I see it virtually everywhere I preach, both at 9th Avenue as well as in various guest speaking opportunities. It is a trend that is disheartening to me, not just as a preacher of the Gospel, but also just one who loves the hearts of children and who wants to see them grow to love God and His Word.
It is kids playing video games during worship.
They bring their iPad, tablet, or phone and while many of us are singing “I Surrender All,” they are striving for a high score. While we are praying to God, they are playing baseball. While we are mining the depths of God’s Word, they are on Minecraft.
Parents, may I just ask: what are we teaching our children about worship?
It’s only for adults.
It can’t compete with electronics.
It’s something you do if you can’t find something more interesting.
Those lessons, spoken or unspoken, are what your children are picking up when you allow them to play games during worship.
And I know that there are plenty of Bible apps and websites that are also being used by some. That said, I have randomly asked children at places I have spoken about what they were doing on their iPad (or other device) during worship. Never–not a single time–has it had something to do with the sermon. It has always–every single time–been about playing a game or watching videos. (Yes, I’ve seen kids with headphones hooked up to their tablet during worship. Not a good way to show that they are paying attention to the worship service!)
Is this what we want for our children? As we are gathering around God’s throne to praise His holy name, do we want our kids to be off in virtual gameland? If I may say so, I want my children right in God’s throneroom with me as I praise Him!
Excuses, More Excuses
“They can’t sit still through a whole sermon.” “They pick up quite a bit as it is.” “They don’t understand what’s going on.” “It helps me worship because they are still and quiet, at least.”
I’ve heard all the excuses. They just don’t fly. Worship is something that children must be trained in, and it starts when they are very little. What’s more, if they are trained how to act during worship when they are younger, children will most likely come to enjoy worship as they grow up.
Of course, children will be restless during worship (especially the sermon). That’s part of it, and it is understandable. But putting Temple Run in front of their face is not the answer. All that teaches our kids is that they can act up in worship, and they are rewarded for it!
What Can I Do?
I am not saying that children–especially smaller children–need to sit perfectly still during a worship service with just a King James Bible open to the text for the sermon.
But there are far better things to do, or even to give your children, than a video game (or social media access, for the older ones).
When they are really small, give them Bible pictures, Bible story “board-books,” or even small stuffed animals (and whisper in their ear, “God made the dog on day 6,” or “God made the birdie on day 5”). That way, though they have something in their hands, or that they are looking at, it is teaching them to focus on their wonderful Lord during these few minutes.
As they grow a little older, Bible story books are a good idea. Also, make sure they are at least trying to sing and that they are still during the prayers. They can do this much!
Another idea is to have little worship worksheets that they can draw and write on. (Note: We offer these for free in our “Training for Worship” pdf that’s in our store. Again, it’s free!) These sheets let them write the names of the songs or something we prayed about. Have your children draw a picture of something the preacher talked about on the sheets, or write down the verses he used in his sermon.
It’s Not Easy, but It’s Worth It
I know that all this means that you may struggle to worship at times. During those younger years, those children are forming such valuable thoughts in their little minds. Wouldn’t you rather struggle a little bit and have them grow up loving to worship and understanding what is going on?
Then please, not for the sake of the preacher, but for the sake of the souls of your children, nix the video games.
Replace Mindcraft with Matthew.
Replace Temple Run with Titus.
Replace sports games with singing with grace.
God is worthy of your effort. It will be a fight for awhile, but the eternal destiny of your child is in the balance. It’s worth every effort.
“Training for Worship” [Arrows in Our Hand podcast. Contains other helpful links, especially for parents of smaller children.]
“Training Your Children for Worship” [A Legacy of Faith podcast]
AUTHOR: Adam Faughn