For as long as I’ve been a believer, I have prided myself in the fact that I don’t view the corporate gathering of God’s people as an entertainment service. In college, when many made the distinction between preaching and “worship” (the singing), I stood firm that it was God’s word preached that was the focal point of the worship gathering. We worship through singing. We worship through prayer. We worship through liturgy. We worship through the preached word. I simply didn’t think I had a problem with thinking church was about my preferences—about me.
Until a couple of months ago.
The twins turned five in February, and as a result aged out of the childcare at our church. We were excited to have them join us in the service. They were excited. They were ready. We all were ready.
But as the weeks have gone on, I’ve noticed something simmering in my own heart. I may have never verbalized that I thought the worship gathering was all about me, but having my five year old boys sit with me every Sunday has made me realize that I thought it was more about me than I had the humility to admit.
Now I can’t close my eyes when I sing, because I’m keeping one eye on a kid, making sure he is also engaged in what is happening (and mostly making sure he doesn’t try to run off or distract other people). Now I can’t take notes as easily, because I’m helping one of the twins get an activity out of his bag. Now I can’t prepare my heart for the Lord’s Supper because I’m answering questions about why I take the bread and they don’t get to. For my entire adult life I’ve been able to focus on the Sunday morning service, now my focus is divided.
This isn’t a commentary on keeping kids in the service. I’ve been greatly served by the childcare these last five years. In many ways, it’s been a lifeline for me to be able to sit and take in God’s word with God’s people in the midst of exhausting little kid years. I think it’s too complex to make it a rule, and I simply don’t see it in scripture as mandated. But it is a conviction to my own heart that while I may have thought I was above the whole “church is an emotional experience thing”, having my kids sitting next to me every Sunday now has shown me that I viewed the Sunday morning gathering as more about me than I wanted to admit.
Our worship of God is never in isolation. As the Psalms (and all of scripture) show us, our deliverance, our worship, our proclamations about the Lord are always so others may hear and say: “God is great.” It’s always so a “people yet to be born may praise the Lord” (Ps. 22:31, 102:18). Our modern conveniences (like childcare, comfortable chairs, air conditioning, etc.) can make us forget that this is always what it’s been about. We worship corporately for the body. We get fed by the word, for sure, but we also are taking in the word with other believers (and those who have yet to call him Lord).
The childcare that I’ve had during the service these last five years has been a gift. I’m glad I had it. I’m glad the twins had time with their friends and had age-appropriate lessons. But I’m also learning to be thankful for the time in the service with them, interrupted as it is. When I hear them singing, it’s a reminder to pray to ask God to make the words they are singing true in their own lives. When they ask questions, it forces me to articulate what I believe to them. And it models worship to them. It’s a reminder that worship isn’t about me. It’s about the body, one I pray they will join themselves to one day.