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.
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.