Children have always been part of Jesus’ vision for his Church. This is why we see throughout the book of Acts whole households not only responded to the gospel together and being baptized, but also gathering together to hear the gospel (see Acts 10 and 16). This shouldn’t be surprising. Before he inaugurated the Church, Jesus welcomed children with countercultural affection (Matthew 19:14). While in our current cultural moment children are either viewed as idols or interruptions the Scriptures rightly categorize them as gifts from God—gifts we desire to steward rightly (Psalm 127:3).
What this means for us at Church in the Square is that we include children in our corporate worship gathering. From the start of the gathering until the sermon children two years and older will gathering with the whole church family to sing, pray, confess, read the Scriptures and worship God with their whole church family. We value this inclusion for a few key reasons.
First, parents are the primary disciplers of their children. From the start of family in Genesis to the instructions given to the Church, moms and dads (and those tasked with raising children) are called into primary roles of discipleship of their children. Therefore the Church—in particular Sunday learning—shouldn’t replace a parent's tutelage of their daughter or son, but rather support and equip moms and dads to teach their children the way of Jesus. Additionally a parent’s primary role doesn’t negate the vital role the whole church plays in shaping the lives of children in toward the likeness of Christ.
Second, we are shaped by the gospel through unified diversity, not isolation and separation. The maturation of God’s people takes place in community. Therefore we desire for our children to not simply learn to sing, pray, read, confess and worship God together, but also through watching mom and dad and older followers of Jesus—their whole new covenant family.
Third, children are not an inconveniences to dismiss nor idols to make central. They are gifts to steward. When we make children’s ministry the centerpiece of our church we make them inconveniences and idols as the same time. Inconveniences because we feel it’s more comfortable and easier for adults to learn when kids are not interrupting. Idols because we want to tailor make something just for them that’s spectacular, exciting, interesting and all about them. But the Scriptures teach us a better way. They are gifts from the Lord. Therefore we welcome them to sing, lament and worship with the whole family of God. However we acknowledge hearing the gospel in a more concrete way will help them grow at appropriate developmental levels.
Thoughts for Parents
Before the Gathering
As you prepare to disciple your children through the gathering share expectations for their participation. They are an important part of Jesus’ Church. Though being attentive is an appropriate desire, we all understand it might be excessive to expect complete silence and stillness. It’s never too early to have them bring something to write with, a notebook and a Bible. As they listen, encourage them to think and write and draw ideas and questions that come to their mind.
DURING the Gathering
As we sing and pray and worship together feel free to explain words and ideas as we go. For instance singing about the “Blood of Jesus” might be alarming or just confusing to children (and us adults!). Whisper in their ear, let them know that Jesus’ death is what makes us clean and forgives us of our sin. As their attention wanes reassure them of your love and desire for them to hear from God. And of course, if you feel it’s necessary, step away for a moment to reaffirm expectations as needed.
AFTER the Gathering
On the way home, over lunch and throughout the week, ask your kids what they heard on Sunday. What stood out to you? What did you hear about Jesus? Do you have any questions? Engaging your children this way during the week will help solidify their learning and help you take ownership of their discipleship journey. Be sure to share the joys and challenges of this process with your group.
Thoughts for the Whole Congregation
We all have children at Church in the Square. After all, we’re one family. That means we shouldn’t see the discipleship of children as exclusively shouldered by the moms and dads of our community. A practical way you can step into this identity is by encouraging the parents sitting around you … you can even ask a question or two. It’s so good to hear your kids sing with us. What are they learning about? Is there any way I can help? You’ll be surprised how helpful you can be.
Say hello to children at the gathering. Give them a wave and tell them it’s good to see them. Ask them what they are learning. Jesus welcomed children and acknowledged the value of their presence; as a church family we should do the same.
What is changing?
A new incorporation of children in the worship gathering.
Some will experience a new check-in process (see below).
All children two years and older will join us in the corporate worship gathering from the start (10:00 AM) up until the time of the sermon (about 10:30 AM). They will be dismissed to their respective classes and teachers. Teachers will be waiting for their students in in the lobby just outside the auditorium doors. They will then walk down to the children ministry hallway with their teachers as well as our connection and security teams to their respective classes “downstairs” where they will be picked-up after the gathering (about 11:30 AM).
When will these changes take place?
Sunday, August 18th.
What is not changing?
All children under two years old will continue with their normal routine of check-in, drop-off and pick-up in their same class at the end of the children’s ministry hallway.
How will check-in work?
There are three possibilities:
If your family only has children two years and older, you can check-in all your children outside the main auditorium entrance. A new check-in station will be set-up their staring Sunday, August 18th. After check-in you can all join the gathering until dismissal.
If your family only has children under two years old, then you can check-in and drop-off your children in their same classroom at the end of the children’s ministry hallway.
If you have children under two years old and older, then you can check-in all your children “downstairs”, drop-off your infant(s), and then join the gathering with your older children until dismissal.