Worshiping with Little Ones

Many of you are here as parents of little ones and, in some cases, many little ones. For you, the worship of the Lord is a far more arduous task that it is for the rest of us. All of us are engaged in the work of worshiping the Lord, but you are carrying young ones in your arms as you perform the same labor that we do.

The work includes great things, like keeping everyone in fellowship throughout the whole service, and trivial things, like finding your place in the psalter. The work is daunting, and it is sometimes easy to forget why you are doing it. There are three things for you to keep in mind as you continue

The first is that while you sometimes need to be reminded why you are doing this, God knows exactly why you are doing it. Do not grow weary in doing good. God sees, and your labor in the Lord will bear good fruit. Your labor is before the Lord—He sees, and He rejoices. When you need to be reminded, there is one who can always remind you. You are here with your little ones because God calls you to worship Him together with all the children He has given you.

This means, secondly, that God receives, as true worship, every distracted shush, every spilled cup of wine, every dropped hymnal, and every time you have to take your child out to have a little word with him. You are not taken away from true worship by these things, but farther into true worship than most of are privileged to go. If Christian discipleship consists of “my life for yours,” what is worshiping with four to seven little ones?

Third, do not think of this time as the time of distraction, but rather as a time of fruitful planting, and trust God to be kind. He will bestow a time of fruitful harvest. The sun is hot and the soil is hard—but it will all come back to you, thirty, sixty and a hundred fold.

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Jane
Member

I struggle with this. While I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of littles being trained in worship by being in worship, the idea that the fullness of worship for a mom or dad for, what, ten? fifteen? years (the situation if you have a LOT of littles) is always going to be shushing, cleaning up spills, dealing with diaper accidents, and calming meltdowns, and never focusing on the sermon, joining in the singing with full concentration, and being able to “Amen” the prayers and readings because you’ve actually heard them, seems to push the practice beyond what is pastorally helpful… Read more »

\'Lizbeth Anne
Guest
\'Lizbeth Anne

Jane, I always enjoy your posts; you have much to add to conversations, so I respond to your comment with due respect. That said, we must remember that if we worship and learn together, young and old, we grow in Christ together. Instead of being divided by age (in the nursery), we enjoy the presence of the Lord together as He walks in the midst of the churches (Rev. 2:1). And once we see that, who wouldn’t want our infants and young children to partake of this richness? Remember that moms and dads of ten or fifteen (children) are given… Read more »

Jane
Member

Of course I want the children and infants to partake, which is why I don’t want them “banished.” But a mom might go for years on end, always having a very little one to contend with. I *also* want the moms and dads to be part of worship, physically well as mentally participating. Ideally, there will be times when the young child can sit through all or most of those times, but the occasional time when, for the sake of a parent not being deprived of full participation in worship for much longer than the few years or months that… Read more »

\'Lizbeth Anne
Guest
\'Lizbeth Anne

Jane, We probably disagree in terms of what an infant is aware of and capable of. I don’t underestimate their intelligence or awareness. I think that they can be in the process of training at four months. After all, by then they have been in the worship service for 13 months. I in no way expect perfection, but on the contrary, an awareness of the fallen state of human nature aids a parent in guiding that little nature. These things don’t bedraggle a mother, they draw her and the child to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls. And, humanly… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member

Jane, no one can disagree that children need to be trained to sit quietly in church. But I often watch Protestant services on Youtube when I ‘m struggling with insomnia, and the length of the sermons can exceed 60 minutes! (And the fact that they can’t hold my attention that long is part of their curative appeal.) Are people expecting three-year-olds to be silent and still that long when the preaching must often be beyond their understanding? Even my Snowflake, who was very silent and still, needed paper to scribble on or a book of Bible stories to look at.… Read more »

Jane
Member

I think people are not expecting “silent and still,” but quiet and respectful. Churches that encourage little ones to be in the service are very tolerant of a bit of motion and background noise, but beyond a certain level, it becomes distracting either to the rest of the family or to others, not to mention a potential problem for those with hearing issues. At that point it needs to be dealt with, and under three, that can be pretty often. So Mom and/or Dad can spend a good portion of a looooot of years, with at least a third of… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member

