Why Children Should Not Be Excluded from Church
I feel the need to express my concern regarding how modern churches discourage and even restrict children being with their parents during services. At best, children are grudgingly tolerated in church as long as they do nothing to “disrupt” the sermon. I think there is a huge problem here. To just tolerate them as long as they don’t get noticed is far short of where I think the church needs to be. A church needs to welcome children with open arms…without conditions.
I do believe that when we are going to sit and listen to someone speak whether it be the pastor or anyone else, common courtesy would be to teach the children to be quiet and when they do act up, take them to the back. That being said, however, I think there is a bigger problem here than how to deal with the distraction of a child. I know many pastors feel that when a child cries out it distracts the congregation from hearing what the pastor has to say. I have even been told by a pastor that children are tools of Satan used to disrupt the services. What a terrible thing to say about such a wonderful gift and blessing from God. To this, a very smart man once told me that if God is so weak or the people’s interest is so weak that all it takes is a child’s cry to “ruin” the sermon then there is a much bigger problem than the child.
Let's consider how Jesus Himself felt about children in the Bible. There was a time when some children tried to approach Jesus and His disciples wouldn’t let them. Jesus rebuked the disciples for this saying “Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not.” He did not say keep them quiet and then they can come. Nowhere do I find any mention of Jesus saying He needed children to be silent or separated from the adults in order for Him to be able to teach. He never mentioned having to “compete” with the children. He taught thousands at a time and I cannot believe that all of the thousands of people were silent and still the whole time, especially the children. Jesus’ life on earth was the greatest example of how we should live and He was never uncomfortable around children. He even taught adults while holding a child on his knee. As for distractions, He taught while some folks were opening up the roof over His head to lower a man down to him. I do not believe he told people to leave because their children were crying.
We live in a time when children are taught from all sides that they are to be separate from their parents. They are to find their own way and that parents (and others that are older) do not understand them and are only going to inhibit them from accomplishing their dreams. Children are taught that elders are the enemy.
In modern churches, Children are placed in nursery, Children’s Church, Jr. Church, Youth Group, Young Adult Group, etc. There is no end to the various programs available to keep kids occupied and away from the adults during church, and all in the name of teaching them “on their level”. Most churches utilize these ideas and keep their kids separated from the adults until they are adults themselves. This teaches them that worshipping God in church is to be done separate from their parents. This only emphasizes the world’s teaching that I mentioned in the paragraph above and these kids leave the church when they are no longer forced to attend because there is nothing there for them that they can’t get elsewhere. God’s church needs to be as far away from that thinking as it possibly can be.
In the past, my wife and I attended a church that did not welcome children in the service with the adults. We were asked to put them in nursery, jr. church, etc…anything to get them out of the service. Visitors with kids were actually met at the door and pointed to the nursery. This church had some sincere people in it and I believe the pastor was sincere…but there was little toleration of children. The result: lots of unwed teenage girls got pregnant. Lots of teenage boys just disappeared into the world.
We, the congregation, need to include our children with us and even focus more on them. We need to learn to delight in our children and enjoy their company. Small kids may not understand everything they hear in the preaching…but they can surprise you with how much they do understand. I was reading an email to my kids today that someone wrote about a helicopter crash. I didn’t think they would listen to the whole thing as I thought it would be “over their heads” but they stayed glued all the way through and then started asking questions. How wonderful would it be if our kids were comfortable enough around adults to ask us questions about what they had heard in the preaching? That won’t happen if we don’t delight in their company.
How can we teach our children how to be Christian adults if they are not allowed to worship with us or participate in our most sacred traditions.
I think that things are going to continually get worse until Jesus comes. The pressures on kids to follow the world are only going to get stronger and stronger. God’s church needs to be a place where kids feel loved and protected by adults. It needs to be a place where God is the most important thing to all the adults around them and those adults enjoy the company of the kids. It needs to be a place where kids learn how to be adults by interacting with Bible believing men and women who love and delight in children. If you have children then you know how important it is to have a relationship with them…it is the same with a church but on a larger scale.
If you are a pastor and have embraced the modern way of thinking that children are a distraction to the work of God and competition to you then I ask you to consider the following:
If you could learn to delight in the kids (not just accept but DELIGHT in them) you might find that you are not competing with them at all. They are not competition for you, they are a wonderful blessing to us all. I admit that sometimes I don’t feel much delight in my own children when they are misbehaving. Sometimes I get busy doing something that I want to do and I don’t really want to be bothered with them. Then I have to repent and ask forgiveness for my attitude because they are more important than any job or project I might need to get done. But when I remember what is really important I feel such joy in my heart just from them being near me. I believe this is the DELIGHT of which I speak and that it comes from God if we will allow it in our hearts.
You need to see the opportunity you have as a pastor because of the children of your church. Don’t think of them as competition but as blessings from God. Don’t have them removed from the congregation because they cry out but, instead, delight in their presence and be very thankful that they are there. A church without children is like a family without children. It has no future. What happens to a church when the elder folks pass on if there are no children? The church disappears. How wonderful would it be if, as the children of your church grow up, they do so feeling comfortable around their pastor. If they trust you now when it might not seem to matter, then they will be more able to trust you later when they need the council of their pastor. The kids will be adults before any of their parents are ready for it and it would be great if they would be as comfortable coming to you as adults as you want the adults to be now.
It all starts now while they are young. You need to not only get comfortable with them in church even if they are occasionally noisy but also to learn to love being around them. They are the future church. Open up to them. Have fun with them. Dare I say it? PLAY with them now and then. You might find that you can’t contain the joy in your heart when one of them comes up and hugs you.
Even if you are not the pastor you need to give some thought to how the children of your church are viewed. Are they welcomed and enjoyed? Or are they just tolerated and kept “contained” until the services are over. Does the little girl that sits 3 pews in front of you feel comfortable enough to tell you about her new doll? Do you enjoy listening? Or would you rather not have to bother with her? Do you care what happens to the little boy who sits across from you? Are you interested in his plans for the future, or do you want to just sit there and hear a sermon and go home and not have to think about someone’s little brat?
The children are the most important part of your congregation. And they will demonstrate the condition of your churches collective heart. Do you love Jesus and want to be more like Him every day? They will too. Do you come to church only because it is the thing to do and you don’t want to look bad? The children will have the same view. First make sure your heart is right with the One who created you and loves you enough to send His Son to die on the cross for your sins. Then think about how He viewed and dealt with children and pattern your church the same way. The benefits are beyond priceless.