The Importance of Family Worship (and why we don't use the church nursery)
I've been thinking a lot about the importance of family worship lately. I've had conversations with so many parents who think of worship as "their" time with God. Week after week they leave their children in the nursery while they go to worship. If their children are old enough for Sunday school, they sometimes attend worship while their kids are in Sunday school - which means their kids hardly ever attend worship.This post was originally published in May of 2014, when we only had one child and were anticipating the arrival of our second. The words you find on this page are even more true for us today with two children than they were then. Because of that, I have posted it in its entirety without any edits.
It's a topic I thought about and discussed ad nauseum back when I was a full-time Director of Children & Youth Ministry. I was always trying to come up with ways to encourage parents to attend worship with their children, instead of without. But now that I'm a parent myself, it's become even more important to me.
Then today - I just happened to open the latest issue of The Lutheran magazine and found this article. It was, hands down, the best article in the issue. And it echoed so many reasons why I will always worship with my children - and will never use the church nursery.
Don't get me wrong - I'm thankful for church nurseries. The people that work in them offer a special ministry. They offer a safe, caring environment - and truly embody the love and ministry of Jesus Christ. And I totally get it - there are days when parents need that ministry more than any other.
I already shared with you one of the most important reasons we take our toddler to worship. There aren't many ways we can actually experience Jesus Christ through all our senses. Holy Communion allows us to do just that - to tangibly experience Jesus in a way that just isn't possible any other time in our lives. But it's more than that too.
It's the way she asks to say the Lord's Prayer and give thanks to God every night before going to bed.
It's the way she sings How He Loves and Happy Day at the top of her lungs no matter where she is or who is looking.
It's the way she wants to hold hands to pray before we eat dinner every night.
It's the way she dances to the music in that sacred worship space and says to us "Come on! Dance!"
It's the way she opens her Bible in the morning and says "Mommy, read Bible with me?"
It's the way she gets on her knees and folds her hands to pray during the prayers of the people. And how she screams "Amen" when they are over.
It's the way she reaches for the Communion wafer and dips it in the wine. And how she asks for more when she's finished eating it. Because don't we all really want more of Jesus?
It's the way she strains her neck to watch the pastor giving the Words of Institution. Just like her mama does.
It's the way she sings with the songs when I hold her close. She doesn't know the words, and can't read them on the page, but that doesn't stop her.
My two year old is an active participant in worship. Not only do we take her to worship with us every time we go, but we sit in the front row. We sit there because she can see what happens. It makes it easier for her to participate when she can see the musicians playing, the choir singing, the pastor preaching. She is probably a distraction to the people who sit behind us, but so far no one has said anything to us about it.
It's not always a typical worship experience for D & I - we often miss the point of the sermon because we're too busy trying to get A to sit still and whisper. We hardly ever actually hear the names of people that are being prayed for, because we're trying to make sure A doesn't fall off the kneeler. We sometimes miss pieces of worship because we have to sneak out for a snack (often sneaking the snack back into the pew with us as a bribery to her being quiet!)
For us, it's far more important that she experience worship with us than it is that we fully grasp the message of the sermon. It's important that she feels like she's a part of the community - no matter how young she is. It's important that she knows that worship is something we do as a body of Christ together - whether we really feel like being there or not. And it's important that she grows up knowing that the space where we worship is a safe, sacred, holy space. A space where we go when we need to feel God's presence the most.
Because one day she'll be old enough to make her own decisions about church. And when that day comes, I want her to feel such intense love for Christ and his church that she just cannot bear to stay away.
This post was originally published in May of 2014, when we only had one child and were anticipating the arrival of our second. The words you find on this page are even more true for us today with two children than they were then. Because of that, I have posted it in its entirety without any edits.