Four years ago, I made the unusual decision to volunteer in my Church’s Sunday school. I had no experience with children, and no idea what I was getting myself into, but I felt like God was calling me to become more involved in the Church. To say my first day was a trial by fire would be an understatement (children and balloons are a deadly combination), but gradually I got the hang of things and learned to love my time as a volunteer. There was just one problem though, many of the Child Care workers wanted to attend the adult service, but our limited numbers meant we spent most Sundays with the children. On the other hand, if children sat with their parents, their rambunctious nature would have them causing noise and distractions.
It turns out this issue isn’t limited to my home church. Many Christians wonder how they can balance their care of children on Sundays with times of worship for adults. The theologian John Piper was recently posed this question during an interview, and his response on the blog Desiring God ended up being rather surprising. Rather than attend Sunday school, Piper believes children should accompany their parents to the service. After all, he reasons, it’s important that children see their parents fall in love with God,
“The aim is that the children catch the passion for worshiping God by watching mom and dad enjoy God week after week. What would be the impact if, for twelve years, the children saw dad with his face in his hands praying during the prelude to worship? What would be the impact if they saw mom and dad beaming with joy in singing the praises of God? Just think of it. Millions and millions of children never see their parents sing, let alone sing songs with joy to a great God. Something really seems wrong to me when parents want to take their children in the most formative years and put them with other children and other adults to shape their attitude and behavior in worship rather than having them right there to shape them. Why wouldn’t parents be jealous to model for their children the tremendous value that they put on joyful reverence in the presence of almighty God?”
Piper certainly has a point, the influence of a parent cannot be understated. The Bible commands fathers and mothers to raise their children in the ways of the LORD (Proverbs 22:6) and worshiping together would definitely make an impression. However, there are other options available to a church, and depending on the congregation, some might work better than others. In my case, for example, our Pastor chose to call on members to become volunteers. He started by pointing to the words of 1st Corinthians, which states we all have a part to play in the body of Christ,
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 12:12
He then followed up by reminding us how God equips us with gifts designed to serve others and share the good news,
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” – 1 Peter 4
The response was amazing, and in a short time Child Care had enough volunteers that people could take a day off.
We never quite know the best way to raise a child within the Church. They say it “takes a village” and sometimes that’s true, other times it takes a parent who’s willing to demonstrate their love for Christ. What truly matters is that adults have the patience and understanding to recognize which road will help their children grow into sons and daughters of God. In the end, their journey can matter as much as the destination.
*Ryan Duncan is an Editor of Crosswalk.com