In the final session here of our child raising conference, “How to Keep Your Children with you in Church”. It turns out though, that there's a little bit broader application than just that, because I know we have a lot of single people here in the room who don't have children, you're not bringing children to church, you may be assisting your parents, but I know that there are a number of you who are not assisting your parents. You don't have children, you're not bringing children to church. So what's the deal? Why are you here? Well, it turns out that a message like this is actually partly about how you bring yourself to church because it has a big, giant impact on bringing your children to church with you.
So, I think that even if you don't have children, you'll still find some applicability to it. I certainly hope so.
So, let's devote our time to the Lord in prayer, “Oh Lord, we thank you for offering us such wonderful opportunities to instruct our children to grow in the nurture and admonition that is from your hand. Oh Lord, that You would use this time to help us create such wonderful times as we gather, all of us together as a family. Oh Lord, that you would teach us your ways, that You would help us to understand how to properly apply the principles that You’ve given to us. Lord we pray for many happy days together as a church gathered from the littlest to the oldest, so happy in your kingdom that includes those from every tongue, tribe, and nation. From every age group, every stage of life, Oh Lord, we thank you for creating such a rich and diverse fellowship, that we would have the privilege of existing in. Oh Lord, glorify yourself. Amen.
Okay, so number one. This is a very, very important subject because the subject really, is the worship of God. I don't want us to think, “Oh, this is a nice, interesting message about how to have your children with you in your church.” Well, it is that, but we are talking about something as significant as the worship of God. It is sacred, holy, it's of great significance, and so, when we treat this subject and deal with all of the various details that we will try to walk through today, I really want us to understand the significance of the worship of God. There's nothing more important for mankind to do than to engage in His worship. And you think of what God does through worship, how He has commanded us to preach the gospel.
So, you have salvation, instruction, you have transformation of people's lives, you have blessing as a result of the gatherings of God's people. God is holy, he is in unapproachable light, except through Jesus Christ He can be approached, we can come boldly into His presence because of his great mercy. And so, this subject of the worship of God is critical. And we're going to speak about how you engage children, you might call it sort of a messy part of the worship of God, something that you have to grapple with, something that you have to deal with.
Now, here's a reality also that we have to consider. Okay, so we've eliminated youth groups, we've eliminated other age segregated meetings from the church. Now what? This forces an enormous shift in order to engage age-integrated discipleship. And we think that we can just cancel the programs and then be the same old dads and moms and children that we were before and just continue to live the same kind of life that worked well when we were offloading our children into every other institution that would take them. And this forces an enormous transformation in our lives. Just being together in an age integrated environment is not enough. There's a major paradigm shift that's necessary, that really shapes your whole life in order to gather the people of God in an age integrated environment. And so, we've removed some of the crutches and now we've been given the opportunity of a lifetime.
Here's a reality, now a significant amount of the burden is upon parents to prepare their families to come and be engaged in the worship of God. And here's something I want us to really understand, and I know that many of us do understand this, it is this, you can go to a family integrated church and if you're the same old father, and if you're the same old mother you were when your children were not with you, then you may actually be doing worse harm. And it may be better just to go back in a highly programmed environment if you don't pick up your responsibility in gathering your little flock and worshipping together with them, the gospel filling your home, you know, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. And then that being the platform, sort of the background, of what will happen when you gather together with God's people. If you don't see it that way, then I don't know how much more you actually would have gained by going to a church where worship is age integrated. There are many areas in which the church, we believe, must separate from the culture in terms of the way that it operates. One of those is the way that the modern church culture creates an age segregated environment for worship.
Now, you have an outline here before you, I have five major headings that I'd like to try to cover here this afternoon. And the first is, I would just like to document for a moment what does the scripture say? That's really the most important question. And here's what the scripture says. The only kind of worship, discipleship, celebration, and instruction that's discernible in the Bible is age integrated. And what you have if you go to Deuteronomy 12:6-12, you see Moses commanding parents to bring whole families to worship, for sacrifice, and tithing, and celebration, together for instruction. In Deuteronomy 31:12, Moses instructs the people, once they're in the promised land to gather the people together: men, women, and the little ones. You seem to see the same pattern in the Ephesian church and in the Colossian church.
When the people of God gather for prayer in 2 Chronicles 20:13, they're gathering before a great battle and there's praying and fasting. The little ones and the wives are there in that gathering. In the reading of Scripture in Nehemiah 8:1-3, in the reading of the law of Moses in front of the Watergate. Quite a significant amount of time devoted to this and the children were there. in times of repentance in Nehemiah 10:28, there was a time of taking an oath to obey, not to give your daughters to the pagans, to observe the Sabbath. And everyone was there to acknowledge it. And, you know, all the generations were there during that time of repentance. In Joel chapter 2, there's a command to blow the trumpet in Zion, and gather the people together for repentance, for sanctification, and to gather the children and the nursing babes in that environment and Acts 21:5-6, the wives and the children kneel down on the shore to pray for the Apostle Paul.
