Pastoral Perspectives

What Do You Hear?

Picture this: You enter TWPC-EC Sanctuary 2 on a beautiful Sunday. All is tranquil and serene. The prelude begins, and the chatter of the congregation fades away. The call to worship resonates, and everyone eagerly joins in. Songs of praise fill the air, and the service unfolds seamlessly. Not a sound, not a worry. No need to make way for strollers or crane your neck to locate noise sources. You simply settle where you please and absorb the sermon without distraction. It’s a harmonious experience from start to finish. As you depart, you carry a sense of peace, having worshipped without interruption. Is this the type of worship service you envision? Undoubtedly, many of us cherish the idea of worshipping in such tranquillity. However, there’s an essential element missing in this scenario: children.

Sending our children to Sunday School has become routine. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this practice. Yet, let’s reflect on the origins of Sunday School. Initially, it emerged as literal schools in the 1780s*. During the Industrial Revolution, with many children toiling in factories throughout the week, Christians sought to offer them respite and education on Sundays. Thus, Sunday Schools were born. This noble endeavour spread from England to America, becoming immensely popular by the mid-19th century. Parents, even those less inclined towards church attendance, recognized the value of Sunday School for their children. It provided not only education but also religious instruction, utilizing the Bible as a textbook. Many children learned to write by copying scripture passages. Through catechism and hymn-singing, they gained valuable spiritual grounding. Some even transitioned from students to Sunday School teachers, showcasing natural leadership. With the advent of compulsory weekday education by 1870, Sundays remained dedicated to religious instruction. This tradition persists today, and our children continue to benefit from Sunday Schools. (*Source: https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2008/august/when-did-sunday-schools-start.html)

Fast forward to the 21st century, our children have access to a host of resources for learning. With so many enrichment classes available even on Sundays, one might question if we have reversed the trend of offering religious studies only on Sundays. However, within its confines, children engage in age-appropriate lessons, forging friendships, and admiring spiritual mentors. We’re grateful for the dedicated teachers who impart invaluable knowledge to our children. Yet, we must ponder: Is Sunday School alone adequate?

Teaching about God shouldn’t be confined to Sundays. It’s crucial that we also nurture our children’s faith at home. Eventually, they will outgrow Sunday School and must integrate into the broader worship service community. Will they remain? Sadly, some may drift away for various reasons. Some may find solace in separate discussions about God, distancing themselves from family worship. How do we ensure our children remain committed to worshipping God? Scripture reminds us in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Amidst the pandemic, we’ve designated the first Sunday of each month as a family/communion Sunday, when there is no Sunday School or Youth Zone Fellowship. This initiative encourages families to worship together, allowing Sunday School teachers to join their families in worship. Witnessing an increasing number of families embracing this opportunity fills us with hope. Although some may be uneasy with children’s presence due to their natural exuberance, we firmly believe that spiritual formation must encompass all, as children are integral to God’s family. Additionally, it’s heartening to observe many parents attending the 8:30 am service with their children before sending them to Sunday School for the 11 am service. These parents stay behind to fellowship with other parents and serve in ministries. While this may not be feasible for everyone, we are encouraged by those who make the effort.

Bringing the entire family to worship demands considerable effort. We applaud parents who do so consistently, as well as those who are trying their best. Let’s persevere in bringing our children to worship while we can guide their decisions. Eventually, they’ll chart their own course. Until then, may God empower and guide all parents in nurturing their children’s faith, as this is a form of worship in itself. Undoubtedly, obedience surpasses mere ritual. God works in mysterious ways, and our obedience in nurturing our children’s faith will surely be honoured. We can be sure that God is at work in their lives even if they might not be sitting still. Some children are more challenging than others and we also encourage parents to do their best. As a community, we must show grace and come alongside these parents too.

Despite societal influences suggesting otherwise, we’re grateful for God’s affirmation that children are a blessing. They signify God’s promise, and without them, the church is incomplete. So, the next time you hear the ‘noise’ of children during worship, may it serve as a reminder of the church’s future. May their laughter and cries evolve into praises for our Lord Jesus Christ as they grow into tomorrow’s church leaders.

Matthew 19:14 reminds us of Jesus’ words: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Let’s extend a warm welcome to them!