The baptism of our covenant children teaches us that they are from birth members of Christ’s church. As our children grow up in our covenant homes, we must teach them the reality and blessing of this truth.
The central calling of the church is performed when she gathers every Lord’s day in the sanctuary of God for worship. In our homes we must instruct our children concerning this by our word and example, and even by our spiritual attitudes. Our children must grow up having a pattern of true godliness that orders the priority and the practice of the most important things in their lives.
When we go to church, we unite our hearts together with our fellow saints to offer the sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise to our God. We lead our children by the hand when they are still very young to come to the service with us.
The proper instruction of our children includes that we exhort them to “enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise.” By our admonition and the example of our lives we teach our covenant children that the worship of the Lord in His house should have highest priority in our lives. The worship of the God of our salvation should be with joy and praise and with thanksgiving in our hearts.
The worship of God should not be for us a matter of drudgery or mere legalistic necessity, but an activity of joy bursting from hearts of thanksgiving. Because of the sinful nature of our children, they can at times have unholy negative attitudes about sabbath observance and about the need of being reverent and quiet for lengthy periods of time during the worship services. We need to be on guard against any sinful attitudes growing in the hearts of our children.
We must teach our children together with all the church members to be active in the ministry of the gospel that God has given to the church. We teach our children to bow in holy reverence for God with the whole church in consecration to Him.
Family worship in the home trains our children for the service of God in the public worship of God in church and the proper attitude for this holy activity in their lives. By God’s sovereign and gracious election, we are His chosen and peculiar people, called by God to show forth His glorious praises in the world and to walk in the good works He has ordained for us.
The Word of God preached in the worship services is as much for the children and it is for adults. Our children must be taught to listen to the preaching and encouraged to exercise their minds to understand the truth preached in the church.
Our children do not understand many of these things when they are still young, so they must be instructed by their parents in their covenant homes. The purpose of catechism instruction is to prepare our children to be mature and active members of the church when they grow up.
In the public worship service, we must teach our children to join heartily with their fellow saints in prayer with spiritual urgency in their hearts, making petition to God for His blessing and for the welfare of the church we love dearly in our hearts and the glorious cause of the kingdom of God she represents in the world.
In the congregational prayer led by the minister, our children must learn to be engaged in praying together to God with minds and hearts totally focused on Him. The congregational prayer should not become a time for them to daydream and allow their minds to wander to all kinds of worldly things and pleasures. Toys even for our young children should not be brought into the sanctuary. The worship service is a time not for play but for the worship of God, also by our children.
With the prayers of the congregation, our children must learn to pray for one another, and to pray especially for the members of the church who are going through trials of sicknesses, sorrows, and the difficult experience of the death of loved ones. Our children must be taught to love the members of the church, and to rejoice with them that rejoice and to weep with them that weep. In the church the children must learn to be deeply sympathetic to the other members of the church.
In the church our children must be exhorted and commanded to be faithful in the service of God in all of their lives and not just on the Lord’s day. In the church on the Lord’s day we exercise our calling in the office of believer. In the church we all have the opportunity to exercise the particular gifts that God has given to every member of the church according to the measure of the gift of His grace, to be used for the edifying of the whole body of Christ.
After the worship services, the sermons heard should be discussed with the children. Application of the doctrines of Scripture should be made to the lives not only of the adults but also the children. Much of the calling to make the doctrines preached in the church practical belongs to her members. Children must learn that preaching is not just about abstract doctrine but doctrine that is foundational for strong Christian living and practical for daily godliness.
As our children grow older and increase in their sanctified understanding, they must be impressed in their hearts with the truth that worshiping God on the Lord’s day is a solemn duty that they must perform willingly. Our carnal desire is to use the Lord’s day merely for doing one’s own pleasure and engaging in worldly pleasures, such as watching sports activities or going out for a day of recreation. We are called together with our families to be a separate and holy people. Isaiah 58:13–14 gives some good counsel regarding the proper use of the Lord’s day. There is nothing legalistic about this instruction, nor is it only for the Old Testament times. Read this passage with your children, and explain and apply it to their lives.
The guiding spiritual principle of proper Lord’s day observance must be that this day is and must be different than the other days of the week. The worship of God is for a separate, holy people called out of the world to prepare them for daily Christian living in the world. There is much for parents to teach their young children in connection with the proper observance of the Lord’s day in the house of God.