In the whole personal discipleship agenda of the church includes the older instructing the younger. So that's what the scripture says. The only kind of discernible pattern that you can see in Scripture is an age integrated pattern. And that's why we're advocating, you know, doing that. And that's why we're doing it here. And my view is that the devil has been wise and he has done things that will help to destroy godly offspring. By isolating the young and the vulnerable person, depriving them of godly mentorship and leadership, and is able to make more inroads by separating children from the voice of wisdom and from the voice of mature pastors, and deacons, and brothers, and sisters who are in the church. I believe this is actually a diabolical kind of situation that we're facing. So that's what the scripture says.
Let's talk about the preparation for the worship of God. When you think about bringing your children into an environment like this, there are lots of preparations that are necessary. I've listed seven of them here. And I like to just take them one by one. And the first, and absolutely without any, any qualification or question, the most important is this first one, and that is, self-preparation. Okay. Self preparation. And here's what I mean by that. When you honestly look into your heart, does your heart say, “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.” That is absolutely the most important thing. Do you in your heart of hearts, desire to come and worship Almighty God? Or are you just showing up? Are you just dragging your children to another meeting? Or, is there something greater that's in your soul, something that is centered on God and His kingdom. That you are hungry for his word, that you desire to be in the courts of the Lord, that you're saying, “One thing that I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life and to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple”. Is that it? That is absolutely the most important preparation. So, when you're considering that, you know, you have to understand that it really begins in the hearts of the heads of the family, and it is such an important day. The Sabbath is the day that the Lord was raised from the dead. It was the day that the Holy Spirit fell upon the church. It's the day of delight. It's the day to drink in God's justice and his mercy. And the most important thing that must be in order, in order for you to bring your children into the main worship of God, is to examine your own hearts. Do you find pleasure in hearing the Word of God and turning your heart to Him in corporate worship and service? Are you saying, “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.”
Do you hunger and thirst after His Word? Do you love to be with His people? And so, when you bring your children into the main worship service of God as soon as you've crossed this threshold evaluation. So consider that.
If you do not love the worship, and the preaching, and the prayers, and the fellowship, you will no doubt raise up children after your own kind. And that, I believe, is the most critical issue in the bringing of children into the worship of God, that you do, in your heart love it.
Number two. Preparation of a God-centered home. It is also our job as parents to create a God-honoring, God-centered culture in our home. The coming together in the worship of God doesn't exist in a vacuum, there's always something that stands behind it that affects it. And that's true every time we get together. When we come together. Everybody comes in with a lot of baggage.
You can't see the baggage. It's unseen. But there's a lot of baggage getting dragged in every time that we gather as the people of God. And the preparation of your heart and your home before you come in as heads of your households is critical. And what's so important is that we all have the heart of Joshua, who said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
If you're filling your heart with worldliness all week long, and Saturday night you're filling your mind with meaningless and maybe even sinful, or maybe even just lawful, irrelevant engagements. Don't think that you can come into the worship of God and have your heart really ready. A lot of times people come into church and they say, I can't get anything out of this. I'm just not being fed.
Very often that's code for, I was watching ridiculous movies until midnight last night, or I was looking at pornography in the early morning hours. You cannot fill your soul with garbage in the first part of the week and expect to have true worship taking place. But as heads of households, we have a responsibility to clean the leaven out of the house so that our houses are dedicated to the Lord and so that our children are ready to come into the house of the Lord.
Number three. The preparation of a rhythmic schedule for life.
Now God has established a rhythmic kind of a life. He has the sun coming up and going down, there's midday, and if you read scripture, there things that happen in those times. You know, you can see it in number of places. For us we would say, you know, “God has designed the week where there’s six days in which you should work and one day that you should set aside for rest.
My counsel to families is, consider your week as a preparation for this day coming up. And that your family devotions, your prayers, your scripture readings, are leading up to this entire day. Because throughout the week you don't spend an entire day in the worship of God. Nobody does that unless they're on some special, you know, project that they're doing where they want to really fill their soul with good things in a special kind of dedication. So, because you can't dedicate the entire day for six days a week to these things, you're actually looking forward to that day where you can, and the conversations, and the routines should lead us up to that point of where we are gathering together. Because God in His wisdom, has established many rhythmic patterns of life. So, keep those routines going. Make sure that you see your week the same way that God sees it, six days you shall work and one day you shall rest.
And then number three. The preparation of proactive instruction.
Now, what I mean by that, in making this point here today is that, as a church, we've tried to be strategic and intentional in the way that we program the church in its weekly rhythms, in order to focus on the Word of God. We've actually tried to design a week that focuses the entire church on the exposition of the Word of God that is going to happen on the Sabbath day. That's an intentional thing.
That's so, when we gather the men together on Tuesday mornings, we have one intention, and that is to equip the saints there to understand that passage. We gather together, we read it, and we're trying to understand what that text means. Why are we doing that? So that whoever's there will go back into their homes and they'll talk about it and they'll know what that text means. They'll be far more qualified, equipped, and ready to instruct their wives and their children on this passage of Scripture. Because it's Tuesday, (or if your sovereign Redeemer, Monday) it's Monday, but Sunday's coming right? So, when we gather on Sunday, our hope is that children have come in, they've already heard the terminology of this passage of Scripture. They've already had the stories explained. They get it, they've heard their parents talk about some of the critical issues, they've tried to apply it. That's really our hope. That's what we're trying to do in arranging our week so that there is proactive instruction during the week for that. When we gather together we want early exposure to advanced vocabulary, early exposure to advanced theological concepts. And the way that we're doing this is an attempt to seed that in our families. And we're hoping that the night before the service, there's a consideration of that text.
