Tag Archives: Hymns

Should Children be Forced to Attend Church with Adults?

Recently, my pastor decided to provide a “children’s sermon” each week, right before he preaches to the adults. The format will be familiar to many people. As soon as the pastor is ready to preach, he calls the children up to the front of the church. He sits with them on the steps. He usually has a an object or photo to introduce his topic, and he teaches in childrenspeak while the adults wait. This format and practice are believed by many to be a good way to engage children in worship.

I profoundly disagree.

Many try to say that the whole idea of children in the worship service is a big mistake. Children are noisy and fidgety. They don’t understand what is happening, and they get bored. The only way to hold their attention is to entertain them while they learn something without knowing it. People also complain because noisy children and crying babies interrupt and distract. It is better, they say, to eliminate noise sources so the grown-ups can worship in peace.

I profoundly disagree.

I was glad to read a concurring opinion last week. Speaking of the experience of young children in “big church,” the author wrote,

Of course, it is over their head. It is supposed to be over their head. They are beginners. The English language is over their head as soon as they come out of the womb. But we don’t say: Well, let’s put them with other children in their own situations and limitations so they can understand a word or two. No. We immerse them in the English language every day that they don’t understand 90% of in the hope and expectation that they grow up into joyful use of the English language.

http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/should-children-sit-through-big-church

Guess what. I remember going to church before I understood it, but those memories all come flooding back frequently in my adult life. Those memories are some of the earliest steps I took toward becoming the person I am today.

As a child, when we sang the Doxology, I thought the “heavenly hosts above” were sitting in the balcony. How I wanted to sit in that elevated company! But when I grew up, I came to understand something very different. Now my memories of worship as a child are even richer than before; the images are not changed, but my comprehension has changed.

I remember sermon content from childhood, too. Don’t doubt me. I learned about the beam in my eye and the splinter in someone else’s eye before I could understand it. I learned that people need to forgive each other over and over long before I could comprehend the math of “seventy times seven.” I heard about the Good Samaritan, and the selfish brothers James and John long before I was “old enough” to understand worship. I learned about the wide gate and the narrow gate, and I knew it was about choices, but I had to grow some before I understood how to make wise choices. Because I remember the settings where I first heard these stories, I know I was nine or younger at the time. When I heard or read the stories later, those new experiences built on the old ones.  I could sing a lot of hymns by heart when I was nine or ten, so I know I heard them frequently and was attentive enough to get the words at a very young age.

I remember hearing about Zaccheus, too. Not just the Sunday School lesson. I heard the sermon, and I absorbed the truth that meeting Jesus can change someone immediately! I can still see my pastor leaning forward and gesturing toward the congregation. That memory returned when I later heard my Sunbeam teacher tell about Zaccheus.

I vividly remember an Indian pastor telling all of us that the ministry of Jesus was “preaching, teaching, and healing.” His sermon shaped my image of missions and mission work profoundly. I was nine years old at the time.

I have these memories, because my parents took me to church with them. They did not give me coloring books to keep me quiet; they told me to be quiet, and I knew the consequences of disobedience. The other parents did the same, and I saw more than one child temporarily removed from the sanctuary for an education in the etiquette and meaning of worship. My parents told me to bow my head and pray when everyone else did. (I knew about praying, because we did it at home.) They told me to stand up when the other people did, and be respectful of God’s house. I was not to scoot right and left, fall in the floor and climb back up into the seat. I was not to wander in the aisle. Bathroom breaks were taken care of before church. During church, we remained in church, and we behaved appropriately. I did not understand why we needed to be respectful of God, but I did not understand why I needed to be respectful of my parents, either. I learned all those things over time, but my early experiences prepared me for the higher level truths.

I remember wondering as a child how the ushers actually delivered God’s money to him, but I had no doubt that He received it. I remember wondering, when I was very small, if God hid in one of the rooms behind the choir loft to hear our prayers and hymns. In the big picture, I doubt my childish misconceptions were a lot farther from the truth than my adult ones. After all, my efforts at visualizing God suffer from warping by my sinful human nature at any age. However, I believe my parents did the right thing by taking me to “big church,” (a term I never even heard as a child–nobody had imagined a separate church service for children then) and I believe my faith is stronger because of it. My appreciation of and my glad participation in worship as an adult has roots in years of worship experiences that poured over me and around me and through me long before I understood any of it.

When Moses gave his farewell address to the Israelites, he spent some time talking about the importance of educating children while they were still children. Inspired by God, the creator of all things, seen and unseen, Moses told the Israelites to talk with their children about what they had learned in the wilderness. He told them to be talking with those kids morning, noon, and night. They were not to have children’s church, but they were to have Everyday School, conversations between parents and their children about God. Moses said children needed to be part of every worship service.

Children need to be in church. There is no other way for them to absorb the meaning of worship. There is no other way for them to grow up in the faith. Children need to be in church, and they need to recognize that they will need to grow up in order to understand it. That is what it means to grow up. Too many adults today never did grow up in their faith, because nobody let them be exposed to the necessity of growing up. They do not know that growing up is necessary. They still think that God has failed them if they ask for self-serving gain and don’t get it.

If children need the instruction and language of “children’s church,” then they need to receive it in Sunday School. When they go to church, worship is what they should be doing. They will not do it “right” the first time. They may have trouble singing the songs and following the hymnal, but just like the discipline of courtesy to adults and obedience to authority, they will learn to worship. God spoke to Samuel when he was just a child, and even though Samuel did not likely understand what it was all about, he did what God told him to do, and he never forgot the experience. Your children should not be led to think of church as something to tolerate while the grownups do their secret thing with God.

 

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Think About a Hymn

hymnal

O Christ, Our Hope

O Christ, our Hope, our heart’s Desire,
Redemption’s only Spring!
Creator of the world art Thou,
Its Savior and its King.

