He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them … that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works, but keep His commandments. ~ Psalm 78:5–7
There is a sweet sound at Ascension that I want to talk briefly about … it’s the sound of falling clipboards.
I know you’ve heard it too, the occasional clang or clunk of a clipboard sliding off of a lap or a chair and onto the gym floor. Sometimes it’s masked by our singing, but often it takes center stage during a Scripture reading, or at the beginning of my sermon, or to mom and dad’s horror, during the confession of sin.
Of course, it’s not the actual sound that is sweet, it’s what is behind it. You see, those clipboards are for our covenant children, for their participation in our worship together. Those clipboards seek to help our children focus and follow along with what’s going on in worship. Therefore, the occasional sound of them crashing to the floor means that our children our present, they are with us in worship. This is important and this is intentional.
So let me just briefly encourage you, parents and non-parents alike, with some of why having our kids in worship is important.
First of all, the presence of our kids in worship allows God to communicate to them via the means of grace.
We believe that the Lord uniquely communicates with His people through His Word and sacrament, proclaimed and participated in on the Lord’s Day. God promises (and we pray) that His Word will not return to Him void (Is. 55:11). This is why I seek to make my points understandable for our children, so they can begin to hide His Word in their hearts.
But it’s not just the Word that our kids need to hear, they need to see the sacrament. They need to be observing their parents pray and participate in the meal, they need to be asking questions about what it means and when they can be a part — the sacrament is pointing them to their need of Jesus.
Secondly, our kids’ participation in worship communicates that this is their church too.
One of the unintended effects of the age-segregation in worship services in the evangelical world is that our children don’t feel like mom and dad’s church is theirs. They do their thing with the other kids, the other youth, and mom and dad do the “adult thing.” But what happens when those kids grow up? They don’t feel like they have a church.
We want our kids growing up knowing that they are an integral part of this community. We want the young ones seeing the older ones serve communion, run the slides, and sing up front — that they might long to participate too.
Thirdly, our children are picking up on more than you think.
I know that I use words and phrases and lines of reason that are too advanced for a lot of our little ones. Believe me, I’ve had more than one child come up to me after service asking what a word meant!
And yet, despite that, I’m amazed and encouraged so often when I see the things that our kids have written on their notes, either things I’ve said or thoughts that have come to their minds. Believe me, God is at work.
And so, my encouragement to all of us, whether you are a parent or not, is to count our children in worship as a blessing not a distraction. Pray for them (and their parents!) as you pray for your own hearts in worship. And every time you hear a clipboard fall, rejoice that “to such as these belongs the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:14)