In the Days of Joel
In the days of Joel the Old Testament prophet, the people had strayed away from the Lord and so he begins to plead with them to return to God with repentance, prayer, and fasting. Joel cries out and says,
“Blow a trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly. Gather the people, sanctify the congregation. Assemble the elders and GATHER THE CHILDREN AND NURSING INFANTS…” (Joel 2:15-16)
As the people respond in obedience to this call, Joel prophesies again and says, “And it will come about AFTER THIS that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy…” (Joel 2:28)
The prophet Joel sees and prophesies of a coming outpouring of the Holy Spirit that will be released as a result of people gathering together in repentance, prayer, and fasting. Elders will not only gather together but CHILDREN AND NURSING INFANTS will be present! In other words, God deeply desires infants and children to not only be involved in various aspects of corporate prayer and fasting, but they will also be recipients of the coming outpouring of the Holy Spirit where they will prophesy, see visions, and dream at night.
The Current Days We Live In
As I look across the landscape of the American Church (both as a pastor and traveling minister) I see an interesting trend emerging among millennial parents who have infants and small children. To be quite frank, I see a generation of millennial parents who are doing everything in their power to keep their infants and small children’s experience of church as limited as possible and when they attend, it better be like a drive thru or else. For example:
- The average millennial mother has a baby and she disappears from the church for up to 1 year.
- The average millennial mother has a toddler that has a routine schedule and if the church schedule conflicts with the toddler’s schedule, well we know who is winning that battle.
- The average millennial father is disconnected from his role of leading his infants and small children in worship, prayer, and interacting with the Bible.
- The average millennial father would rather watch NFL football or go hunting than practice the presence of God in his home where his infants and small children can observe, learn, and follow suit.
I dare say that if the current millennial generation of parents continues in this unbiblical pattern, we will have a generation of infants and toddlers grow up who will hardly have any experience of God or the Church and will be incredibly hindered because of it.
Our Personal Story
Now before you accuse me of being insensitive or rude, let me explain a few things. I have been married to my beautiful wife Morgan for 7 years and we have 3 small children that are 5, 3, and 11 months old. Trust me when I say, we totally understand the busyness of life and how hectic things can be at times. We planted a church 7 years ago and have watched God bring growth and fruit in amazing ways! We are constantly surrounded my numerous parents who are in the same fight as we are. On top of that, I have also traveled over 125, 000 miles a year ministering the gospel all over the USA and various parts of the world. As a full time pastor and traveling minister, raising Godly small children and having a thriving marriage is impossible without the grace of God! We are literally pressed to our limits on a weekly basis.
In the midst of passionately pursuing God with all of our hearts, we have absolutely refused to do it WITHOUT OUR CHILDREN! We do not believe in the common saying of: 1. God 2. Family 3. Church. Where is that in the Bible? What we see in the Scriptures are families pursuing God together as one unit. When my wife and I worship the Lord, we invite our small children to participate. Before they are allowed to engage in a special privilege like watching a tv show, we read them a story from the bible and we talk about it. At night before bed, we have powerful times of prayer. My 5 and 3 year old are currently supporting two children from compassion international that are both their same ages. They write to them and are learning what it means to be generous and even good stewards of the few dollars we give them each week. There is no reason why we should not include our infants and small children in the work of the kingdom of God, whether that’s at home or in the local church that we serve in.
*Note: We completely understand that at times our kids get sick, act up, or other unexpected events take place. This is where we need the grace of God like never before. None of us are perfect, but we must do the best that we can. Our goal is not to paint the picture of our kids as “perfect angels”, but give the reader practical examples of how young children can participate in the kingdom of God.
Church Services and Activities
One of the strangest issues among millennial parents is regarding church services and activities. Millennial parents will claim that they cannot attend a certain church service because their baby/toddler has a bedtime, but that same couple will allow their baby/toddler to stay up past its bedtime when they are engaging in hobbies and what they want to do. Many of the rigid mindsets that millennial parents have toward church services and activities are not the same rigid mindsets that they have toward their leisure and free weekends. This is hypocrisy.
Millennial parents complain that a church service is too long, but those same parents will allow their toddlers and infants to sit in front of a television for hours on end without a question. As parents we have to honestly ask ourselves, is it our small children or us that have the problem with longer church services?
What about church in general? Apparently many millennial parents cannot even make it to church because they have small children. The truth is that most millennial parents are awake three hours before the church service starts because their young ones are already up! We must do a better job priortizing God and Church in the life of our little ones.
What if the greatest issue among millennial parents isn’t how long church services and activities are or even just going to church in general. What if the greatest stronghold among millennial parents is called “child worship”. Yes, I just said that. What if an entire generation of 20’s and 30 year olds actually cares more about their infants and small children than they do about God?
I believe that the greatest outpouring of the Holy Spirit is coming upon this generation. People are going to experience God in ways that will change their life forever. The gospel of Jesus Christ is going to be lived out and demonstrated like never before. My prayer is that millennial parents will hear the clarion call from the Scriptures to, “Gather the children and nursing infants“. We must include our little one’s in the work of the kingdom and position them to encounter God. I see late night prayer meetings once again where millennial parents won’t go home because its 8 pm, but rather bring sleeping bags to church and allow their kids to experience the presence of God while they sleep. I see millennial parents turning off their cell phones and shutting off the television and having nights of worship in their home with their infants and small children. I see millennial parents modeling for their young ones what it means to truly walk with the Holy Spirit. The time is now.
From a Millennial Parent,