Question: "What if the church, in seeking to follow the model you outline in your blog, bores the children in a way that makes them grow up thinking that the church is an unhappy place to be? This is no doubt partly what happened to me. Yes, yes, I know, modeling and such. But age appropriate teaching is key isn't it?"
Reply: Again we need to expect the standard of a father leading his children, "teaching them to love the LORD with all their hearts, minds, etc."
That being said, the Church can be assured that children are being trained in the things of God. It is not their primary concern. Continuing to train the men of the Church is.
When it comes to an actual worship service, I believe more is being done in the soul of a child when he is sitting amidst his family members, including hopefully his grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins. It registers with him. He is part of the covenant community. It may not entertain him, but he is happy in the security of being part of something bigger than himself, something Transcendent.
I'm sure you've seen examples of attentiveness in Christian children during worship. My experience has been that those children are most often members of a family where Dad has stressed the importance of the Word of God, character and worship in daily life. He also takes the time to teach them about corporate worship. And so his children begin to enter into more and more meaningful worship at earlier ages.
I remember the privilege of being able to teach Zachary in worship. It was not a distraction. I would just remind him, "we are praying now," and tell him to fold his hands and close his eyes. I would move my fingers across the page, for him to get the sense of where we were, when singing hymns. He couldn't read at the time, but he was a part of what we were doing. I would nudge him occasionally when I knew the Pastor was going to say something that he had learned at home. A father cannot do these things when his son or daughter is downstairs or in another wing of the building.
This is a perfect example of age appropriate teaching. A father and mother both know their childrenâ€™s competencies. They know what they have taught them at home. They know their proclivities and they are overseeing their behavior in the pew next to them. (Can I still use the word pew?) So it is not just modeling, but actual instruction occurs, and it is individual. And as for age appropriateness, it is up to the minute.
Finally, I do not think it hurts little ones to realize that worship is not being done for their happiness. Nor should we be attending corporate worship for our happiness. Happiness is the byproduct. Both parents and children are instead privileged to keep audience with the King of kings. We are counted amongst His people. What a wonderful thing it is for children to come to realize this. And they will increasingly learn to embrace corporate worship, as they are lead through it, regularly, by their parents.
This is far from exhaustive, but I think it helps provide the aroma of what Family-Integrated Churches would be striving for.
Interestingly, my sister works in a mega-church south of the Twin Cities. She informed me that they were looking for a pastor to deal with the families of the Church that are thinking this way.
In another instance, I had lunch with a friend yesterday that spoke of a mega-church in California that is working to establish both emphases in their covenant community.
I believe it is their only hope and that our gracious God is allowing these churches a transition back into father-led child rearing. (Of course, that is only my sociological/spiritual evaluation.)