Teaching our children in church

Dear BPCWAians, This morning, we had Sunday School promotion. After this, some children will move on to the higher level classes, or even join adults to worship in the sanctuary. Have you ever wondered – why do we have Sunday School? Should we have a Sunday School? I want to take some time to answer some of these questions in this Pastoral.

Children are part of the local church. As Presbyterians, we know that that God requires believing parents to have their infants baptised. It is not for salvation or because we know they are saved but it is our acknowledgement that we desire them to be part of God’s covenantal church family. That is why when these children are baptised, they (though non-communicant members) become part of our church’s covenantal family. During infant baptism, members stand to acknowledge our support of the parents’ efforts to bring up the child in the knowledge of God.

The church must fulfil Matthew28:20. By accepting the children as our non- communicant members, the church is also committing to help the parents teach the children about God. The primary responsibility of this teaching falls upon the parents, as God ordained and intended. However, as God also put the parents in a church to be part of His visible body, these children are also part of our church. The God-given responsibility of a church is to teach them to observe all things (Matt 28:20). Christ in His life commanded His disciples thrice to “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:16) Knowing all these, how can we then go out to evangelise the world outside and neglect to actively teach our little children in our midst about our Lord Jesus Christ? How can we as a church forget our duties to these little ones that God has put into our midst and not do what we can to cause them not only to come to believe on the same Lord as their parents do, but also to bring them up to know our God and to cause them to love Him too? We do however emphasize again that God gave parents the fundamental responsibility of bringing up their children to know Him. This is a serious duty which God will call them into account of one day. Sunday school does not replace nor diminish this duty that we believe lies in the hands of the parents.

Hearing God’s Word is part of worship. While adults are required to worship God on Sunday, so must their children too. An important part of this worship is the preaching of the Word of God from the pulpit to all present. And so, learning from God’s Word must also be an important part of worship for the children too. This is the purpose of the Children Sunday School. Our children worship God together with parents until the hymn before the sermon. Parents, during this time, please do be conscious to help your children worship with you. Don’t let them be disinterested, yawning, playing, doodling, or just daydreaming. They are not there just to “pass time” until Sunday School begins. As soon as they can, they should be learning to sing the hymns that we sing, standing when we stand, and praying when we pray. This is your part in teaching them the reverence of God during worship. They are with us in worship from the Call to Worship until the Hymn before the sermon – this is where children must be taught by you to understand and jointly participate in the Worship Service with you. It is only in the delivery of the sermon that children leave the congregation – not for fun and games, but to continue in their worship of God in the learning of God’s Word at their respective levels. That is why there is no separate singspiration program in our Sunday School. Only the toddler class, due to their limited attention span, may sing a couple of songs during this time.

Not babysitting service! At BPCWA, we are extremely emphatic that our children’s programs are not babysitting sessions. It is their continued worship of God in hearing God’s Word! Sunday School teachers must take this seriously too. We do not conduct Sunday School simply to give the parents some “freedom” to be away from their children during worship. Our classes are teaching sessions, intended to teach God’s Word to the children at a level that they can understand, while adults listen to God’s Word too. That is why we do not simply receive all children from very young ages into our classes. The children have to be of an age where they can sit and receive teaching from their respective teachers. Toddlers who are too young or who are unable to sit attentively without their parents not only will not benefit from the class lesson, but will hinder the learning and worship of the other children in the class. Neither do we want anxious parents to sit with their restless toddlers through the Sunday School classes. This distracts the other children in the class and teaches other children to demand similar attention from their parents, causing problems for the teachers. But most importantly, parents who want to sit with their children through Sunday School are leaving their worship every Sunday and they do not learn nor hear from God’s Word being taught at their level on the pulpit while they are at Sunday School. No matter what parents say, they are, by their examples, showing the children that the hearing of God’s Word is not important to them. Why then should the children be interested to learn God’s Word when they see their own parents’ examples? Parents must see the importance of and practice their worship to God before they can teach their children about worship to God. So remember, Sunday School is the continuation of worship (in receiving God’s Word) for the children, not just an activity to pass the time for the children.

Yours in our Lord’s service