I hope that what's happening to us is that, we're learning the passages that we're preaching on better than we ever had before, because we're considering them over a longer period of time. And so, our acquisition of both the knowledge of it, and our understanding of the spirit of it, is so enhanced because we've considered it for longer. I mean, most of us grew up in church environments where we show up at church, the pastor preaches on something.
Often, we didn't even know what it was going to be, and we might have actually forgotten about it by the end of the day. But by repetition, we hope to have a greater understanding deep within the heart, so that it is being applied at the heart level and then activated by the power of the Holy Spirit during the week. So, The Preparation of Proactive Instruction. We're hoping that you're looking at the text throughout the week.
Number four. The Preparation of Specific Instructions of Children.
This is a different kind of preparation. Children need to be instructed for how they engage the worship of God. They're just like us.
We're not going to get it out of osmosis or intuitively, the Bible has instructed us about how we ought to worship God. So specific instructions for how to be part of the worship of God in the fellowship of the saints should be given and children need to understand a number of things. Children really do need to understand why we're doing this Why are we even gathering?
They should understand how they ought to conduct themselves
they ought to understand that this is a set apart time. In other words, it's a holy time, it's different than any other time during the week, it's actually sacred, and we don't treat it like any other time.
It's not common in that sense. And our encouragement to parents is to manage your family life so that there's not just a long stream and a long line of going and taking potty breaks while we're worshiping.
We really would like people to manage away from going to the bathroom while we're worshiping. I recognize that's a difficult issue, but it requires preparation. And it requires being proactive. It requires maybe getting to church earlier, so that that can be taken care of before the worship of God. I mean, how appropriate is it to be going to the bathroom while there's worship going on. We would just like you to manage your lives away from that opportunity.
We recognize it may happen, but it's something that we should manage. And we should be careful to think about rather than just sort of, let life happen. Worship is not like letting life happen. It is coming before Almighty God intentionally, with hearts ready to worship. And so that requires that kind of focus. It's not a time for poking and tackling and jive talking and sword fighting. The worship of God is just not designed for that.
In my family, I didn't want to have a lot of distractions before our children. For example, coloring books. I'm just not personally in favor of children bringing coloring books and distractions to help them be occupied. It's better to do all you can to focus their attention on what is happening in that service. And I'll get to this later, I don't think that means that you can't have anything. I think there are tools you can help focus your children on the worship of God, but distractions and things like that I'm not calling for. I'm not talking about, you know, something for a child to put in his mouth. I'm talking about toys that make noise and things like that. If you've been in churches where people are free, and children are running cars on the floor. Things like that I'm just not in favor of. We don't see a lot of that happening around here. So, there are preparations that need to be engaged.
I think we should consider whether it's a time of eating during worship. While I think there may be times where children, you know, can receive a small snack during the worship of God.
Children probably are not going to starve between breakfast and lunch. I don't think that's going to happen.
So, remember it's a dedicated time, it's not like driving in the car somewhere, where you break out the snacks or where you're at the park. We are not at the park. It's a different kind of time.
No walking around during the service. For us, we would make sure that that didn't happen. We tried to make our preparations before the service.
While we tolerate noise, we tolerate surface noise. It's not a time for children to make noise. It's a time to manage against as much noise as you can. I think I’ve become almost oblivious to noise, the normal surface noise. We very rarely have what I'm going to call disruptive children in this church. I know that parents take their children out when they are, you know, trending toward disruption. But I don't think we have really big problems with this.
I didn't allow my children to make noise in church. And I understand that their children, but they do need to learn how to be quiet. And so not allowing them to squeal, or giggle, or squirm too much, to keep that minimized, you have to deal with that or you will have a cacophony of activity and crying.
When you're training young children to sit quietly in church, you may have to take them out periodically. Because they're still learning what quiet means. You need to teach your children to respond to the instruction, “Be quiet”. You have got to teach them to do that. That's part of discipline. It's part of the honor. It's something you need to teach them. Now, they don't typically learn it the first time.
So, you have to engage in it for a while. But it's something that has to be taught. When you take them out, my counsel is don't make it a playtime. When you take them out, you don't want to make it just so much fun that somehow you end up needing to take them out a lot because they're leveraging their knowledge of your weakness. And they will create whatever situation that will get you to take them out, and they'll just create it over and over again. So, you're the parent, you need to be in control of that.
So, when you take them out, you don't want it to be just so interesting and fun that that's really all they want. And they're going to do anything they can to get out. You know, when I was in first grade, I remember I would do almost anything. I would just fill out my papers so fast so that I could go get to the box where they had cornmeal and toys, and I would do anything to get there.
And children do that with their parents in times of worship.
Let's talk about preparation for discipleship.
