We've seen it over and over again...parents handing their children their phone or tablet to use "while the grownups have church". Friends, if you've followed along with me for very long you know that I believe technology is an incredible teaching tool. I love the opportunities it provides even the youngest of children. It has been amazing to watch our children develop technology skills that I know will serve them well in the years to come. In an effort to be totally transparent, I will also admit that when we are taking an extended car trip or experiencing an extended stroll through Ikea, I am very thankful for my little ones' tablet. Yes, our oldest has been using a tablet since he was two. So please know that I am not suggesting that children be banned from interacting with technology. What I am going to share with you today is why I feel strongly that allowing them to engage with it during a worship service is of very serious concern.
Gone are the days when you will see children doodling on the back of the church bulletin. These days, it is quite common to see kids of all ages playing games, texting, scrolling through their Instagram feed, etc. during the church service...all while sitting right next to their parents who are allowing this to take place.
To the Parents Who Let Their Children Play on Their iPad During Church
Would you allow me suggest what I believe this is communicating to your children?
Church is for grownups. The music, the prayer time, the teaching from the Word has no relevance to you as a child.
The musicians, the pastor, God Himself does not expect your full attention and respect during this time. You do your thing while the rest of us do ours.
It is perfectly acceptable for you to detach from social situations. You are not a part of this gospel community, and you are welcome to separate yourself from the group.
There is no reality in this faith of ours. It is void of any life-changing power. Please just sit there and stay busy until the service is complete.
While I realize that [for most parents] it would most definitely not be their intention to communicate the above messages to their children, but I believe that when you allow your kids to completely disengage to do something apart from what the rest of the faith community is doing during that time, one can not ignore what this is teaching your young ones.
As a mom of little ones, I am so thankful for the nursery teachers that have cared for my babies. Their service is much appreciated. However, as our oldest began to enter into the preschool years, we became intentional about beginning to train him to join in the corporate worship time. Will he continue to attend his classes? Sure! We love what he is learning in there each week! However, we want our children to know the name of our church...the name of our pastor..the theology in the songs that we sing...the importance of being still and meditating on God's word. Our goal is to slowly transition them into this, and we have started by simply bringing them in to the service for just a few minutes at the end. As the sermon comes to a close, hubby goes and retrieves our kiddos from their classes. They return to the service together in order to "participate" in the closing songs, announcements, collection of offering, etc. Some weeks aren't as smooth as others; but our kids are in training.
Not too long ago, we observed two middle-schoolers [seated next to their parents]. One was playing Madden, and the other was playing Deer Hunter. These two kiddos did not stand and sing during the music time. They sat and played games. They did not participate in corporate prayer or Advent readings. They sat and played games. They did not engage during the teaching time. They sat and played games. Directly behind them sat a four-year old little boy. Yes, he fidgeted a bit as four-year olds do; He required a few whispered reminders from his parents throughout the service...as four-year olds often require; but it was clear that this was not his first time joining in on the worship service. This is obviously an area where his parents had been intentional about providing him practice and training, and it most definitely takes a lot of practice and a lot of training.
I realize that all children are different...their desire to "push the limits" will vary....developmental progress will not be the same for all...and it is only fair to recognize that some children have special needs that play a role in their ability to handle certain environments. I understand that you know your child...their abilities...their struggles...but might I plead with you (no matter what choices you make on Sunday morning regarding your kids) to make sure that your children are understanding the importance of respecting God, the life-changing power in His word; the incredible gift of a faith community.
We can not allow our children to disengage from worship and then wonder why they are not experiencing life change as a result of a relationship with the Savior.
We can not treat church is something "just for the grownups" and then wonder why our children go away to college and have no desire to continue on their faith journey.
We can not say we believe verses like Deuteronomy 11:19: Teach them to your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street, talk about them from the time you get up in the morning until you fall into bed at night. when the only thing our children are doing when they're sitting at home or walking in the street or falling in to bed at night is playing on their tablet.
You may feel that I have spoken too strongly already, but would you allow me to go a step further and make a suggestion for those who are struggling in this area? If you do not feel that your church is presenting God's truth in such a way that your entire family is grasping it in real, tangible ways, would you consider praying about possibly making a change? I am not encouraging you to simply switch churches based on your preferences or out of any other selfish motive; but what I am saying is that I think it's important for all of us to ask God to direct us to a place where our families (as a whole unit) can learn, and grow, and serve together - making a difference for the kingdom...together. We are so thankful for a pastor who shares truth in a relevant way - His commitment to the Word and apologetics-based teaching has had a powerful impact on our entire family!
A Few Practical Tips that Might Work for Your Kids:
2. Encourage your kids to take an actual Bible to church with them. As the pastor shares various Scripture verses, allow your kids to have silent races with their siblings/friends - seeing who can find the Bible passage the fastest. In the elementary class we are leading this year at church, we have been passionate about teaching our 2nd graders the books of the Bible. I love that the Bible is available on our phones, tablets, etc. (and we definitely enjoy using some of the available apps and such) but we want the kiddos to know how to dig in the Word on their own. We have been using this with them each week, and they love it:
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3. For young ones, allow them to doodle with pencil and paper (yes, during the sermon). For some learners, this can be an effective way to encourage listening skills. You know your children and whether or not this would aid in their comprehension or prohibit it. For older children, ask them to take notes during the teaching time. Allow them to use their notes as a reference during lunchtime conversation following the service. Let them know you care about their thoughts...Encourage them to ask questions...Make sure they understand that you also have faith questions...As a family, pray about those questions.
Proverbs 6:21-23: Bind them upon your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you; For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life.
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