I remember our first visit to Grace Lutheran in Lafayette, Indiana. An elderly woman, who sat in front of us every single service, turned around right before worship began and told us, “Don’t worry if your daughter makes noise, we love hearing little ones during service!” It is a blessing, that is for sure—hearing the little voices in the sanctuary and knowing that they have inherited God’s gifts through the waters of Holy Baptism.
But as a parent, it’s downright stressful. No parent wants to have the loud kid in worship. No parent wants everyone to turn and look as they hear the hymnal crash to the ground, right in the middle of the sermon. Many parents of toddlers don’t even remember what a full sermon sounds like without grabbing the crayon out of their child’s hand milliseconds before it comes into contact with the pew Bible.
Those information cards that sit next to the pencils in the pew—you know, the ones in the last row on the left at Grace Lutheran in Lafayette, Indiana. Yeah, that great handcrafted artwork is from my daughter.
Why do we do it? I mean, wouldn’t it just be easier to not come to church until they can sit still?
I’m sure it could be easier. Who doesn’t love sleeping in? How about lounging around in your pajamas until lunch? The question shouldn’t be, “Wouldn’t it be easier?” The question should be, “Would it be better?” And for that, dear friends, the answer is unequivocally NO!
You see, while our children may wiggle and squirm and make noises at inopportune times, they are also learning.
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17 ESV
Your children learn as they hear God’s Word pronounced to everyone in the readings and in the sermon. It may not look like they are listening, but they hear what is going on. Just wait for the first time your two-year-old begins saying the Lord’s Prayer with the entire congregation at worship. Then you’ll realize just how much they hear.
The Third Commandment: Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.
Your children learn visually when they see you come to church every Sunday, even when you aren’t feeling well. They learn the importance of the Means of Grace by watching their parents come every week to receive them. They learn about the gifts of Baptism every time someone is brought into the family of God. They learn about wonderful gift of the Lord’s Supper every time they see you go up to the altar. They learn reverence when they see you bow your head during prayer. Their little eyes help them learn so much!
So, what can we do as parents to help encourage our young children to participate with us during worship? Here are a few helpful tips:
- Consider reading a book about worship to them the night before you go to church. Whisper, Whisper: Learning about Church is always a great choice!
- Pick your child up when the congregation stands up. This will help him or her see more and feel connected with the congregation.
- Consider picking up a copy of My First Hymnal and taking it to service with you. Your child can pretend to sing with you as you go through the next hymn.
- Take your children up to the altar as you receive Holy Communion. The pastor will give them a blessing to remember their Baptism.
- At home before bed, practice things that they will hear at church. Consider saying the Apostles’ Creed a few nights a week. Or sing the Gloria in Excelsis (LSB, p. 154), “This Is the Feast” (LSB, p. 155), or the Sanctus (LSB, p. 161) during your evening routine.
Just remember to keep it up, and don’t get frustrated! As my dear friend at Grace in Lafayette said, “Don’t worry if your daughter makes noise, we love hearing little ones during service!”