The central tool of discipleship is really everyday life. Your home is the place where all of this begins, and its where discipline begins, It's where all discipleship begins. And you have to understand the biblical call to bring your children up in the training and the admonition of the Lord. You're sinning against them If you're not requiring obedience of them, you're sinning against them if you're not instructing them, even daily. And the problem is, that these issues, they will always show up in church, you just can't avoid it. It's one of the big problems of an age-integrated church, that your child raising problems show up.
And so, if you haven't done your work at home, they'll show up far worse. And your children, if you're filled with the fear of man will understand that you won't deal with them in public because you don't want to be embarrassed, because you're putting on a show.
And so, they'll work that system and they may actually be worse in the church than they are in other places because they know all your friends are there and you don't want to be shamed in front of them.
And so children, you know, can work that system. But the home is the proving ground. It's the training ground it's the place where you develop attentiveness. It's a place where you teach them how to sit still, it's the place where you teach them how to have eye contact. It's the place where you teach them how to take notes. It's a place where you teach them how to honor the other listeners by refraining from disruptive and selfish behavior like whispering, or wandering around the room, or squirming, or whining.
Those things are just as disruptive at home as they are at church. So, you've got to take that opportunity of discipleship in the home. The preparation of daily discipleship is really the groundwork. In other words, if you think that you can just live life any old way during the week, and then have the true worship of God, you'll just find it much, much harder. Unless you make your times at home, the place where you're teaching your children those things. You know, children can be attentive. Children can sit still, they can keep eye contact. They grow in their ability to do that to do that over time.
But they can't unless parents do it more than one day a week. If you think that it's just going to happen when you show up here, it's just not enough.
Hey, I mean, we all need repetition, right? We're all built that way. And so the more you do something, the better at it you get. So if you neglect that when you're during the week in those other six days,
and think that everything is just going to work fine on Sunday, you're actually fooling yourself. Because you're just like your children, you need repetition and practice as well. And they definitely do.
Let's talk about the preparation of discipline.
Sometimes you feel like you're fighting a losing battle, when you're dealing with young children in church, and your word seems to me nothing. And you just feel like it is not working. And here's one of the problems that, you know, we've all faced. And that is, there's a reality upon us in the sense that we're often paying bills for past unfaithfulness.
So, there's catch-up work. The catch-up work is harder and longer, than getting it right early the first time, right? You know, once a child has been allowed to have an independent spirit, it is so hard to win that back. It takes more time.
And it's a lot more frustrating. So, I mean, if you have little children start early. Start early. But at the same time, you may be playing catch up. But you have to recognize when you're playing catch up, you've got a longer runway, it's just going to take more time. And you have to accept that. And just recognize this is where God has you and take the time to play catch up. And don't get too frustrated and give up too early if you're in that situation.
Now, here's the problem.
If you're holding a different standard of discipleship at home, than you are at church you're going to have a problem.
If your children are embarrassing you at church and you're disciplining for that, but you're not doing it at home for the same problem, then you're going to have trouble. In other words, if you have a double standard…
Well, we all understand that we grapple with double standards, but there's a word for that, and that's a hypocrite.
And so parents have to be careful to discern whether they have a double standard. Do they require their children, when they greet someone in the church, to hold up their hand and shake their hand and look them in the eye? But then they don't do it any other time! They only do it when they're in the church.
That's called a double standard. And so, the standards ought to be consistent so that a child knows what is consistent behavior, and that we're not just putting on airs. We're not just putting on a show for our church people.
One of the places that this is pressed hard, is in the area of corporal punishment. When a child seems to deserve it while you're at church, you know, in front of God and everybody else. And if you're holding a different standard, that discipline at church is going to be, most likely, an embittering discipline because they know that you're not the same person at home.
So, we have to ask ourselves that question, “Are we the same everywhere?” That's another way of saying, “Is it really in your heart?”
Let's talk about discipline during our times of gathering.
Now there's a particular reality that we, you know, ought to face. And that is that children who are not in control at home will actually need to be dealt with at church. And if you don't deal with them at church, then they will see the inconsistency.
And so there may be times when you need to take your children out and discipline them appropriately. There are a lot of challenges in doing that, especially in a place like this, where it's hard to find a private place to do that, and you should be in a private place.
Children need to be instructed before they come, what the rules are and what conditions might create a time of discipline during worship. They need to really understand that. I would just made sure that I had talked about that, that I had maybe even role played that.
So that they really understand what is going to happen. So it's not a surprise.
And it's a time where you need to be discreet during the church service and to really use discretion. And it can be very difficult because you're wanting your children to sit still, not to slouch, look at the speaker, to sing with their whole heart, to not to look at everybody around, to give first time obedience, to not have rebellion.
You know, refusing to be quiet, squirming, arch backing, you know, a bad attitude. All those things can just show up and what are you going to do?
Well, there are two things. First of all, children who are out of control at home will be out of control at church.
We should recognize that if we're having to discipline our children too much during the times of worship them we have a bigger problem at home. We're not securing that ground of honor.
And so use that time in the church when you know you should discipline that child, to recognize there may be a flaw in your child raising. And, as we said the other day, typically the flaws are either, it's not consistent enough, or it's not hard enough. Those are the big flaws.