I can understand that. Catholic churches have soundproofed crying rooms for the very young, but after early infancy the child is in the congregation. On the plus side, sermons are blessedly short (often only ten minutes) and there is a lot of singing and getting up and down. On the downside, the inevitable noise of little children is distracting to those of us who no longer have any! This is clearly an offer-it-up moment for quiet-loving people like me, but I do sympathize with young mothers trying to hush their toddlers. I am reasonably good at soothing little ones. In… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Jane wrote: So Mom and/or Dad can spend a good portion of a looooot of years, with at least a third of their attention distracted. I agree with Pastor Wilson that that is also a form of worship; I’m just a little unsure that it should be the only form of worship to which young parents need be relegated, possibly for years upon end. If we want to avoid young parents being “relegated” to this kind of distraction for years on end, what are some practical options? Some alternatives would merely shift the distraction to someone else during those years.… Read more »

kyriosity
Member

I think in every church nursery setup I’ve seen, the burden gets shared. You don’t have the same caregivers doing all the work every Sunday, but volunteers cover the task once every month or two. So you’ve got many hands making lighter sacrifices—bearing one another’s burdens in manageable ways.

Jane
Member

Precisely. We staff our nursery with two adults or an adult and a teen. A given person will wind up serving about once every six weeks. That’s a far cry from how much the parents of young children would miss.

And no, it’s not guilt manipulation or arm twisting. It’s bearing one another’s burdens, and it’s a joy both to serve and to enjoy the kids in this way.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

Or find someone like me who adores little children and gets unbearably restless and claustrophobic during church services. (To forestall suggestions that I am showing signs of demon possession, I should note that I am also claustrophobic in movies, concerts, lectures, and airplanes.)

\'Lizbeth Anne
Guest
\'Lizbeth Anne

And of course, there are also the fun memories, like when when holding up the bread (or wine…I can’t remember which), Pastor said to the congregation, “Now, look up here,” and our baby whipped his head around and craned his neck to see up front. They know what is going on.

dchammers
Member

Well said.

Wendy
Guest
Wendy

As a mother of 7, each approx. 2 years apart, and my youngest now 9, I can honestly say it was rarely anything but a sweet blessing to have our children in worship with us. Sometimes it was funny when there was a Lords Day with extra training involved but I
Really don’t remember feeling like I wasn’t able to mostly pay attention and worship with the congregation and the rare times that I did feel like that it seemed the Lord would send some tremendous encouragement like this!

Larry Geiger
Guest
Larry Geiger

Bless you Wendy. It seems clear that of those 7 you did not have a screamer.

Jane
Member

I don’t want to dispute or undermine your experience. It’s similar to mine. But I know young couples who DO struggle with this, despite their desire to include their children in worship.

kyriosity
Member

I feel the need to brag on the dads at Christ Church. Nine times out of ten, when a baby needs to be taken out or taken to the back to be held or walked (i.e., for purposes other than nursing), they’re the ones that do it. I just love witnessing that persistent little masculine sacrifice. #smoochthepatriarchy

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

Please don’t make me envious. The Snowflake’s father never handled a crying spell, a feeding, a diaper change, or an upset stomach. If I had to go to the dentist, I had to hire a sitter. BDash would approve these arrangements!

bdash
Guest
bdash

would I?
When your men are women and your women are men, it is hilarious when you guys pout against gay marriage- no consistency

I suppose the wives also teach their husbands what the pastor taught them while he was playing “wife”out the back
brilliant!

bdash
Guest
bdash

they just have lazy wives, nothing sacirifcial

Meredith
Guest
Meredith

Thank you so much for the encouragement. It is a good and blessed work, but it is not always smooth and easy! We have 3 children, 6 and under. They have been in the pew with us from the very beginning, and we are so glad that we have chosen to do that (it is not the normal pattern in our church)!

margaret
Guest
margaret

We always include our children at our Anglican church, however, I think making a law out of this would be a mistake as well. In our church, the norm is children with parents, until they have their own Sunday School teaching part way through during the sermon, confession, creed, and prayer. However, we also take our children to a full Communion service in the evening as well, so they do participate in full church. In general, the mindset that has to make a law out of everything is somewhat suspect to me, but I do prefer this truth be told.… Read more »