When a child is born into a family, God intends for the parents to be the primary disciple-makers of the child. God never intended for the church to step in to replace the parents as the primary disciple-makers. The church’s role is to come alongside to equip the parent in the effort to take the malleable child and help that child become more and more like Jesus.
Proverbs 22:6 gives wise instruction in reminding the parent that parents are to train up a child in the way he should go. The best way to instruct a child regarding the way to go is to lead by example in the way the child should go. There are several stages a child typically goes through at church.
Family dedication may be a child’s first introduction to corporate worship where the family and other believers affirm the family’s desire to raise the child in a Christian home. Following the family dedication, the family should continue to come to church together. The parents have stated their desire to raise their child in a Christian home and point them to a relationship with Jesus.
Navigating Your Child’s Stages of Church Activity
When church is trumped by extra-curricular activities or sleeping in regularly, your child actually “sees” you saying that you will fit church in the family schedule if nothing else better comes along.
The Infant Stage
The baby’s first Sunday at church will be celebrated when mom reluctantly hands her baby over to a capable preschool leader who has volunteered to care for the child and to whisper Bible truths as the baby is rocked and cared for in a class. As trust is built and the child learns to trust someone in addition to the parent, that trust will be a building block that leads to a child one day trusting Jesus. During the preschool years, leaders continue teaching biblical truth as the child begins to learn basic Bible facts regarding people and places. Mom and dad usually attend their own age-group Bible study and participate in worship while the child is cared for in the preschool area. Training in this stage of life helps the child learn that fellowship with church friends is essential and going to church is part of a weekly routine for the entire family.
The Childhood Stage
Your example will teach your child more than your words will as your child moves to the children’s area at church. Your child hears you say that church is important. Still, when church is trumped by extra-curricular activities or sleeping in regularly, your child actually “sees” you saying that you will fit church in the family schedule if nothing else better comes along. In worship, you are the best person to model for your child how to engage in worship. If you are not following along or watching notifications pop up on your phone, your child will begin to notice that church is simply an interruption to your life on your phone.
Worshiping as a family is a great practice.
The Student Ministry Stage
As children move to the student ministry area, there are new obstacles. Continuing to worship as a family is a great practice. As teens begin to move further away from family in worship and sit with friends closer and closer to the back of the sanctuary or in the balcony, you can be assured that there are many more hindrances between your teen and the pastor. Encourage your student to use a physical copy of the Bible in worship. Even though the cell phone contains a place to keep sermon notes, the number of notifications coming to your child’s phone during worship will alarm you.
You have 18 years with your child. There are 52 weeks per year which means you get 936 Sundays with your child. If the first six years are years your child is in the preschool area during your Bible study and worship time and the last seven years your child sits with fellow teens in worship, that leaves five years, or 260 Sundays for you to model how to worship alongside your child. Don’t waste a Sunday. Be with your child in worship.