How vast the mercy and the love
Which laid our sins on Thee,
And led Thee to a cruel death,
To set Thy people free.

But now the bands of death are burst,
The ransom has been paid,
And Thou art on Thy Father’s throne,
In glorious robes arrayed.

O may Thy mighty love prevail
Our sinful souls to spare;
O may we come before Thy throne,
And find acceptance there!

Unknown author
Translated from Latin by John Chandler, 1837
Text is in the public domain
Source: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/o/c/ocohohde.htm

The Bible is our ultimate source for truth, and any statement which purports to be insight into our faith must be tested against the Bible. The creeds of the church are wonderful tools that help us summarize our faith, both in reminding ourselves of truth and in explaining the reason for our faith to other people. Hymns also teach us by reinforcing biblical teaching, and singing hymns attracts the kind of thoughtful attention that might lead unbelieving individuals to consider what Christ has done for all people. The thought questions below are intended to help you consider how a hymn, the creeds and the Bible teaching all help us both to live our faith and to share our faith with others.

  • The Apostles’ Creed states that God the Father created heaven and earth. Where does the Bible tell us that this creative act is the work of God? How does the gospel of John explain Christ’s involvement in that act?
  • The Apostles’ Creed summarizes the teaching about Christ’s death in the words “was crucified, died and was buried.” Where does the Bible explain how Christ died and why he died?
  • The hymn celebrates the fact that “the bands of death are burst.” Why is that important? Where does the Bible tell how the “bands of death” were defeated? How does the Apostles’ Creed tell this part of Christ’s story?
  • The hymn writer refers to Jesus sitting on a throne and to our appearance before his throne. What does the Bible say about Jesus’ throne and our appearance there? How does the Apostles’ Creed sum up this part of Christ’s story?
  • When you want to share Jesus with someone, how do you decide what part of Christ’s story to mention first in the conversation? Have you ever tried to sum up the story of the whole Bible in conversation with someone? Think through the Apostles’ Creed and verify each statement with a text in the Bible. Does that exercise help you prepare to share Jesus with someone?

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com. Watch for the release of Thrive! Live Christian in a Hostile World, planned for release in the winter of 2016

Image: Open Hymnal Source:http://foter.com/
License: CC BY-NC-SA

Hymn Meditation

Open Hymnal

Praise to the Lord

  1. Praise to the Lord,
    the Almighty, the King of creation.
    O my soul, praise him,
    for he is thy health and salvation!
    All ye who hear,
    now to his temple draw near;
    join me in glad adoration!
  2. Praise to the Lord,
    who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
    surely his goodness
    and mercy here daily attend thee.
    Ponder anew
    what the Almighty can do,
    who with his love doth befriend thee.
  3. Praise to the Lord!
    O let all that is in me adore him!
    All that hath life and breath,
    come now with praises before him!
    Let the amen sound from his people again;
    gladly forever adore him.

Text by: Joachim Neander

Source: http://www.hymnsite.com/lyrics/umh139.sht

  • What does the hymn writer think is his reason for praise in verse 1?
  • What links health and salvation?
  • How would you explain verse 2 to someone who believe there is a wall between the sacred and the secular in people’s lives?
  • What is the evidence that God’s mercy is present and active in your life?
  • What things about your life do you attribute to God’s mercy present with you at all times?
  • Do you know anyone who would refuse to join you in praise to God? Why? What would you say in an attempt to help them come to know God?
  • What scene (or scenes) in the Bible come to mind when you sing this song?

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

Image: Open Hymnal
Source:http://foter.com/
License: CC BY-NC-SA

A Hymn for Meditation

hymnalWhere Cross the Crowded Ways of Life

1.Where cross the crowded ways of life,
  where sound the cries of race and clan,
  above the noise of selfish strife,
  we hear your voice, O Son of man.  

2.From tender childhood’s helplessness,
  from woman’s grief, man’s burdened toil,
  from famished souls, from sorrow’s stress,
  your heart has never known recoil. 

3.O Master, from the mountainside
  make haste to heal these hearts of pain;
  among these restless throngs abide;
  O tread the city’s streets again.

 4.Till all the world shall learn your love
  and follow where your feet have trod,
  till, glorious from your heaven above,
  shall come the city of our God!

by Frank North

  •  Listen the choice of words that describe the culture: crowded, strife, grief, burden, stress, pain, throngs. These words arouse feelings of discomfort. What image does the hymnwriter invoke as an antidote?
  • Have you ever seen a person or group on the street and felt drawn to them, although you just keep going? What voice might you have missed? How would you know if you were hearing the voice of the Son of Man or just a voice in your head?
  • Think of people who might be described by the words in verse 2. What does the last line tell you about Jesus’ concerns?
  • In verse 3, how will the Master be able to tread the city streets to bring healing?
  • What is the hymnwriter looking forward to as the consummation of the Master’s work? What does the hymnwriter think will happen first? What do you think will happen first? Do you know where to get the real answer?

The Christian Life

hymnalThe Christian Life

What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit;
oh, what needless pain we bear.
All because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged —
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our troubles share?
Jesus knows our every weakness –
take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge —
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you?
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
In his arms he’ll take and shield you;
you will find a solace there.

Joseph Scriven

  • The author of this hymn became engaged twice, and both times his fiancée died before they could be married. He wrote this hymn for his sick mother. How would you describe this hymnwriter?
  • In this hymn, Scriven describes what Jesus will do for us when we are in trouble. Find all the different descriptions.
  • What happens, according to the hymnwriter, when we fail to pray about our problems?
  • In the world at large, people are very concerned about their rights. How does Scrivener characterize the opportunity to pray? What do you think?