So you know, should you spank in church? Well, children often rebel in the place most likely where parents won't do anything about it. You have to recognize that, and that makes it very, very difficult.
But I think that we have a responsibility to discipline our children when they need it. And so I just want to encourage you to be wise about it.
let's talk about practices. Practices to establish.
Over the years, I've seen a number of practices that people have used to help their children keep focus during the services.
Let's talk about babies in arms first.
You know, naptime babies, in arms, happens at church. Your baby is going to need to sleep and it's a blessing to have children sleeping in your arms.
And there they are, asleep, and you're singing to them, there’s prayers, there's the sound of the preaching. The sound in the background of their minds is the singing and its a beautiful thing. I think it's a great privilege and a blessing to be able to do that. Babies in arms are such a blessing. Now they may start to cry and that's when the training has to be kicked in.
Let's talk about toddlers. Toddlers learning to sit still.
Now, my view is that children can have self-control at a young age, and you need to teach your children how to sit still. I've seen it done. I know it can work, but it takes consistency. It does take role playing. It takes work at home. Your children not going to sit still when they're in the public gathering, unless you've taught them how to sit still at home when your doing family worship.
But they won't sit still naturally. It won't just happen. And it will just happen if you just tell them. You have to work at this.
My daughter and son in law. They start probably at just a few months old, and they have their children to put their hands in their laps. And then the parents will put their hands over their hands and they learn how to sit still. And they can sit still.
But they start really, really early. And they do it at home.
And so that's what I would encourage us all to do. If you can't do it at home, then it isn't going to happen anywhere else.
Let's talk about ages two to four.
These are the most difficult ages in my view. They're more squirmy, their attention spans are so short, and these years just require constant incessant vigilance and coaching and there's no other way around it. And it could drive the most godly parent, you know, to just church hopping, drinking, homicide, suicide, something, anything because it's that difficult.
But you have to remember that child raising is like any other enterprise, the front end is harder, but the rewards are greater when you do it. If you skip the step and you soften up, you will have hell to pay later. It'll be so much harder. Reclaiming the ground is a lot harder than claiming the ground the first time. Ages two to four are really tough. They always have to go to the bathroom. They always have to do something.
Someone said to me, “Take them potty before the service. And if they say they have to go to the bathroom and they potty in their pants, you know, they'll never do it again. They'll be so mortified.” I've never tried that, this person actually tried.
But training children, especially when you're in the two - four year, two - five year age range. It's a lot like building a new company. You know, it's a lot harder at the very beginning. But if you're diligent on the front end there a lot of rewards on the backend.
And so I think these are the most challenging years. And then, if you're able to gain a disposition of honor and submission when your children are young, then you know, when they are a little bit older than that, then a lot of the instruction really begins to kick up. And this is where you should be going over the sermon before Sunday with your children. When you're in that sermon environment, parents should be active on deck to make sure their children are learning what's in this text. They should be totally dialed in to what's going on. And you have to help, it is not going to happen if you walk in and just sit and then you get your eyeballs, blissfully fixated on the front.
You've got to help them, and you'll have to help them over and over again during the worship service. At least I did. I would get my children around me when they were old enough. And I would write one word on my outline, and they all wrote that same word. Or I would take copious notes and then I would underline a couple things that I wanted them to take down.
I would prep them with various words that were going to be in the sermon because they were in the text. I wanted them to be listening for theological concepts.
You know, when I said, “I was glad when they said to me, let us go into the house of the Lord”, I know that a couple of my grandsons jumped because I told them that I was going to say that.
So you know, it requires preparation. It requires you helping your children, “Did you hear that? He just said, ‘Grace’, we have to talk about grace after the service.”
I mean, it takes a lot of work. And you shouldn't be coming in here men like a bunch of couch potatoes expecting that everything is just going to happen by osmosis. You have to teach them. And if you do, it will pay off for you, and your children will know more than if you just kind of sauntered in here like you always have your whole life. You know, you’ve just let everybody sit down sort of self-absorbed and then leave. Be proactive, be a leader, be a teacher, and help your children understand what is being said.
I used to make little illustrations of the sermon as it was going along, or I'd have them do that.
Sometimes I'd walk into church and I would make a piece of paper into four quadrants. And I would write in the top, “Do a picture like this. This is what Jesus is doing here. This is what's happening here. Draw what’s happening here, draw a picture of it. There are a lot of ways you can do that. But hey, the idea is engagement. Listening. You want them to have them where they really are listening. They're actually interacting with the preaching.
But if you don't do anything when they're young, they won't be in that groove. So get them in the groove.
And it's really simple. Just figure out what words are going to be said, go over the concepts, be excited about it. And talk to them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you'll find that they'll end up knowing far, far more.
Have them take notes. There's just a lot of different things that you can do. You can create a fill-in-the-blank outline. Play a word identification game beforehand and write down a number of words that they're going to listen for.
If you walk up to any pastor and ask him, “What are you going to talk about?” Well, here we know, because the words are here in the Bible. Pick out 10 words, have your children, look for them. But have them engaged, don't have them checked out all the time. That's one of the big dangers in a family integrated church, children grow up, checked out. And then they stay that way. And that's really bad. But you have to work really hard to make sure that doesn't happen.
