Jeff Durbin, Tempe writes the following:
Why does Apologia Church do ‘Family Integrated Worship’? It creates difficulties, we have lost people because of it (too hard), and it slows down church growth. Here are a few reasons:
1. We believe that God’s Word ought to be the foundation for how we worship God.
2. We don’t believe that we have the right to be creative or novel in corporate worship. God’s Word not only tells us “why” we worship God but “how” we ought to do it.
3. Throughout the Scriptures, God gives us a pattern and model in terms of gathering for worship. Children were present during the Passover meal and during various feasts (Ex. 12:1-4; 16:9-17), children were taught the Law of God and were called to keep the Sabbath holy (this included corporate worship: Exodus 20), whole families (including children) were commanded to listen to the reading of the Law (Deuteronomy 31:9-13), nursing children were a part of the called assembly (Joel 2:13), in Paul’s letters (which were read during worship) he has specific words to children (with the assumption that children were present in the corporate gathering for worship; Ephesians 6:1-3; Colossians 3:20), and children were present during Christ’s preaching and teaching (Matthew 14:13-21).
4. God created human-beings to worship Him. That’s our ultimate purpose. It is during the corporate gathering (what some call “big church”) that we sing praises to God, hear the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, and witness and participate in the ordinances of the church. The Bible gives clear instruction that we are to do these things including how we are to do them. We are convinced that it is not appropriate to create (in a novel way) a second form (little church) that functions apart from the normative instruction of how we are to worship.
5. Children witness how we are to worship God and hear the faithful proclamation of the Word during corporate worship in a way that is very, very different than the common separated model. One of the great joys of my own ministry is watching small-children holding their parent’s hand with one hand and raising the other to God as they sing together.
1. Children are distracting.
Yes, they are. That doesn’t give us a license to ignore the clear pattern of Scripture for how corporate worship is to be done. Further, we should give grace to children and patiently instruct them on how to show reverence to the worship of God. This is an excellent opportunity to work on our own hearts and make a commitment to train children on how to worship God. It’s hard work. There’s no question about that. How we respond to this says much more about us than it does about noisy children.
God called noisy, crying, booger-picking kids into His sacred assemblies. He is apparently fine with it and wants it. We should too. Sanctification is a process in which our hearts desires are conformed to His.
2. Children are not capable of understanding.
Respectfully, this is one of the weakest arguments I have encountered. The Bible has many examples of instruction to children and Jesus called us not to forbid children from coming to Him to learn from Him. When I hear this objection, it grieves me. Many Muslim children are encouraged to memorize the entire Quran at very young ages. We need to trust the clarity of God’s Word, the power of God’s Spirit, and we should believe that God is able to communicate His truth (even the deep things) to small children. We should be allowing our children to wrestle with the deep things of God from a young age. We ought to teach our children to be rigorous in their thinking for the glory of God. That isn’t to say that we don’t bring things to their level, it’s to say that we shouldn’t be comfortable with constantly dumbing-down the faith for young children. This, I believe, will ultimately hurt them. Could it be that this is the means of how so many professing young “believers” end up abandoning the faith when challenged with some of the weakest and worst arguments when they get to college? Further, what do we think is the best model for creating a pattern of life that our children learn from infancy: seeing their parents participate in corporate worship or being separated from their parents so as to not see it?
Finally, there are lots of things that many adults don’t fully grasp from the pulpit. Do we then create new programs and church structures for all of the people who just want the “easy stuff”?
3. They disrupt the service.
Again, God is very comfortable with this. He invited these little noise-makers. If it is a severe problem, then commit to a period of time in which through love, patience, and discipline we train them to not disrupt the worship of God. This has a sanctifying effect on them and us. It takes time. Be patient with them.
Let me ask this question: If Jesus showed up for worship on a Sunday, would we separate our children from service?
4. I just need a break.
This, again, says more about our own hearts than it does about children in service. Also, what is worship about? Is it about us or God? Again, He invites them. Why don’t we?
Finally, it’s important to remember that “getting a break” so that “I” can worship means that there’s a group of people who don’t get to worship and get fed so that they can watch my kids and “I” can worship.
5. They will get bored.
Then spend time talking with them about the blessing of knowing God and hearing His Word. This is an excellent opportunity to teach our children about the blessing of God’s Word and the grace of God in giving it TO US! This is an opportunity to talk about what was taught during the message and apply it to our lives. We should model a life-long pursuit of hunger for the things of God. Teach your children to develop a taste for the things of God. Reverence for God’s Word is both taught and caught.
Worshiping God is a privilege and flows from the grace of God. Children should be taught this from a very early age.