Children belong in church.
But whose responsibility is it to get them there? Yes, yours – the parent, the grandparent, the caregiver, the friend.
I will freely admit: bringing your children to church is not the most enjoyable thing you will do on your Sunday morning (or Saturday evening, depending when you attend!). As a pastor’s wife and a mom of 5 kids under 9 years of age, Sunday morning often feels like facing a challenging obstacle course that you’ve never seen before. You have no idea what’s coming up in front of you, or how you’re going to tackle it. There’s strategic planning involved (being prepared ahead of time mentally and physically is vital! These tips will help give you a more successful outcome!). And even on the best of days, you will most likely come out of church with sweat-filled armpits and an aching back, particularly if you have tiny terrors, um, I mean toddlers.
You will leave each Sunday hearing about 17 percent of the service and questioning why you ever thought it was a good idea to come with a teething 1 year old, a potty-training 2.5 year old and an opinionated 5 year old. You will think to yourself how “virtual” church seems like such a better option, wearing your pajamas and headphones while your kids run around the house, and everyone will get more out of it.
But I promise you: Children belong in church.
And I can say that, firmly and loudly, on a Sunday after I fought my willful, extremely powerful, 32 pound one-in-a-half-year old who decided to scream and fight his way through 8:00am service in the v-e-r-y front pew of church (thank you, covid, for forcing us to the one pew no one wants to sit in!). Nine years of solo parenting in the pew has taught me many invaluable lessons, with this being at the top of importance. Whether I feel like it or not, the benefits of bringing your children to church are invaluable and will turn this difficult responsibility as a parent into one of the joyous experiences you will have (and if not now, then in the future when you see your grandkids in the pews with your children).
These 8 reasons why you should bring your children to church will help you through those challenging Sundays. Let these benefits encourage you each week as you faithfully take on the responsibility of bringing your children to church to hear God’s Word and grow in faith.
1. Children need to see that church is important.
We prioritize things that are important in our lives: work, sports, hobbies, social media. Church should be at the head of that list. Children are capable of understanding what is important in their lives. Meals, baths, cleaning their rooms, putting toys away…these are all routine activities that are consistent in their daily lives. Church should be as well. Consistently attending church every Sunday shows your children that this is an important activity that takes priority in your family’s life.
2. Children can memorize prayers and songs.
Many parents reason that their children don’t understand what’s going on in church, so they wait until they’re older before attending church service or put them in the nursery. On the contrary, children can absorb much more than we know and they have an amazing ability to memorize. When children are in church service every Sunday, they hear many of the same prayers and songs throughout the service. Over time, they will start singing and praying along with the congregation. My children have memorized The Lord’s Prayer and our church’s liturgy (the order of worship) by 3-4 years of age. They will randomly hum church hymns throughout the day, surprising me with how much they remember. Children can memorize and retain the flow of worship, which only helps later when they learn to read and can follow along.
3. Children remember what they hear.
This benefit is closely tied to #3, but goes beyond just memorization. I have always found it fascinating how my kids will ask questions from a church service that happened weeks ago – completely out of the blue! Think about it: if you promise your child something but don’t do it for awhile, do they remember? Of course they do! Parents can attest that their young children seem to remember everything…and say things at the most inappropriate times! Now put that same memory ability in a church environment, where a variety of things are happening in the service and their curiosity is piqued. Whether they’re doodling on paper or coloring during the prayers, their active little minds are listening (and sometimes their mouths utter a not-so-quiet answer to the pastor’s rhetorical question!). They are going to remember and ask questions later – much later! This provides parents wonderful opportunities to talk to their children, bring out the Bible, and water the seeds of faith that are planted.
4. Children learn how to behave (a certain way!) during church service.
How do you want your children to behave in the grocery store? Shopping? Eating at a restaurant? All public places require a certain type of behavior from children that we, as their parents, work hard to teach them. We do this by exposing them to these situations and teaching our little ones the proper behavior. Church services also demand a certain behavior that children learn over time. Church does require little ones to be quieter than they are accustomed to, and to remain in one location for a period of time (hmmmm, sounds like similar behavior needed to go out to eat as a family, doesn’t it?). Children learn proper developmental skills like following directions, mimicking others’ good behaviors, sitting still, listening, and participating along with others. These are wonderful skills for young children to develop for not only church, but for other settings outside of the service. Church is a unique environment that children can be exposed to peer and adult interactions, morals, role models, and even be able to practice good citizen skills towards others.
5. Children become part of the church community.
There are amazing people in your church, and becoming a part of your church community will allow your children to get to know them. Children develop a sense of belonging when they become comfortable in a setting. The more your children are in church, the more they will feel a part of this community that is bigger than them, bigger than their home. That feeling of church fellowship will stay with them as they grow up. Church can become a second home to them, a place they feel comfortable, welcomed, and loved. They want to be there, and that feeling of community will stay with them into adulthood.
6. Church provides opportunities for children to participate and experience new things.
Parents set a faithful, godly example for their children when they make church a priority. Parents teach their children that attending church is important in keeping our faith alive and active. At church, children also see many other people setting aside time to hear and be fed by God’s Word. What a beautiful sight it is to look around a church service and come together in unity with other fellow believers! And what a profound experience for us and our children to lift our voices in prayer and song together with our Christian brothers and sisters! Children experience this along with attending Sunday school, Bible studies, and church events with their church family. They learn the value in actively participating with others at events (i.e. potlucks, church cleaning days, baptisms, special Sunday activities) and being an active member of a community.
7. Church attendance can create wonderful family conversation.
“Mommy, how did, how did God create people?” my 6-year-old asks quizzically after church service, as we waited to be dismissed from our pew (now she knows all about Creation, but I could see her little mind working as she thought really hard about this concept). “God took the dust from the ground, formed a human being, and he breathed breath into him…and there was Adam!” I replied. “What about girls?” she asked again looking puzzled, as if it was the first time hearing this story (insert eye-roll). I continued, “God took Adam’s rib, and made Eve.” She nodded and agreed, processing this information a bit more seriously than she’d ever done before. She knows the Bible story; she’s heard it a million times. But children’s minds work differently than adults. And I’m always amazed at the questions they ask, when they ask them, and how they take a different aspect of understanding away each time we talk. These faith-filled conversations fill our days, and provide wonderful connections that make the Bible come alive for our children. Parents can engage their children in conversation about what they experience during church service and Sunday school. These conversations are an instrumental part in opening up communication channels for the years to come as children grow and mature.
8. Bringing your children to church strengthens your family.
“A family that prays together, stays together.”
The old cliché might bring some eye rolls, but it’s not any less true now than it was then. The family core worships together just as the church family comes together to worship. When a family makes God the central focus in their life, they can learn and grow together. Sin has torn apart many families, leaving some parents alone in the task of raising their children in God’s Word. Families can find strength as they come together in prayer, and a church family can be an influential part in a family’s life. A church family can give grandparents to children who don’t have any (or any that live close). It can give grandkids to members whose families live far away and can’t see each other. These relationships strengthen the family unit and create personal, familial connections that otherwise wouldn’t exist. “Pew Grandparents” are a legitimate category of family! In a broken world filled with broken families, the church can provide the family with relationships that can forgive, heal and unite with the power of God’s love that works in His people.
There are many benefits to bringing your children to church, both seen and unseen. It’s not an easy responsibility for parents, especially with young babies and toddlers. Parents may often feel like the best thing to do is put off church attendance by a few years, at least. Those “few years”, however, are so important in a young family’s life. Whatever age your children might be, going to church will encourage and strengthen your family now and in the years to come.