With teenagers, you know, talk, talk, talk. At the dinner table, in the car, you know, all that kind of stuff.
I mean, bringing teenagers to church to be in the gatherings of God's people. I would just say, “Hey, make sure your teenagers know your shepherds. Have them in your homes. You know, gather your children around them. Pray for them. Listen to their tapes. Know their voices, know the things they love. Their concerns. Help your children love them, and it will reap rewards for you.”
Help your children understand the whole enterprise of shepherding and how God has constructed it, and what he desires it to accomplish in your life. They can learn that when they’re really little. You need to teach them.
Let's talk about singing.
Your singing among the people of God. You know, some families, don't sing, they don't sing that well, or they don't have an inclination for it. Other families really are way on the other side of the sheet. And because God has commanded his people to sing, then they should sing, they should sing. They should sing at home and they should sing at the church. And how do you do that? Let's just say you're not a singing family. Okay. Well, here's one thing, take steps to learn how to be a singing family. God wants you to be part of a singing family, so you might as well at least somewhat be a singing family.
And we have so many resources available to us. You can listen to things that will help you sing. If you can't carry a tune. They're all kinds of songs that you can get on the internet or buy that will help you sing. But if we're going to sing together, we should sing at home. We should sing joyfully, and you have to learn that in family worship.
I was reminded the other day of the time that I actually spanked one of my daughters for not singing in family worship. She would not sing and that was a problem.
We should teach our children how to sing. If they won't sing, then you should deal with it because they're being brought into a singing family, right? Called the church.
Then there's praying.
These are the things that we do in the church. We sing, we pray, we read, we listen, and we watch.
We marvel at the Lord's Supper. This living demonstration of the gospel.
So there are lots of things that we do.
We should mirror those things at home. So we should sing, pray, read, listen, and we should Marvel. I mean, those are the things that we should be cultivating in our families. Create a rich family life of all that includes the things that God desires to have in His family. I think it's reasonable to say that if the people of God are to sing, pray, read and listen, then the families should do the same in order to prepare those members to come and do those things. So, I would just encourage you to do all those things at home.
Next, how do you deal with children after the service during the fellowship time.
Number 4. This is an interesting one. One of the problems that we've always had in our gatherings. One of the problems that every family integrated church has to grapple with, is how to properly engage the children after the meal when there's free time afterwards. And what happens often is you have these roving bands of wild Indians, you know, hurdling through the church building, or on the property, or in the park, and there's sword fighting.
There's all kinds of stuff going on, you know, because children are wired for action. They are. it's a good thing, they're wired for that action. So what do you do? What do you do with that? Well, there really are only a couple options.
You can create a play culture. You can create a play culture, youth culture on the Sabbath. You can do that if you want, we're not doing that.
Or you can appoint someone every week to keep children busy by organizing different kinds of activities and things like that. It assumes a wrong view of the Sabbath and we don't want to manage an administration like that. So that's not going to happen here.
You can provide classes for the children and contain them. You know, you can institutionalize them.
Well, here's our advice. It's a lot more work to engage your children and give them a meaningful time of fellowship after the meal. It's a lot harder. It takes a lot of work, believe me. You who have really, really big families. It's way more work than I ever had to do.
So, I feel for you in that area. But the day together among the people of God is designed to be a day of meditation, of communication, of godly things, of being absorbed in the things of God. A whole day that way. So how do you teach your children how to do that? Well, you have to teach them how to do that. and how you teach them how to do that, is you have to be with them typically. Or if you're not with them, they will turn into roving bands of wild Indians all around the church. It is very difficult.
What you want to do, is you want to make Sunday the biggest, most wonderful family reunion day that they've seen, you know, in six days. That's what you want them to see. Where the young and the old are celebrating together, where there are meaningful conversations.
So, in order to do that, parents have to break their intuitive patterns. Parents want to talk to parents, kids want to talk to kids, you have to resist that. You have to constantly resist that, or you're just going to end up with another age segregated environment. You have to fight it.
I remember fighting that with my own son, you know, when he was in his teens ready to rumble. And so, I had to really carefully explain to him what we were doing, because I was requiring him to be a couple of feet from my shoulder, and that was really, really hard for him. I had to take time to explain why we were doing that.
You can talk to about it. He'll tell you how hard it was, but he will also tell you that he benefited from it significantly.
I made up an acrostic to help him remember what I was trying to accomplish by having him with me while all of his friends were running around.
It was the acronym POWER:
P - proximity, O - observation, W - wisdom, E - eye contact, and R - relationship.
So power. I wanted him to know why I wanted him next to me.
I wanted him to be in close Proximity to me for a number of reasons.
O - observation. I wanted him to be with me, Observing what was going on in that conversation. I wanted him to be on deck. Observing the conversation, what was happening. I wanted him to be observing. Not just passively looking around. That's the easiest thing to do. So, we had to fight that.
I had to fight that in myself, because I'm also getting dialed in on this adult conversation forgetting that he's even there. I'm having to pull myself back and bring him in the conversation. It took discipline on my part to do that. So that it was interesting for him. I mean, I had to change my affection to make it interesting for him. So that it would be a neat conversation for him, not just me.
