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Families Worshiping Together

You may notice something different about our worship service this coming Sunday (December 6th). It won’t be an epic fog machine, the pounding of drums, or my sermon culminating in an interpretive dance routine. The biggest difference in our worship service will be the presence of Ocean Park’s children. Over the past year I have had many people communicate to me how thankful they were that to hear the shouts and laughter of children filling the hallways of our church. It is truly a blessing to see young families with children in our church. As the pastor I have a responsibility and joy of guiding parents in the process of raise their children to fear and honor the Lord. A vital step toward accomplishing this end is to have families in worship together. Scripture is replete with examples of this: Deuteronomy 31:12-13 & Joshua 8:30-35 are perhaps the most explicit in demonstrating that children were present in the reading of the law and worship of Israel. I think it goes without saying that even in biblical times the Israelite wee ones still squirmed, got distracted by random things, and struggled to sit still. However, the value of families worshipping together was not negated by a bad case of the wiggles or the children finding the reading of the law as ‘boring’. God has entrusted Christian parents with the responsibility of modeling to their children a love for the Lord. A love that seeks Him with all with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Furthermore, that love is demonstrated by seizing every moment along this journey of life to teach the way of the Lord to their children. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 demonstrated the daily responsibility of a parent’s duty, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (emphasis mine). A parent’s responsibility begins in the home by demonstrating Christ as a priority in your speech and conduct as well as setting time aside for family worship (reading scripture and prayer). Another critical step shepherding the heart of our children is to worship together. As a family worships together the children begin to become saturated with the hymns that are being sung, the reading of scripture, and watching the demeanor of their parent’s and other adults within the congregation. John & Noel Piper write a fantastic article on the importance and benefits of the family worshiping together as well as practical goals and requirements for each family. Another good article on children in worship service is Melissa Eddington's article "It's Okay for Kids to be Bored in Church". Even when we think a child is not benefiting from the worship service the Holy Spirit may be working in their hearts in ways we do not perceive. I remember was Andrew was very young (4 or 5 years old). He would often sit in service and seem bored. However, one communion Sunday on the way home from church, his little voice inquired from the back seat, “Daddy, why do you and Mommy eat the bread and drink the juice?” It was at that moment I was able to point Andrew toward the sacrifice of Christ for his sins and call him to trust the gospel. This would not have happened if we had not been segregated by age. Ultimately, there are many different forms of "Family Integrated Worship", some I would model and some I would not. Here at Ocean Park we will have our children (2nd grade and under) sit in worship with their families until the song prior to worship. If a child does not have a family in attendance I would ask that another family ‘adopt’ them for the service. Once the children are dismissed back to Children’s Church they will have their own Bible lesson. Likewise, the pre-school aged children will be dismissed to the nursery where they can talk and play to their heart’s content, while the parents received the preaching of God’s word without the distraction of little wigglers. There will be a day when all the children of Ocean Park will be able to sit through the entire sermon but they will need time to be gradually taught how to behave in worship. It will take time, patience, and a generous supply of grace from everyone involved. The children of Ocean Park aren't going to be perfectly behaved this Sunday or the next. In fact, there will likely be squirming, distractions, and tears by the child (and possibly the parents). However, I honestly believe that the growing pains of introducing the children into worship will pale in comparison to the benefit of having parents worshiping with their children. May God be glorified when Ocean Park embodies the Words of Psalm 145:4;11-12 “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts...They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power, to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.” ~ Pastor Chris

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