When I was a kid I felt like I had to be quiet in church, couldn't make a sound. Thus I didn't really participate. It was a bit later when my mom (who was the Sunday School Music Director) told me it was OK to sing...I had to be TOLD it was ok, because it was stressed so much to me when I was wee little that I needed to be quiet and sit still.
Yes, it is important for kids to be IN worship with you. I don't believe in "kids church" and "adult's church" meaning having Sunday School the SAME TIME as church...it is some of the churches way of getting parents in the door when children go to Sunday school. I think we went to a church or two like this while we were in seminary. Anyway, at our church its recommended that you "transition" your 3 year old to worship with you, so by 4, they are sitting with you in church. I'm slowly working on that with #1, but #2 wants to do EVERYTHING #1 does, so its hard by myself....just ask some congregation members about 3 weeks ago #2 "escaped" and ran up to Pastor at the end of service...thankfully everyone thought it was "cute".
Anyway, true reason for the post. This past Sunday in church we went to our "late" service which is a contemporary service with drums, guitars and singers. #1 LOVES to play the drums. So he LOVES this church service, we usually switch services every other Sunday. So while the drums started playing for the opening song today, #1 leaned over to me in church and politely asked "can I dance on the chairs". Hey, at least he asked! I responded "no, but you can dance in the aisle. I'm sure the people behind us thought it was funny and cute. I think its great. He WANTS to be in worship. I think there is nothing wrong with sharing your joy and love for Jesus while dancing. He did great.
My kids usually go to the nursery during the sermon right now, #1 will join me shortly we're working our way "out" of the nursery for him. After the sermon there was communion and so I went to get the kids. They both listen very well and do very well. Its a BIT hard because Pastor gives us communion and sometimes this is the first time the kids have "seen" him all day, since he leaves before they get up in the morning on Sundays. We've worked around that. My next problem is #2 and communion. She wants to participate SOOO badly. She puts her little hand out and asks for the bread and she almost knocked some wine cups out of the wine tray today! She's so eager. What I do to let both of the kids do is take a wine cup (either mine, or another that's already been set down) and put the communion cup in the little holders for the wine cups.
Singing. This is something kids are great at. It's ok if they don't know the right words, long as they aren't shouting at the top of their lungs. Both my kids love to hold a hymnal or a bulletin and sing the songs or "pretend" they are singing. They feel they are part of worship. That is whats important to me.
"Praying". While Pastor prays #2 talks too. I think its her way of praying too. Children love to imitate! Its ok that kids talk in church, someone once told me, its just the way they talk back to the pastor!
Both of the kids love music. At the ending song in worship this Sunday #2 starting noticing people were raising their hands, so she decided to too! She was Praising God and she didn't really even know it. She was just being observant and doing what people around her were doing. Gave me goosebumps.
Our church does a special benediction, which I LOVE. It goes like this. Pastor: The Lord Bless You, the Lord Keep You, The Lord look upon you with favor and grant you peace. People: And the people took the blessing (as we're holding our arms wide open), and held it in their hearts (bring our hands to our hearts). Both my kids LOVE doing this. They know what they're doing. Holding Jesus in their hearts, as #1 tells me.
So, your child can participate in worship in little ways. Don't feel ashamed if your child makes a peep, its OK!
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14