So, I had to change the way I was thinking about talking to other men.
W was wisdom. I wanted him to be there acquiring Wisdom. I wanted him to be listening to wise things. Or maybe unwise things were being said, and we were going to talk about it afterwards. We were always having these cool down conversations about where we had been and who we had talked to. Hey, what did you think of that? What was that all about? What did you observe?
I wanted him to acquire wisdom from wise men, or to observe lack of wisdom from an unwise man. Either way, it's a win for me.
E was eye contact. I wanted him looking at the speaker. If I'm speaking I want him looking at me. If the other guy is speaking, I want him tracking like this, not turned around off in La-La land. That's really hard for a 10 year old boy, but he can do it.
But you have to work at it.
And you won't just have to work at it one time, you have to work at it all the time.
R, in power, was relationship. What I told my son was look, “Hey, we're with people we want to be in relationships with. We want to know them. So, make observations. Stuffs going to be said, we're going to pray for them. We're in a relationship with these people.”
And so, POWER: Proximity, Observation, Wisdom, Eye contact, Relationship. That's what I wanted him to understand. So when you're dealing with children after the worship time and during the fellowship time, be wise parents and direct your children to wisdom.
Organize that time. Structure that time. So that it's not just a time of running around. There should be a strategic plan for how we gather together.
You know, you do that when you come here and there are certain people you want to talk to. Well, I would just encourage you to be a little bit more creative than that and say, “What would be most helpful to my daughter as far as a strategy for that day, even when she's eight years old? How can I engage her in that, or my son.” Whatever it is.
Don't let it just be a loose time where there's no principles that are in play.
It's far better to have principled time than just whatever timed, especially among the people of God.
What you want at the end of the day, is a child that says in his heart, “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.” What a wonderful family this is, what a good time we had. We saw people, we cared for them. We learned about them during that fellowship time instead of just running around like crazy people.
What's the value of bringing our families together for worship?
I'll just give you a number of bullet points.
First of all, it integrates children into the fellowship of the saints. Here's the truth, your family's not enough.
The strongest family is not completely adequate for the discipleship of your children. More is given by God because more is needed. God thinks that your family needs more than just your biological family. And that's one reason why he's created a local church. Guess what, my family is not enough. Your family is not enough. You need a bigger family to affect them.
And there's so many things that happen in that affecting.
When you're part of a big family, you have to learn how to be patient.
You have to forgive people, because they're going to sin against you in the church. It's going to happen. You know what the best church you can be in is the one where somebody's going to sin against you. You'll never have a better opportunity to grow and to demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ and to be that kind of person who says, “Oh, he sinned against me, but how big are my sins? Look at how much I've been forgetting. Why would I be harsh when I have received so much mercy?” You know, people in the church, sinning against each other is actually, you know, underrated, because it can be very helpful to us.
So, we shouldn't be all offended when people send against us.
But your family gets to be in that environment. Check that out. Isn’t that something? Your children get to learn how to express grace.
They learn how to see what gossipers they are, what hard hearted people they are. They get to see how relentless they can be. So that they can turn to the Lord and not being that way.
Being sinned against is an opportunity to learn those things.
So it integrates children into the fellowship of the saints. And the fellowship of the saints is really, really important.
When two people want to get married, I'm always worried about that person who was never in a local church. Who had never lived long enough with people, who couldn't live with people for more than a couple years. I'm really worried about people like that.
Because they're going to be married to somebody for a lot longer than a couple years. And life in the church helps you learn how to be patient with a bunch of imperfect people.
It's not a marriage, but it has some qualities of a marriage in the sense that you're a family.
So your family needs the church really bad.
So, number 1 is, it integrates children into the fellowship of the saints.
Number 2. It fosters closeness. Bringing the whole family together for worship and prayer and instruction. My experiences is that it really enhances the love and the unity that exists in the family. It makes you more of a team for the spreading of the gospel, for all those things together. You know, anytime people spend time together it fosters closeness.
Number 3. It places parents at the center stage of spiritual development.
You know, coming to church together as a family really enhances your role as spiritual leaders of your home. And the value for the parent, is that it places them really in the center stage of the spiritual growth of their children. Where all the family members will come and hear the same thing together.
And it helps the parents understand the areas that the child needs instruction. And so it actually makes your role bigger. Coming to church as a family makes your role bigger than it was when you offloaded them. Because it requires certain things of you.
Number 4. It reveals child raising flaws and needs.
It's good because of that. Obedience problems come to the surface. Broken relationship problems are more visible. So, as you might be able to hide this out in your family, if you're among a bunch of people, the broken relationships are more accentuated. If you have them between siblings or between, you know, a husband and a wife, or a father and his children.
It brings the sin to the surface, So it's good in that sense, and it brings those flaws up so that you can deal with them. I think it just causes more progress to take place.
Number 5. It accelerates skill development.
We're talking about the value of bringing your children into the public worship of God. It accelerates skill development and it's an opportunity to teach your children some really valuable skills that will accelerate their maturity that maybe, you know, most children in the culture never really get a chance to participate in until they get a lot older. But you get to introduce them a lot earlier.
