In Let the Little Children Come, my goal is to convince church leaders and parents that children best grow into faithful, mature worshipers of Jesus Christ when they are led to Jesus by their parents in the context of intergenerational church gatherings and in daily worship at home. I first offer some biblical and theological reasons families should worship together both on Sundays and the other six days, too. Then I answer some objections and suggest some practical ways family worship might be recovered. Finally, I offer tips and resources for engaging children in church worship as well as family worship at home.
The first chapter introduces the book by comparing Jesus welcoming children with his disciples turning them away. I suggest that like the disciples, well-intentioned Christians today turn away children from the primary means they can be brought to Jesus and formed into mature Christians.
Chapter 2 establishes a mission statement for families based in the Shema: rearing children who know God, love God, and obey God. I emphasize the fact that knowing information about God and admonishing children to obey is not enough: parents must focus attention upon the hearts of their children, for only when their hearts are directed toward God will they truly know and obey him. I stress that this is primarily a biblical responsibility given to parents, but that it must be done within the community of the church, and that it will affect not only the content of what we give our children, but also the methods we employ.
Chapter 3 traces historically how God’s people shifted from understanding parents’ responsibility to disciple their children in the context of multigenerational gatherings to age segregated ministry and diminished family worship. I show how in both the Old and New Testaments the assumed practice is family integrated worship, and that this precedent continued through most of church history. I then demonstrated how changes occurred with the Sunday School movement, revivalism, and shifts in secular philosophy of education, eventually leading Christians to view segregated ministry as the best way to disciple children.
Chapter 4 establishes a biblically-informed philosophical basis for why regularly integrating children into the primary gatherings of the church, along with a regular focus on family worship at home, is the best way to lead children to faith in Christ and Christian maturity. I explain why simply transmitting information about God will not create mature Christians; rather, since our children are driven primarily by the affections of their hearts, we need to give careful attention to how their hearts are shaped. Furthermore, I explain that hearts are trained primarily through habit-forming practices that discipline our children’s hearts to truly know, love, and obey God.
Chapter 5 brings the central argument to its conclusion by showing how the weekly corporate worship of God’s people is the primary habit-forming practice God has ordained to form minds and hearts. This is why it is so important that our children be a part of corporate worship, for this is the means God has established to bring them to himself and form them into mature worshipers. Regular formation in corporate worship helps to counteract the worldly liturgies that influence our children each day as the Word of God is read, sung, prayed, preached, and reenacted in the liturgy. These transformative services should then be taken into the home as parents regularly disciple their children through everyday liturgies and focused family worship.
Part Two provides tips and tools for parents, pastors, and parishioners. Chapter 6 offers practical suggestions for church leaders, parents, and other church members for how to encourage families to worship together on Sundays. Chapter 7 provides practical suggestions for how parents can spiritually form their children through everyday “liturgies” and through focused family worship each day. Chapter 8 provides helpful resources for family worship including Bible reading plans, singing, Bible memory, catechisms, prayer, and books to read aloud. I also include my 5-day Bible reading plan that focuses only on the narratives, proverbs, and psalms of Scripture, which can be very useful for young children. I also developed a 52-week catechism that focuses on knowing, loving, and obeying God and is derived from several historic catechisms.
My prayer is that this book will help pastors and parents encourage families to worship together on Sunday and throughout the week.