Thank you for bringing your babies to worship. When I was a young mom, we were encouraged to bring our babies to the nursery, not the sanctuary, so I missed out on cuddling my newborn while psalms were read and songs were sung. Seeing you rock your little one to sleep from across the aisle reminds us that God’s family includes all ages.
As you hold your precious baby during worship, you’re wrapping your child in God’s love. Already in that simple act your little one is experiencing warmth and love in the context of worship.
I’m glad you’re taking your toddlers along too. One Sunday during worship I saw a two-year-old girl passed lovingly from one set of arms to another all the way down the row from where she had been sitting with her mom. Everyone wanted a chance to hold her as she waved her hands to the music and watched her father play the keyboard at the front of the sanctuary. Watching each person extend their arms toward this little one was like watching our baptismal promises come to life.
I know that taking a toddler to worship can be tiring—for both of you! There will be worship services when your busy toddler prefers to make a joyful noise while running in the halls instead of remaining in the sanctuary. That’s OK. Growing an attention span takes time. Growing in faith does too. We’re in this together.
Thank you for including your preschoolers. When little Dakota and Ayo spontaneously held each other’s hands last week and began dancing in the aisles to the beat of the music, they showed us what it means to worship God with joyful abandon. And when Lily makes her way over to her grandpa, climbs up on his lap, and looks at him while he sings songs of praise, the two of them are painting a beautiful picture of one generation calling to the next.
Preschoolers enter worship filled with wonder. Feel free to whisper to your child about what’s happening and why. Even pointing is welcome! At this age your child has a growing sense that God loves them and cares for them; engaging your preschooler in worship is one way to show your child that God’s family loves them too.
I’m so glad you’re looking for opportunities to involve your children in worship. I can’t think of a better way for God’s family to enter the church building on a Sunday morning than by shaking your hand and receiving a high five from your child. You taught your child what it means to give back when he opened his zipper-sealed plastic bag and poured the coins he’d collected into the offering plate for the hurricane victims he’d seen on the news. During baptism, when your child joins the crowd that comes forward to pray for and lay hands on the person who was baptized, she knows she belongs, and we get a snapshot of what it means to be an intergenerational body of believers. And thank you for making morning announcements while your son clings to your leg and your daughter holds your hand. You’re teaching them that talking to God’s family isn’t that different from sharing a story around the kitchen table.
Speaking of supper, participating in the Lord’s Supper with your children nurtures our faith as it nurtures theirs. Lining up with believers of all ages to receive the elements and seeing an adult get down on one knee to make eye contact with a child to say, “Jesus gave his life for you, Evan” reminds us that Jesus died for all of us. Watching a little girl balance her pink plastic purse on one arm as she carefully walks back to her seat while carrying a precious piece of bread and a ready-to-overflow cup of juice reminds us what a special and abundant gift we’re receiving. And don’t worry about your little one spilling—that’s a lesson in grace.
School-aged children are curious learners with wide-open imaginations, ready to discover more about God’s story and their place in it. Their presence and participation in worship is a reminder to them (and us!) that they belong to God and to God’s family, the church. And it’s another way for you to foster in them the sense that they too have been called, equipped, and uniquely gifted by God to live into and out of God’s love.
Raising children is hard work, and I know that some Sundays you’re just longing to sit in silence. I suspect that there have also been times when you’ve felt as if your wee ones weren’t welcome in worship. Please persist. In addition to the blessings your children bring to us as God’s family when we worship together, you’re training your child to do the one thing we get to do forever: worship.
Children learn by observing, but they learn even more by participating. So keep coming. Keep trying. We’re glad you’re here.
With much love,
God’s big family, your church
Note: A version of this “Dear Parent” letter appeared originally on The Network (the online discussion community of the Christian Reformed Church) at tinyurl.com/DearCaregivers.