Number 6. It forces routines that draw parents into valuable engagements.
You know, the honoring of the preaching of the Word of God. And participating personally in its message. It just forces things that drop parents and children into really valuable engagements.
Number 7. Having your children with you is valuable.
Because children get something out of everything that they experience. I've heard this so many times, “My children just don't get anything out of that.” Well that's not true. Children get something out of everything they do. They get something, they might get a little bit when they're this age and a little bit more and a little bit more. But don't kid yourself, children get more than you think out of what they're doing.
John S. C. Abbott in his book “The Child at Home”, I believe, He talks about this. He says, “Be careful how you talk to your children.” Like if you're always just praising your children so much, “Oh, you're just so wonderful.” You build up their sense of self-importance. You don't even think they understand what you're saying. But they understand what you're saying. That's the point that he's making. They understand way more than they can verbalize
So, they might not be able to talk about it, but they know a lot more about it, when you say it to them. If you as husbands and wives talk to each other when your children are a certain age and you don't think they know what you're saying? You're fooling yourself.
They know a lot more of what you're saying. You have to be careful what you say.
But children, you know, children get something out of everything they do. Even the child that is sleeping on the shoulder, they're getting something. They're hearing sounds. There's an emotional atmosphere. There's all kinds of things going on.
So, I don't buy the line, ‘My children aren't getting anything out of this.” I just don't buy it. And then when you add the whole element of being proactive and helping your children get something out of it, then it even gets better.
What's the value to a child to hear a whole church lifting up their voices and singing? What's the value to a child to hear prayers? What is it?
Even if they don't understand every single thing about it.
Is there any value in hearing the sound of preaching or the buzz of fellowship, or the eating together? Is there any value in that? There's a lot of value.
You know, what you're doing is you're providing one building block at a time for your children. They're not getting everything out of what's going on, but they're getting something. Hey, I'll just be really honest with you. I don't get everything out of everything that I do either. I miss a lot, and so do your children.
But they miss less and less and less as they grow up. So just fill the well one cup at a time.
But make it meaningful, take action, make it the most wonderful time you can possibly make it. And it'll strengthen their ability in a lot of areas. It'll help break their addiction to entertainment, it'll lengthen their attention span, it'll have a good effect.
And if it's an enjoyable time, they'll have great memories of the gatherings of the saints together, and the conversations, and the relationships that took place. Help them to savor them, and make the very most out of them.
Okay, I'm going to give you now some critical things to remember. And then we'll wrap it up.
Number 1. Children receive less than they could because of the negligence of parents.
Children receive less than they could, because of the negligence of parents.
Number 2. We're raising a generation of worshipers.
One of our problems as a culture is that we worship a worshipful atmosphere. And we want to protect a worshipful atmosphere, instead of teaching people how to worship. We're more concerned about our concentration than we are their consecration.
So, keep in mind what we're doing.
Our prayer our hearts desire is that a generation would rise up that would praise Jesus Christ into the next generation and the next generation and the next generation. We're sacrificing our lives right now. So that there would be mouths in the next generation who will praise Jesus, who will teach their children the sweet things of God. We're going to die away, but we have a responsibility to place a generation in the world that knows what it means to worship God, and that requires certain things of us.
Next, it's a marathon, not a sprint. It's a marathon, not a sprint.
We live in a society that just wants to have instant results. You want to have instant obedience, you know, instant singing, instant everything. And it just doesn't work out that way. It takes a long time.
I want to close with a citation from Richard Baxter. From his work called, Directions for Profitably Hearing the Word Preached. This is found in the Christian Directory. And, what he says here, I hope kind of sums up at least the heart and soul of what I've been trying to say with these 25 points or so that I've given. Here's what he says,
“Come not to hear with a careless heart, as if you were to hear a matter that little concerned you. But come with a sense of the unspeakable weight, necessity, and consequence of the holy word which you are to hear. And when you understand how much you are concerned in it, and it will greatly help your understanding of every particular truth.
Make it our work, with diligence, to apply the word as you are hearing it. Cast not all on the minister as those that will go no further than they are carried as by force. You have work to do as well as the preacher and should all the time be as busy as he. You must open your mouths and digest it, for another cannot digest it for you. Therefore, be all the while at work and abhor an idle heart in the hearing, as well as an idle minister. Chew the cud and call up all when you come home in secret. And by meditation, preach it over to yourselves. If it were coldly delivered by the preacher, do you preach it more earnestly over your own hearts.”
So, I pray that kind of the heart of diligence. To take every valuable thing, to make every moment valuable for the glory of God. To raise up a mighty generation to multiply the praises of God, to direct your life in such a way that spreads the Word of God. That preaches the gospel, far more diligently, far more comprehensively, far more beautiful, far more happily.
So that there would be mouths in the world who would say, “May Jesus Christ be praised.”
Let’s pray, “Lord I pray that you would help us to move with all diligence to handle holy things. I pray you would give us holy and happy gatherings, all of us learning together, but lifting up our eyes toward you.
Oh, Father, I pray that you'd help this congregation to worship in spirit and in truth."