Let the Little Children Come... to Worship

I have my doubts. Some days more than others. When a well-meaning person leaned over after worship to ask if my children had recently consumed red dye, I wanted to crawl in a hole. My kids are 5 and 7 years old. And they are fidgety. 

But most days I am completely convinced that having my little ones with me in corporate worship is good—for me, for you, for them, for us.

My kids are learning to worship God. And they learn by doing it. Sometimes they make embarrassing comments—“When will this be over?” And sometimes they show us all up in their exuberance in song. My daughter loves to sit near other grown-ups she knows. One morning I noticed her intently watching a friend’s movements while singing. She carefully copied the body language of my friend, complete with matching tapping foot! She is imitating other worshippers. And that’s how we learn to worship, isn’t it? We imitate others who are further along in this journey called faith.

My son is a thinker. Just when I think he’s merely engrossed in his drawing of a transformer, he will ask what “sanctification” means or point out that C. S. Lewis, just quoted in the sermon, also wrote Narnia. He may not appear to be listening, but he is taking it all in, making connections, and worshipping God.

I’ve grown in my existential experience of worshipping with my kids. Sometimes I am utterly distracted with the fidgeting and not-quite-whispering. Sometimes my blood pressure rises and sweat droplets form as I get irritated and embarrassed. But other times I’m aware of God’s presence in the midst of it all. God meets me in the glorious chaos and noise and messiness. And that’s a lesson I need to learn. God is present whether I’m starched and still or not. Learning to live in the presence of God all the time, not just when I’m alone or with others my age, is essential for my growth in Jesus.

It’s not only good for my kids or good for me to have them in worship. It’s good for you and for us as a body. I know it may be harder to concentrate with a little one in front of you fidgeting. It may be a bit harder to keep your eyes focused on the preacher. But the truth is, these little ones belong in our body. Worship is not a grown-up event where kids tag along. Worship is for all ages. The church is the family of God where everyone comes to join voices in worship of our God. And we can welcome these little ones. We can put ourselves in their shoes and enjoy their childlike faith, even as they inspire us to seek God anew. Jesus made space for kids to come sit on his lap when the disciples thought he had more important things to do. We can do the same. Kids remind us not to take ourselves so seriously. Worship is not about our performance for God. It’s about being present with God. And kids can help us to do just that.