Corporate Gathering & Families
THE CORPORATE GATHERING & FAMILIES
by Pastor Jason
One of the unique aspects of Randolph Street that typically catches new folks off guard is that we keep most of our children in the 10:30am corporate gathering. While we do provide nursery for ages 0-3, we encourage parents to begin bringing their children into the gathering at a young age. Removing children from the corporate gathering and the preaching of the Word is a recent phenomenon. There are many good churches who choose to do so, and while we love and appreciate their ministries, we would disagree over the benefits of this decision. Good churches can agree to disagree on a number of issues like this and still respect one another and work together for the sake of the gospel.
Let me be very clear, we do not believe children should be or need to be present in every gathering. This is why we have children’s classes on Sundays @ 9:30am, occasional catechism classes taught by our elders and other age-related events. These are great places for our children to learn “Body life” as they engage with various members of the older generation, apart from their parents, in a learning environment. It is in these contexts that children learn to love and respect other godly men and women and build relationships that will only assist the parents in their training of their children.
Are there challenges to keeping children in the corporate gathering? Yes. We would be naive to say otherwise. There is the challenge of being young and full of energy and yet being required to sit still for a fifty minute sermon. In today’s world of a media-produced short attention span this is difficult. But it is not impossible. John Piper’s counsels, “To sit still and be quiet for an hour or two on Sunday is not an excessive expectation for a healthy 6-year-old who has been taught to obey his parents. It requires a measure of discipline, but that is precisely what we want to encourage parents to impart to their children in the first five years. . . . Parents' helplessness to control their children should not be solved by alternative services but by a renewal of discipline in the home.”
Let me challenge two groups of our church family. For those of you who do not have young children. Anytime you see (or hear) a restless child sitting near you during our corporate gathering, do not respond by getting irritated or distracted but instead respond by taking a brief moment to pray this child and that Jesus would capture his/her heart for His glory. Ask God to use these little ones in the future for the name of Jesus in our city. For those of you who do have young children in the gathering, be respectful of those around you and do not allow your child to distract others during this most important time. Also, as you are training your child, make use of our training room (Room 206 in Charleston, Coming Soon in the Valley) when needed. While there, do not turn it into a play time, but have your child sit and listen to the live feed of the gathering. When appropriate return to the corporate gathering.
With the above in mind, let me now explain to you why we believe children should remain in the corporate gathering.
A Gathering Like No Other
The Sunday morning corporate gathering is unique and distinct from other gatherings of the local church. Piper summarizes it well: “Sunday morning is the Mount of Transfiguration—the awesome place of glory and speechlessness” while other gatherings (9:30 training hour classes) are like the “Mount of Olives—the familiar spot for conversation with the Lord and each other.” What happens during our 10:30am Sunday gathering cannot be reduplicated in any other context (family, classes, etc.). What is unique about this gathering? It is the time when our church family gathers together to hear the preaching of the Word, to observe the practice of the ordinances (baptism, Lord’s Table), to sing praises to our God, and to give of our finances for the cause of the gospel. From the earliest of ages, we believe children should be taught to love and look forward to this gathering, to anticipate God meeting with His people and manifesting His glory. This is not the boring service to be avoided, but it is the “hour” we gather every week together to meet with our great God.
Children need to experience the weightiness of worshipping the Sovereign with the people of God. Our culture is full of “light” stuff designed to entertain our children and make them laugh. This is not inherently bad but it needs balanced. It is imperative that we place our children in an environment where the holiness and awesomeness of God and yet the love and grace of God are on full display. From the youngest possible age we should desire our children to experience these holy moments with the family of God.
Learning through Observation
We believe there are multiple impacts on the younger generation worshipping with the older generation. Do not underestimate the shaping power of a young child watching one of our older adults weep in response to the gospel being preached. Better yet, how about when a young child sees dad or mom caught up in the presence of God in passionate worship through song or Word? Again, Piper points us to the worth of this effort: “Worship is the most valuable thing a human can do. The cumulative effect of 650 worship services spent with Mom and Dad between the ages of 4 and 17 is incalculable.” That, my friend, is eternally valuable in the life of a young child. Nothing can replace that.
Learning to Listen
How many things are more important than the hour each week we gather to listen to God’s Word being preached? Why would we not seek to teach children at a young age how to listen to the preaching of God’s Word? One would be surprised how much children can grasp if their parents are active in teaching them to listen and reviewing the sermon with them. You would be amazed if you could see some of the notes the Randolph Street children take during the gathering. Trust me, there are 6 and 7 year old children taking better notes than some of our adults. Let that not embarrass you, but challenge you. In the back of our auditorium you will find children’s sermon sheets to assist our parents.
Investment for Multiplication
It is our passion to plant and replant churches throughout our region and to send men and women to places in the world where the gospel is not being preached. With this in mind, we want to shape young minds from the earliest of ages in regard to what the church should be. Children being a part of our corporate gathering for 10 or 15 years before being launched into ministry is an invaluable and strategic investment on our part. We must ensure that we are doing everything we can to produce a future generation passionate about the glory of God!
* For further reading on this subject I would encourage you to read this article by John & Noel Piper. Also, we have posted a recent article written by a young mom who gives some helpful advice to parents of young children.