Growing up, Sunday mornings meant putting on lace socks and dresses, getting our hair fixed, and heading to church. We went to Sunday School and my parents went to what we kids called "big church."
Sunday school was where we sat in a circle and listened to a Bible lesson and then snacked on ring cookies and drank apple juice from waxed paper cups. We'd play a game and make a craft involving some combination of elmer's glue, yarn, and a paper plate.
But occasionally our parents would take us into "big church" with them. As a kid I can remember associating big church with sitting for what seemed like hours on a pew bench trying to stifle yawns while drawing on the back of the bulletin or reading lyrics out of the hymnals. In our minds, Sunday school was way more fun than big church.
But "big church" is important and my parents had it right by taking us to be a part of it. Children's presence during a sermon might seem out of place or more work than just dropping them off to run wild with apple juice and elmer's glue, but it's part of discipling to train little hearts to listen to elders speak, be a part of corporate worship, soak in the examples of grown believers around them worshiping and praying, and if they've made a personal decision to follow Christ, partake in the Lord's Supper.
Our kids join us for "big church" frequently. We totally let them get their Sunday school experience, but it's important for them to sit alongside mom and dad and learn from a sermon. These growing hearts need to and can retain from the "meat" given from the pulpit. We require them to tell us three things they learned after the sermon. They can draw it or write out bullet points depending on their levels of ability, but this requires them to be in tune to what is being taught and trains their ears to listen for what they do understand. They come away with questions we can talk about as a family later and use as further discipling opportunities. They've even witnessed their Daddy turn and silence loud talkative teenagers and then stood beside him as he confronted them after the sermon, challenging the teens to be respectful of the freedom to worship and the blessing of being together as the Body.
These Sunday's all sitting together under our pastor are some of our favorite, all of us. These little people are soaking up everything and I'm thankful for the opportunity to have them soak in some "big church" and learn how to grow as a believer alongside us.