘groups’ that are separated from other groups, religiously! I’m not talking about ‘secular’ groups that are the ‘norm’ for ‘secular’ colleges. I am speaking of those who want to have ‘youth’ groups in the church, away from parents, without their cooperation! Youth ministers have developed just this way! The church is to assemble together, not in different kinds of ‘worship’ – Israel of old had a ‘destructive’ young man, who thought he would make ‘worship’ easier for the people! He started a worship of his own in a different location, and used men who were not qualified as priests’ to oversee that ‘false worship’ – I think we all know about how the largest part of Israel was totally absorbed into the world, after being ingulfed ‘religiously’ in the idolatrous worship started by Jereboam! Satan knows how to separate one generation from the other, and it is time the church made sure this doesn’t happen, or many will be lost, thinking that the church is just like every other religion around them, as in the days of the northern kingdom of Israel! That OT is there for our learning! Let’s learn!

  10. I have seen this 3 times on facebook by various of our friends, my wife recently re-posted it… This I wholeheartedly agree with you. Our three daughters now entering their pre-teen years are constantly complimented on their behavior in worship and bible classes. Since age 3/4 they have been taken “notes” (started as something simple as counting how many times the preacher says “God” or another word we would pick each week, and recording the various songs sung, to now full on taking notes and filling in outline sheets). This didn’t just happen, and didn’t happen over night, it was HARD work. They were taken out, disciplined, brought back in… As a father I was giving a hard time by various members of the Churches we attended, and some times by family. Was often told I was to hard or to stern. Now it is rare that they have to be corrected in public at all, little lone in worship. I think all to often its too EASY to take our children to “children’s church” or dump them in a nursery where they are aloud to just “play” and reward bad behavior. Oh one last point, in the the nursery we did move a pew in there and remove all the “toys”, this gave us and opportunity to TRAIN and them bring them back out.

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