Thanks to the Confessing Baptist for directing fresh attention to this article on Attendance of Children in Public Worship.  The author, Jeremy Walker, offers very practical tips to helping your children worship with the larger body during Lord’s Day Corporate Worship.

PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS

1] Conduct family worship daily. Incorporate elements of the public meetings into the fabric of family worship where appropriate, demonstrating an active regard for and interest in what has occurred in the public meetings, and showing that the content of those meetings is relevant beyond Sunday. For example, consider singing hymns recently used, or read from the same passages of Scripture, or take up matters for prayer from the prayer meeting. Where necessary, practice the behaviour required in the worship services. Consider the particular relevance of family worship on Saturday evenings, as a means of preparation for the Lord’s day. Use the opportunity not only to prepare the heart for worship, but also to remind your children of the behaviour expected of them on the Sunday.

2] Seek to order things in your home so that children have adequate rest on Saturday night (we ought to be at least as concerned that children get enough as sleep as on a school night), and have adequate time on Sunday morning to prepare to leave the house, so that they are in every respect ready for church.

3] Aim to arrive in good time (perhaps 10-15 minutes before the service begins), and be in the appropriate place for worship as soon as reasonably possible. Remind children in advance what behaviour is expected in Sunday School, the worship services, and/or the prayer meeting.

4] Accomplish necessary tasks (such as getting a drink, or using the toilet) before the beginning of the service.

5] Assume that your child will sit through the entire service unless there is a particular reason for leaving. There is no need to leave the worship at the first sign of disturbance from your children: churches should appreciate that children are children, and that there will be times when they do not behave perfectly. If there is no alternative, take your child out of the service. Ensure that this is not seen as a ‘reward’ for disobedience, and, if possible, deal with the particular issue appropriately and immediately, and then return to the meeting room to continue participating in the public worship of God.

6] Train your sons and daughters to be good listeners, sitting with good posture and focusing their eyes on the one leading the service or preaching. When the Scriptures are read, have them turn to the text and follow in their own or your Bible. Likewise, help them turn to each hymn and follow from the hymnbook, helping them as required. With older children, consider means (such as taking notes) of helping them to concentrate.

7] Remember that leaving a public meeting (even for legitimate reasons) is a distraction, at least to those nearby, and that such a departure interrupts your worship of God. It will impair your ability to follow, understand, and therefore benefit from the preaching of God’s word. The logic and continuity of Biblical preaching is lost when there are gaps and interruptions in the hearing of it. Seriously consider the possibility that your child’s desire to leave the meeting place be refused.

8] If it is predictable that you will need to take your child out of a service to train or discipline him or her, aim to take seats near the doors of the meeting room, where you can get in and out with least distraction to others. When leaving or entering, try to do so with a minimum of fuss and noise. Other members of the church — deacons or door stewards, for example — might be able to help ensure that such seats are available. If you have an appropriate seat, you can retake your seat with minimal distraction when you bring the child back in to the service. Remember that the children are to participate intelligently in worship — diversionary activities (drawing, writing, playing, etc.) are not a part of the worship of God. Neither (outside of the Lord’s supper) are eating and drinking, which can be distracting for the child, yourself, and others.
These things will undermine a child’s active and intelligent involvement in the worship of God

9] Encourage children to continue behaving well (e.g. not making excessive noise and shouting) inside and outside the building, after a public meeting. Help children to behave politely to one another, and to adults (holding open doors, helping with tasks, etc.), and to behave in a friendly fashion to visitors, particularly visiting children.

10] Where possible, follow up the preaching and teaching with your children (during the drive home, during lunch, in family worship on Sunday afternoon/evening), asking them questions appropriate to their level of understanding.

11] Remember the power, for good or evil, of your own example in preparing for and participating in the public meetings of the church.

Midway understands the power of parents and their responsibility before the Lord to raise their children in a gospel-rich and winsome environment.  In light of God’s call to shepherd their children before the Lord we want to equip and encourage parents to create a God-honoring culture in their homes.  Toward that end let us recommend the following article from Brian Croft of PracticalShepherding.com and Auburndale Baptist Church of Louisville, KY titled How can I make sure I am individually shepherding my children?  As you will notice, the article is addressed to pastors but can be easily adapted by any parent.

Most pastors would affirm our priority is first to shepherd our family, then to shepherd the church.  Yet, I fear many pastors are laboring hard to shepherd the church to the neglect of their family.  The Lord in His kind providence, challenged me several years ago about this as my neglect in this area had become known.  However, it was not another pastor that challenged me.  It was through an out-of-town friend who is a pharmacist and faithfully serves as a deacon in his local church that exposed my neglect.   His effort and model to shepherd his seven children both individually and regularly in addition to their regular family worship challenged me, convicted me, inspired me, and put my pathetic efforts I had made thus far to shame.

This faithful father shepherded his seven children by taking one morning a week to meet individually with each of his children.  Seven days in a week–each of the seven children got one morning each week with their dad.  They prayed, read scripture, talked, and read a book of that child’s choosing.  Inspired by his amazing example, I came home and established a similar model in our home that I remain faithful to this day.  Here is what I do to individually shepherd my four children regularly in addition to our regular time of family worship, as well as implications attached to it:

1)  Monday through Thursday each child gets a day and on his or her appointed day stays up 30 – 45 minutes later than their siblings to meet with me before bedtime.  I thought they would be excited about it for a few times, but then grow bored with it.  Not so.  Years later, they look forward to that time more than anything, which provides a natural accountability when you are tired from the day and are tempted to skip for that evening.

2)  We read the passage I am preaching for that week, discuss it a bit, then we read a chapter from a book they have chosen to read.  At the end, I take time to ask them how they are doing and how I can pray for them.  This is a great way to see how they are really doing and teach them what are good things to be praying for others.  Then, I pray for them and take them to bed.

3)  One of the greatest joys to my wife is her watching my effort with our children and lead our family in this way.  The last thing she feels is left out (just in case you were thinking that).  Our wives’ desire for us to make regular, deliberate, spiritually meaningful efforts to care for our children will mean more to her than I think we realize or understand.  I find this especially true for our wives who are stay at home moms who labor hard in this task of shepherding their little hearts all day with little break.

4)  My efforts with my children have put me in a position to challenge other men in my church to do something similar.  It has been amazing the way our fathers in our church have embraced this and the way it has empowered many of them to see they can spiritually lead their families with deliberate efforts.  Fellow pastors, the obvious needs to be acknowledged that you cannot challenge the men in your church to do anything you are not making a faithful effort at.  Regularly and individually shepherding your children’s hearts is certainly one of those efforts that we must model for the men in our local church.  Their failure to do it could be a reflection of your failure to model it.

Fellow pastors, leaders, and faithful men in the church, may the Lord use this blog post to bring a similar awakening that I needed that the Lord brought through my dear friend  many years ago.  Then, dear brother, act upon it and start today to back up what most of us as pastors and fathers acknowledge with our lips, but fewer actually do.