GCC provides nursery care for infants 1 and under, and curriculum-based child care for ages 2-4. We encourage parents to bring children 5 and older into the main worship service. That might sound odd at first, but think about it with us for just a minute. God is the greatest, most awesome being that exists. We want our children to catch the awe-inspiring greatness of God as early as possible. We believe this will happen best if they are welcomed into our worship services at a young age. Great hymns, serious preaching, and thunderous silence can all help a child begin to take God seriously at a early in their childhood. John Piper has said “it will probably be harder to acclimate a 10- or 12-year old to a new worship service than a 5- or 6-year old. The cement is much less wet, and vast possibilities of shaping the impulses of the heart are gone” (The Family: Together in God’s Presence).
It can be easy for any parent to pawn off the discipleship of their own children to other adults in the local church (Dt 6:6-7). But God gives parents primary responsibility for evangelizing and discipling their own children. The role of the local church is to assist parents in carrying out this responsibility by providing public worship and teaching opportunities that parents and children can participate in together. This is not to say that we think parents and children should never be separated at church. It is, however, to say that the best way to train up the next generation of Christ-worshippers is to bring them into the main public worship services of the church as early as possible. We want to encourage the parents of the church to raise spiritual adults, mature in the Lord. To that end, we want the children in the church to be exposed to spiritually mature worship and conversation early on so that the model they see and experience in their formative years seems most normal and plausible to them later in life. A six-year-old may not understand everything in the sermon, but that’s OK. The aim is that will begin to see and value the seriousness and joy of public worship early in their childhood so that, by God’s grace, it will stick with them throughout their lives.
By God’s grace we have a lot of youth in our church! We love for them to get together in parent’s homes for fun and fellowship, and we love to see them participating in the corporate life and worship of the church. But we do not offer youth a special Sunday School program, or a youth worship service. This is because we want to help them to see the whole congregation as their church family, rather than just a youth group. Have you ever considered that intergenerational fellowship is some of the most useful fellowship that happens in any local church? That’s where the older teach the younger, and the younger learn from the older. It’s where the older learn to be patient with the younger…and vice versa! It’s also part of what makes the local church a counter-cultural community - even non-Christians love hanging out with people who look and talk and act just like them. And teens who have been part of a church youth group often go on to expect age-graded ministries tailored to their own demographic later in life – “where’s my college group?” “Where’s my twenty-something’s group?” Where’s my young married group?” Where’s my mid-life group?” This only leads to the demographic splintering of the local church. Once our youth grow up and move away from their church home, we want them to be trained to view their next congregation – all of it – as their church family.