Christian parents, do you realize the most important thing you can ever train your child to do in this life is to worship the triune God of grace? Because of this, I want to encourage you to include them in the public worship of your church. I also want to help you do this.
The best help I can offer is first to convince you that this practice is consistent with the examples of the Old and New Testaments. Children were present in public worship in Moses’ time (Ex. 10:7–10; 12:26–27; 13:8, 14–15; Deut. 31:12–13), in Nehemiah’s time (Ezra 10:1; Neh. 8:1–3), in Jesus’ time (Matt. 18:1–5; 19:13–15; Mark 10:13–16; Luke 18:15–17), and in Paul’s time (Eph. 6:1–4; Col. 3:20). They were included because they belong to the corporate, covenant people. This was true not only in the Old Testament but also in the New, which never revokes this relationship of believers’ children to the covenant community. Your children belong to the body of Christ, and letting them join you in public worship from the earliest age manifests this fact.
Another help is knowing how beneficial this practice is. Public worship is the nursery of faith. To bring your children to public worship is to bring them into the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit. He creates faith and converts hearts through the preaching ministry of the gospel (Rom. 10:17). Our children have the same spiritual needs as everyone else in the world: they need their sins to be washed by the blood and Spirit of Christ. Your children need to be born again; they need the gift of faith to embrace Jesus as their Savior. If this is the case, bring them where the Holy Spirit especially does that work—public worship. Don’t underestimate the Holy Spirit by thinking your children can get nothing out of worship and preaching if it is not relevant and fun. The Holy Spirit is sovereign and irresistible, and He cannot be frustrated by our limitations (John 3:1–8). Don’t underestimate your children, in whose minds and hearts the Holy Spirit is working.
The benefit of welcoming children in worship can be seen in its cumulative effect over their lifetime. At the church I serve, the congregation gathers for worship in the morning and evening every Lord’s Day. That’s 1,872 occasions, between infancy and going off to college at age eighteen, of being in the presence of the Holy Spirit.
“But it’s so hard to have my children in church with us.” I understand, especially as one who did not grow up seeing it modeled. But it’s easier to raise your children in church from infancy so that they are trained in it like everything else than it is to put them in a children’s church for years only to bring them into worship later when they’ve never been in worship before. The sooner you begin to mold clay, the easier it is to shape; the longer you wait, the drier and harder it gets, and the vast potential of shaping it is lost. The same is true of children.