My first experience with what some call “Family Integrated Worship” was when I was asked to lead the music for such “Family Integrated” church. To my dismay, this meant that while the adults sang, the kids played Cowboys & Indians in the middle of it all. It was free-range parenting, with cheerios tossed like chicken-feed to the knee-highs.
We don’t want that. Nor do we want what many churches have opted for: shuffling the noisiest & wiggliest saints off to some other wing of the church campus, to be sat on by saintly volunteers.
Our aim is to worship together as families. I want to lay stress, however, on the word “worship”. We gather to worship, not shush the squawks of infant saints. That said, our worship is to be decent & in order. Thus, we should strive to raise our children to worship the Lord. Just bringing them along with us isn’t sufficient. So, a few bullet points about worshipping together as saints young & old:
- Parents, your children are welcome, even the hubbub they add to our service.
- Children, you are here to worship God. Learn to join us in singing, kneeling, and add loud “Amens” to our songs and prayers.
- Parents (& Grandparents or others who help these families with young-uns); your children don’t need 15 trips to the water fountain & bathroom. Worship is, in part, learning discipline & self-control. They won’t die of thirst, I promise, no matter how much they protest otherwise. While infant voices aren’t an annoyance to our congregation, it is not an excuse for parents to neglect their task of training their children to attend to the Word.
- Work to wean little ones off of needing a steady flow of jelly beans to stay quiet, or needing their entire GI Joe collection to stay occupied.
- These last two reminders require preparation & teaching in your home. Meaning, your household should revolve around the joy of ascending here to worship the Lord.
In our homes, we must remember that worship is unavoidable. It is of course not whether we will worship, but who or what we will render worship. Too often we spend our attention on lesser things, our hobbies, jobs, sports teams, pop culture, political parties, and we teach our homes to revolve around the worship of these idols we’ve set up. We then scurry into the courts of the King of king unprepared, mumbling out the songs, perturbed by our kids or someone else’s kids, and we go through the motions of the service irritated, thoughtless, and faithless. We save our praise for fleeting idols, and reserve our leftovers for God. This is upside down, and it is spiritual madness.
And so, worshipping together as families, it is important that you fill your home with Gospel joy, discipline, and faithfulness throughout the week. Make the Lord’s Day a day of worship, rest, and celebration and this means preparation. As Pastor Jim Wilson once put it, “Act, don’t react.” Meaning, plan your life and family around the priority of worshipping the Lord, so that you’re not scrambling to cram in discipline and self-control during the worship service!