“We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments (Psalm 78:4-7)
As a young father, I continue to learn much from my children while seeking to fulfill my God given role teaching them. Recently, I’ve seen just how important modeling is to teaching them. They watch me – and they mimic me often. While this is often adorable (not to mention convicting when the behavior they’re copying is less than exemplary), it’s demonstrates the reality of God’s wisdom in Scripture. We’re not to merely hear the word, but do it (James 1:22).
I can’t just tell my kids about the things needed for life and godliness – I need to model it to them. For example, I can tell my kids God is glorious, but if they don’t see me delighting in worship I’m teaching them nothing. I can tell my kids prayer is a wonderful gift whereby we can speak to God about our concerns, trusting He cares and acts, but if they don’t see me pray I’ve taught them nothing. I can tell my kids God delights in a cheerful giver, but if they see me spending more money on coffee through the week while only scraping up lose change to toss into the offering plate, I’m teaching them nothing. I can tell my kids to confess their sins to God, but if they don’t see me confess my failure, I’ve taught them nothing. I can tell my kids assembling with other Christians to encourage and exhort one another is good, but if I neglect meeting together I’m teaching them nothing. Teaching goes beyond telling – it requires modeling the actions and behaviors we expect them to learn.
It is important that we grasp this connection since the Scripture instructs parents, primarily fathers, to teach their children the ways of the Lord, to talk about these things often, during the routines of life, as well as formal times of instruction (Deuteronomy 4:9-10; 6:6-9; 11:18-19). Without modeling the ways of the Lord, we’re not following God’s commands. However, while placing the responsibility on parents for training their children in His ways, God doesn’t leave parents alone.
When it comes to the local assembly of God’s people, Scripture implies that children be present. For example, in Ephesians 6:1-2, after laying down some of the most profound theological truths in chapters 1-5 regarding Christ and the church, the Apostle instructs children. Paul expected the letter to be read to the church assembled and he expected children to be there to listen! He does this as well in Colossians 3:18-22, addressing the various age groups he assumed would be present when his letter would be read and explained.
While Scripture isn’t prescriptive about age ranges to be included in the assembly, we’re told that in Nehemiah’s time that men, women and ‘all who could understand what they heard’ gathered to hear the public reading and instruction of the law (Neh 8:1-3; Ezra 10:1). While wisdom is required to determine what ages and circumstances for which we make necessary accommodations, throughout Scripture we see echoed the wisdom that children should be a part of the assembled people for corporate worship and instruction, not separated from it. In short, children should be in church, we should not make a church for children.
There are several benefits of having our children join us in corporate worship. First, it gives children the opportunity to observe their parents (and other adults) worshipping, serving, praying, giving, etc. This modeling component is essential for teaching to be effective. Second, it honors parents as the primary teachers of their children (Deuteronomy 6:9-11; Ephesians 6:4; 2 Timothy 1:4-5), giving fathers and mothers opportunity to explain to their children several aspects of the service to their children. Third, it guards children against willing, but unqualified teachers. While we’ve been blessed to have excellent teachers we find ourselves unable to staff our children’s programs given the growth. The temptation to comprise is immense. The pressure to keep programs running often comes at the cost of placing well-meaning people in roles they are not qualified to fulfill. Forth, it promotes the intergenerational strength and unity God intends in His church. In Titus 2:1-8 we have a beautiful picture of the interplay between each generation, and the role each generation is to play. While this list is not exhaustive, it reflects some of the benefits we hope to see at Fellowship as we seek to integrate our children into our corporate worship.
As we move forward as a church, we find ourselves blessed with nearly 50 children, age 12 and younger within our assembly. I remember, only 2 years ago, we had just a handful. God is truly bringing children to Christ! I pray He will find us faithful having entrusted to us such a precious treasure. As we seek to integrate more of our generations in our assembly and in our Missions Groups, my prayer is that more children will see modeled what is also taught, and desire to model the godliness they see in us.
Recently, I started running again. It was an unforeseen and unintended blessing that as I’d begun to make efforts to better steward the physical body God has given me, my children would catch this behavior without me saying a word. As I headed out for my evening run my daughter and 2 year old son watched from the porch of our home and cheered me on. The next day, my 5 year old daughter and I decided to go for a walk to the park. I soon found out that she wanted to run, just like her dad – all the way! This was nearly 2km! Our kids want to follow us – let’s make sure we’re giving them a good model to follow in these tender formative years.
For His glory and our joy,