Young people must not be permitted to stay at home when the church is gathered for worship; they may not neglect the service of God on the Lord’s day in their youthful lives. They may not be permitted to develop attitudes of laziness and carelessness regarding the things of the Lord.
The Lord’s day is the prime opportunity in the lives of every child of God to be a living part of the communion and fellowship of the body of Christ. Being part of the church and her communion of the saints gives excellent opportunity for our children and young people to choose friends and to forge strong and enduring godly friendships. The youthful members of the church can have such good influence on one another. Good Christian friendship can be very effective in keeping our children from having worldly young people as their closest friends. When such friendships (worldly friendship) are more important than church friends, these will have an evil influence on their lives and sometimes contribute to their leaving the church in the later years of their lives.
Of greatest importance in this aspect of our subject is where and how our children in God’s providence find their life’s partner to marry. The way of wisdom is for them to find their partner in the sphere of the communion of the saints. Strong, united marriages arise from this and faithfulness is continued in generations. When the above things are neglected in the lives of our children, there will be very great danger of apostasy in the church. The tragic result of this will be seen when worship services are attended only by the elderly. Children, and especially young people, are absent. This is a great evil happening in many Reformed churches of our day.
So far, we discussed all of this with particular focus on the worship services on the Lord’s day. The true church of Jesus Christ gathers together as the company of believers to confess their faith and to maintain and defend His truth in this world against worldly philosophy and apostasy in the church world in general. As members of the church, we must condemn all errors and warn against the seriousness of apostasy. Our children must be part of this great work of the church in the world for the glory of God and the maintaining of the gospel in the preservation of His true church among us.
Besides the central activities of the church on the Lord’s day, the members must continue as the body of Christ with living spiritual reality through the week among her members. The sign of a spiritually healthy church is that her members are engaged together also at times during the regular days of the week between the two Lord’s days. We are not members of the church only on the Lord’s day. We are members of the church that is the living body of Christ also during the week. As living members of the body of Christ, we should love to gather together and be continually exhorting and encouraging one another. We should lay hold of opportunities to show our love to one another, communicate with one another, and serve one another. It is a sad commentary on the church when Bible study societies and the study groups arranged for the benefit of the church are very poorly attended.
According to the instruction of the inspired apostles the members of the church are to edify one another, building each other up constantly in the faith. This is the teaching of Ephesians 4, where Paul speaks of the exalted Lord of the church giving special offices of prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. These special ministers of Christ have the calling to equip the members of the church for the work of the ministry. The reference to the work of the ministry is to the activities performed by every member of the church according to the measure of grace given to him for the unity and growing maturity of the whole church. The church in this way must grow up together as the body of Christ to full maturity and manhood.
Then her members will not “be tossed to and fro” by the many winds of false doctrine blowing everywhere in the apostate church world.
It is spiritually healthy for parents and children to attend seminary convocation when possible, to encourage those involved in training ministers of the Word, both for the local church and for the mission field. A few of the young men in the congregation may be inspired to consider the call to the ministry when they are actively engaged in such church activities.
The members of the church must take great interest in these activities. In a Spirit-filled church there are special gatherings in connection with the ordination and sending out of missionaries throughout the world. All the members of the church should have a keen interest in this glorious work and support this work with their attendance at special meetings where this aspect of the work of the church in the world is on the forefront.
In the sphere of the communion of the saints we inspire each other to be living witnesses of the truth also to others. The church often sponsors special meetings to focus on these important callings in the church. All the activities of the church must have a central spiritual focus and promote the spiritual growth of her members. The world that observes witnessing events advertised and promoted by her must not be confused about the real calling and purpose of the church in the community.
We as parents must encourage our children by word, by our own example, and by our enthusiastic interest. We cannot expect that our children will be actively involved in the life of the church if we do not show ourselves to have zealous interest in her activities. Sometimes the many activities of the church during the week
can make our lives very busy. It is not possible to join every gathering of church members; wisdom and discretion are necessary to make good choices. Family obligations in the home are also important to fulfill.
Performing all this regularly makes the lives of the covenant family very busy. There are times when we must stay home because there is so much work that must be done in our families, not only for the physical maintaining of the family but also for her spiritual unity. We need not feel guilty about this.
Our homes must encourage on-going and lively interest in the important activities of the church, especially in the local congregation where we have our membership. According to Psalm 122 God commands His blessing among the saints that dwell together in unity and love and encourage each other in various aspects of the spiritual life and activities of the church.