My wife and I are under the strong conviction that the place for children during the Sunday morning service is not in a separate room away from their parents but in the same room, singing the same songs, enjoying the same fellowship, and listening to the same sermon. We beelive this to be a biblical principle that, over the past 60+ years, has slowly and almost inperceivably been lost in the church.
We have been the brunt of much dissention because of this. Not because we ever pressured others to do the same, but because we were not "falling in line" with what the other parents were doing. This inevitably resulted in me stepping down from my last pastoral position and still has us seeking out a Christ-centered church where we can faithfully serve.
Since having our children in the worship service one question has always been on my mind: How can I keep all of my children engaged in listening to the preaching of the Word? I don't want to give them a coloring book or toys just to keep them quiet. They should be active in listening to the sermon.
Scripture gives the responsibilty of training children up in the Word to the parents, specifically the father (Deuteronomy 6:6-9; Proverbs 1:8-9; Ephesians 6:4). The parents take the message of the sermon and explain it more thoroughly to the children after the service. Yet, they also need to pay attention during the preaching.
I came upon a few ideas on how to do this but one in particular rang rather true for me. The suggestion was to give each of my children, who are able to write, a notebook and pen to write out any questions they had about the preaching or things they thought were particularly important. For my 4 year old, I told him to draw pictures of what he heard if he could. This past Sunday I decided to implement this suggestion.
I found that my daughter had written more notes than questions, that my oldest son had written 6 different questions, my 5 year old (almost 6) son had written the book and chapter the Pastor was preaching from, and my 4 year old made sure his name was written clearly on the front of his notebook :^)
My oldest son's questions were very pointed in regard to the sermon. We spent some time going through them until he understood the answers. My daughters notes showed that she was clearly paying attention and even the fact that my 5 years old wrote down part of the passage was encouraging to me.
It has been said that children are sponges, absorbing more than we realize. As a father I must help them to not only absorb what they hear in preaching but to apply its principles and teaching. Keeping my children engaged in the sermon helps to place a greater emphasis on the sufficiency of Scripture and the importance of God-honoring worship.
I look forward to this coming Sunday to see what their new notebooks contain after the service.
Adam (and family)