Our children’s church ministry made the decision to take the children into adult worship one Sunday per month. Our church has a balcony so we arranged we would sit in the front row upstairs. We told the minister of our plan and warned him there might be extra wiggles and whispers.
I arranged for the children to meet with me before we headed upstairs yesterday. “Do we have to be quiet all the time?” one boy asked. I suddenly realized, this young man had never set foot in an adult worship service before. Our routines and traditions were foreign to him. He had no clue of what was expected of him nor could I assume he would naturally know what he should do.
So I gave the children the same ground rules I gave my own two children when they were little.
1. Stand when everyone stands to sing and try to follow along.
2. You may read or draw during the sermon. Try to follow the minister’s outline if you can. Our minister leaves blanks for people to fill in. My experience has been older kids love to guess what word the minister is going to say before he gets to a particular point.
3. There are only two times I expect you to be absolutely quiet: during prayer, because it shows respect to God and it keeps you from distracting others, and during Communion which is a time where everyone should be thinking about Jesus.
I also told them that if they had any questions about what was happening, they were free to ask me as long as they did so quietly. So we headed upstairs, drawing paper in hand. Two boys sat beside me. I became aware they were watching me, watching how I worshipped, watching whether I was singing, whether I sitting quietly during the prayer, whether I used the outline in the bulletin.
During the sermon, I quietly suggested some of their drawings could portray what the sermon was talking about. One boy told me, “I’m already doing that!” The new boy asked if he could go to the bathroom. I said, "No." He asked “Why?” I told him that, in an adult group, leaving while a speaker was talking was disrespectful. He accepted my answer. He just needed someone to tell him why.
As we came down the stairs afterwards, I asked, “What was one thing you learned about who Jesus is (the topic of the sermon based on Colossians 1)?” Each of them gave me a correct answer! As we went through the line, I had them tell the minister what they had learned as well. He beamed.
Kids don’t naturally know how to worship God. They are taught through watching how adults worship and through concentrated, planned teaching. It wasn’t a day off for me; I was as much a teacher that morning as I would have been had we stayed downstairs. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 28:19,20 to “Go and make disciples . . . teaching them to obey all I have commanded you.” The Greek translation of the word “go” should be “As you go.” As you go! Everywhere you go, keep teaching those you are helping to become followers of Jesus. I went to worship – and I kept on teaching. Teaching as I go, in word and in deed.
I’m glad we’re taking the children upstairs once in awhile. They may not understand all what is happening or all that is said. But they are learning how to worship. If we don’t give them the opportunity, they won’t learn how. They aren’t ready intellectually or spiritually for a steady diet of adult worship. But at least, when the time comes, they will know how to worship and the adult worship service will no longer be a foreign culture to them.